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Predator Trapping Does it Have an Impact on "Prey" Populations

Does trapping pay? I am not talking about in terms of dollars and cents. There are two camps when it comes to trapping predators. Those that feel that regardless of habitat conditions trapping makes a huge difference in deer, quail and turkey survival rates. While others argue that trapping has little impact on survival without habitat improvement. We all start at a different base level upon which we work to improve our wildlife habitat. If you are starting with habitat that is basically a "wildlife desert" then I believe you are not going to see a noticeable increase in your desired wildlife populations by trapping. If you are somewhere in the middle in terms of wildlife habitat quality then trapping implemented at the proper time can help you increase fawn, chick and poult survival. If you have excellent wildlife habitat then I am not so sure that normal predator populations have much impact on your deer, turkey or quail numbers. Meaning that your "prey" numbers may very well exceed the healthy carrying capacity of your land and therefore some predation actually benefits the population overall. When it comes to "prey" / game species there are two types of mortality from a wildlife manager's perspective; additive and compensatory mortality. Compensatory mortality means that a certain number of animals / birds are going to die each year regardless of whether there is predation/ "hunting". At the end of the season the population would tend to end at the same level. Additive mortality means that as each animal/bird is removed from the population from predation/ hunting it decreases the overall population further than if there was not predation/ hunting.

Using trapping as a tool is more beneficial when implemented at the right time. Unfortunately fur trapping season dates don't always lend themselves to being able to trap when it can be most impactful for reducing predators that could impact your deer, turkey and quail populations. In the past, decent to high fur prices meant that racoon, opossum, skunk, bobcat and coyote populations were targeted in a fairly widespread manner, to the point that overall predator populations were reduced somewhat. That likely did have a positive impact on deer, quail and turkey numbers over a widespread geographic area. With severely reduced fur prices, predator harvest is at a very low level in most areas. Removing predators on a very small geographic area means that predator territories are quickly filled by individuals outside of your property boundaries. For trapping to be beneficial we need to trap as close to nesting and fawning season as possible. Trapping months before hand will have little impact on nesting or fawning success as predators will relocate and fill in areas devoid of competition. Ideally trapping is conducted immediately prior to and throughout the nesting and fawning season. Some states have begun expanding trapping season dates later into the Spring for those land managers looking to use trapping as a tool. Trapping alone though is not the solution to low populations of deer, turkeys and quail.

As I mentioned previously the condition of your wildlife habitat also plays a huge role in whether predator removal is going to have a significant impact on your deer, turkey and quail populations. Marginal habitat makes it easy for even limited numbers of predators to thoroughly hunt your land. It becomes the law of averages to an extent, the more places for deer, turkeys and quail to hide with good habitat, especially when they are most vulnerable during fawning and nesting season, the harder it is for predators to find them. Without good habitat trapping has little impact on helping your quail, deer and turkey populations.

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