Anderson: To catch a wolf, by snare or trap

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 17, 2012 - 6:57 PM

About 700 trappers have licenses to pursue canis lupis. Their challenge is to be more clever than their quarry.

hide

Matt Steffen with an example of a snare that similar to the setup he will use to try to trap a wolf starting next weekend near Silver Bay.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

As a kid growing up in the Twin Cities' northwest suburbs, Matt Steffen often pedaled his bike with a milk crate balanced atop one fender.

He wasn't riding to a nearby Dairy Queen or burger joint. But to a marsh, then a creek, and a marsh again.

In the milk crate were traps, some leg-hold, some body-gripping.

"Fur prices were pretty high then,'' he said. "A large muskrat pelt skinned and dried could bring as much as $6. That was a lot of money to me.''

Today, Steffen, 48, still traps, though coyotes and fox, not muskrats, are his primary targets.

"I don't trap as much as I did when I was a kid, because I don't have the time,'' he said. "I guess you could say my trap line has gotten smaller and smaller over the years. A couple of years, I didn't trap at all because fur prices were so low, there was no money in it.''

Now, it could be said, Steffen has regained his trapping mojo. He's among an estimated 700 trappers who have been given a Department of Natural Resources wolf trapping permit.

"A wolf pelt might bring about $500,'' he said. "But if I get one, I'm not going to sell it. I'll keep it.''

• • •

Trapping is widely misunderstood, and probably always will be.

To the uninitiated, the pastime (or, in some cases, occupation) is cruel to the point of barbarism.

But to trappers, spending time in the state's woods or farmlands, attempting to outwit a coyote or mink or fox is less sport than lifestyle, and one in which even small successes can be difficult to achieve.

Perhaps never more will the state's trappers be tested than when the lucky ones who drew wolf trapping permits scatter among the hinterlands beginning Saturday in an attempt to outfox canis lupis.

Not only will they have to beat the wolf at its own game -- cleverness -- they'll have to beat the clock, too.

That's because the total target harvest, or quota, the DNR has set for the state's inaugural wolf season is 400 animals. It's expected when the first wolf season ends Sunday, during which only hunting, not trapping, was allowed, about 150 will have been killed.

That leaves 250 to be taken -- if they can be taken -- during a second season that allows both trapping and hunting.

And if Wisconsin's wolf season is any indication -- more than half of the 80 or so wolves taken there have been trapped -- trapping wolves in Minnesota will prove more effective than hunting them, so much so that the 400-animal quota might be reached relatively quickly, perhaps within a month's time.

• • •

Steffen will seek his wolf not with a trap but a snare.

He prefers snares because they're cheaper than traps, and because they kill a captured animal quickly. Leg-hold traps, conversely, catch an animal and hold it until a trapper arrives and kills it.

"When an animal is caught in a snare, it's natural for it to lunge forward, and keep lunging,'' Steffen said. "When it does, the snare draws tighter.''

Minnesota's rich trapping tradition dates to the days of the earliest voyageurs. Their trips by freighter canoe across Lake Superior to what is now the North Shore are well documented, and they were among the first white people to travel through what is now the boundary waters.

Their destination was the vast furbearer-rich lands surrounding Lake of the Woods and beyond.

Similarly, the earliest relationships between whites and Native Americans who inhabited what is now Minnesota were founded in large part on a trapping economy.

Today, that tradition lives on among the state's 7,000 or so trappers, many of whom set traps or snares only occasionally.

Yet all agree the woodsmanship and animal knowledge necessary to be a successful trapper is a skill set worth preserving, no matter how urban-centered the state becomes.

"I do most of my trapping around the Twin Cities,'' Steffen said. "I trap coyotes and fox. Coyotes are challenging. I've never trapped a wolf. But I'm sure they're like coyotes, or smarter. They'll be a challenge.''

• • •

Steffen will set his snares in the state's Arrowhead region, north of Duluth, country he's scouting this weekend.

He's hoping snow falls there soon, because finding wolf tracks is the first step in finding wolves.

"I'll probably set my snares a quarter-mile or so apart,'' he said. "I'll look for trails, and I'll also make my own trails and try to draw a wolf to them using bait.''

Friends of his who hunt deer have saved carcasses for him, which he hopes to place strategically near his snares.

"If I make my own trails, I'll use an electric saw to cut saplings, because I don't want to leave gasoline smell around the baits,'' he said. "If you want to trap successfully, you don't leave any scent. You don't spit or urinate or smoke anywhere near the baits.''

All of Steffen's traps will be deodorized using a product called Snare Dip, then packaged in Zip-Loc or similar bags for the trip north.

The undertaking will be expensive. Motel, food and equipment costs, along with travel costs between his home and the North Shore, will add up.

But the experience will be worth it, he said, just like when he was a kid riding his bike to trap muskrats.

"The challenge is my motivation,'' he said. "That and there are too many wolves in parts of the state.

"It'll be cool to be part of it the first year Minnesota allows wolf trapping.''

Dennis Anderson's Twitter name is @stribdennis • danderson@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Philadelphia 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Utah 101 FINAL
Orlando 94
Charlotte 109 FINAL
Philadelphia 91
Brooklyn 91 FINAL
Cleveland 95
Washington 105 FINAL
Miami 103
Minnesota 98 FINAL
Boston 114
Toronto 110 FINAL
Detroit 100
Chicago 103 FINAL
Memphis 97
Portland 129 FINAL
San Antonio 119
LA Clippers 106 FINAL
Denver 109
Oklahoma City 104 FINAL
LA Lakers 103
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 3
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Ottawa 6
NY Islanders 2 FINAL
Detroit 1
Boston 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Dallas 2 FINAL
Calgary 1
Wilberforce 71 FINAL
Youngstown St 92
Jackson State 49 FINAL
Tulane 56
Siena 66 FINAL
Radford 76
Stillman 49 FINAL
Alabama 69
Case Western Reserve 65 FINAL
Bucknell 88
Niagara 62 FINAL
Buffalo 88
SD Christian 46 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 69
Concordia (MI) 60 FINAL
Central Mich 97
Northern Ill 55 FINAL
Dartmouth 58
North Florida 83 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Hiwassee 71 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 91
Tennessee St 54 FINAL
Hampton 66
NC A&T 57 FINAL
Kent State 71
Central Penn College 65 FINAL
Liberty 94
Eastern Ky 72 FINAL
Miami-Florida 44
Northern Ky 83 FINAL
Morehead State 60
Northern Ariz 62 FINAL
Norfolk State 81
MD-Eastern Shore 43 FINAL
Old Dominion 60
St Marys-CA 47 FINAL
St Johns 53
Clemson 45 FINAL
South Carolina 68
Tenn Tech 58 FINAL
Tennessee 61
Washington-MD 46 FINAL
William & Mary 86
Bethune-Cookman 46 FINAL
Mercer 67
Furman 78 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 83
South Dakota St 53 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 49
Milligan 53 FINAL
Lamar 80
LSU-Alexandria 71 FINAL
ULM 76
Southern Utah 57 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 73
Chattanooga 58 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 68
Seattle 57 FINAL
Minnesota 92
Lipscomb 55 FINAL
Princeton 77
Winthrop 71 FINAL
SE Louisiana 81
Dickinson State 48 FINAL
North Dakota 78
New Orleans 56 FINAL
Southern Ill 52
TX-Pan American 60 FINAL
Creighton 75
Colorado State 85 FINAL
Denver 84
Alabama A&M 49 FINAL
Marquette 83
Ark-Pine Bluff 51 FINAL
Texas Tech 72
Eastern Wash 67 FINAL
California 78
Idaho State 56 FINAL
Utah State 69
Arizona 60 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 55
Hawaii 94 FINAL
Chaminade 63
Nevada 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Ohio Valley 33 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
East Tenn St 48 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 61
Cal-Irvine 44 FINAL
Purdue 69
Campbell 63 FINAL
Stetson 76
Jacksonville St 70 FINAL
Charleston Southern 43
Louisiana 64 FINAL
Alcorn State 57
Denver 63 FINAL
Wright State 72
Blue Mountain 30 FINAL
Central Arkansas 71
Texas State 51 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 40
Albany 62 FINAL
Pepperdine 36
TX-San Antonio 53 FINAL
Houston 56
Yale 66 FINAL
Bucknell 73
Northern Colorado 56 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 69
Belmont 86 FINAL
Mercer 83
Massachusetts 66 FINAL
Georgia State 71
George Mason 69 FINAL
Winthrop 57
Portland State 33 FINAL
Princeton 104
UCLA 71 FINAL
Samford 52
Mobile 30 FINAL
Alabama State 66
Nicholls 49 FINAL
Texas Tech 76
Toledo 65 FINAL
Nevada 56
UMass Lowell 48 FINAL
(13) Duke 95
St Marys-CA 49 FINAL
Virginia 62
McNeese State 55 FINAL
Rice 57
McMurry 49 FINAL
Houston Baptist 69
NJIT 62 FINAL
Seton Hall 74
(6) North Carolina 65 FINAL
Maine 36
Lafayette 58 FINAL
Stony Brook 60
Siena 62 FINAL
Binghamton 53
Longwood 56 FINAL
Clemson 72
Savannah State 51 FINAL
Florida State 97
(19) Syracuse 72 FINAL
(9) Baylor 74
Buffalo 68 FINAL
Manhattan 58
Canisius 43 FINAL
Michigan 79
Davidson 66 FINAL
NC State 82
Northern Ky 63 FINAL
Delaware 58
Saint Louis 81 FINAL
Austin Peay 86
(25) DePaul 64 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 98
Ohio U 74 FINAL
La Salle 63
Florida Atlantic 60 FINAL
Long Beach St 85
Miami-Florida 65 FINAL
Tulane 70
Miss Valley St 39 FINAL
Memphis 62
Ark-Pine Bluff 56 FINAL
UAB 65
Bowling Green 58 FINAL
Illinois State 54
Arkansas State 78 FINAL
Missouri State 62
ULM 42 FINAL
Wichita State 57
(16) Oregon State 71 FINAL
Southern Ill 55
Pacific 67 FINAL
New Mexico St 62
No Dakota State 79 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 86
Utah State 92 FINAL
Sacramento St 102
Bethesda (CA) 61 FINAL
Fresno State 83
Utah Valley U 44 FINAL
Montana 68
LSU 78 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 45

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Will Christian Ponder ever be a full-time starter in the NFL?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close