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  Comments (14) Total Saturday Apr. 19, 2014
Trap Line Tales
Evergreen Fur Trapper Turns Expertise Into Wildlife Control Business
Vince Sansone prepares a snare trap for demonstration in the workspace behind his home. - Lido Vizzutti/Flathead Beacon
Throughout the winter of 2004-2005 Vince Sansone worked his trap lines with sustained persistence, in good weather and bad, and at the end of the season, his results were substantial: 59 coyotes; 25 mink; 20 muskrats; seven raccoons; eight red fox and four bobcats.

The sheer volume of Sansone’s take from that winter, a photo of which is featured in the August 2008 edition of Fur-Fish-Game magazine, dwarfs that of anyone else on the page. And though he has framed that picture of himself, posing in front of his Evergreen workshop, he is modest about that trapping season.

“I had a little bit of extra time,” Sansone said. “I went ahead and hit it hard early.”

Sansone is a trapper, participating in one of the oldest industries in North America. Long before the Treasure State’s timber and mineral wealth was discovered, furs were a commodity sought throughout Montana and the rest of the Rocky Mountain West. Today, it is something Sansone does because he enjoys it, noting that prices on many furs have dropped enough that it would be nearly impossible to make a living as a trapper, at least in Northwest Montana. That winter of his biggest take, he estimates he made around $4,400 selling his furs.

“It was way more than $4,400 worth of work, I’ll tell you that,” Sansone said.

“That’s why people aren’t trapping anymore, I fur trap just for recreation,” he added. “No one’s making money at this game, not unless you’re living on big ranches back in eastern Montana.”

Although there are thousands of trappers in Montana, it’s less popular in Western Montana, where district quotas and limits tend to be tighter than the eastern part of the state. Nowadays Sansone rarely, if ever, runs into another trapper when he’s out checking his lines.

“Guys don’t know how to do it; guys don’t want to do it – you’ve got to love it,” Sansone said. “It’s not worth it financially. I just try to get out of it even.”

Sansone is not the type to wax on about his love of trapping, instead emphasizing how difficult and painstaking it can be. He has snapped traps on his hands, had grizzlies up the North Fork of the Flathead River tear apart his box traps and once stabbed himself in the arm skinning a coyote. Checking hundreds of traps in a day can be exhausting.

“Everything’s timing in fur trapping,” Sansone said “The days are short; you’ve got to get moving.”

But he also clearly relishes his craft, taking pride in the carefully constructed snare-traps he builds himself out of aircraft cable. In his backyard, several traps sit in a bucket filled with pine boughs, to mask their scent.

“You have to keep everything clean with coyotes,” Sansone said. “If you fool their nose, you can fool them.”

There are less places to trap in the Flathead since Plum Creek prohibited the practice on its land. Now Sansone focuses mainly on public land between Kalispell and Eureka. Over the years, he has developed a keen eye for the paths followed by game, and where best to set a trap to catch them.

“I can tell where foxes and coyotes crawl under fences,” Sansone said. “It just takes experience; after a while, you’ll notice the small trails.”

In his workshop, warmed by a woodstove, the shelves are lined with baits and musks, many of which were passed along to him by other trappers. Several mink furs stretch on wooden boards. By examining the hides of the minks, Sansone said, you can learn about the hazards they encountered. He pulls out one and shows the scar where the mink escaped the talons of a hawk; in another spot, tick bites and scratches from fights reveal a hard life. Sansone has pulled two different kinds of buckshot from the hide of a single coyote, and dug .22-caliber slugs from another.

This winter was a smaller take for Sansone, similar in size to his first year trapping, back in Ohio during the late 1970s. He got started by reading fur trapping magazines and attending a few predator-trapping demonstrations. Before long, he was making good money from coyotes, raccoons and muskrats

“I just got out there and learned the hard way,” Sansone said. “You could make as much then as you could off of any job.”

But 30 years ago a single mink fur might fetch as much as $30, where Sansone is lucky to get half that for the same fur today.

“It’s just like the stock market or any other commodity,” Sansone said. “They go up and down.”

Certain bobcat furs, however, still sell for more than $300 each. Sansone witnessed the modern fur trade firsthand when he attended the annual international fur harvesters’ auction in Seattle a few years back. There, high-end furriers from around the world – Russia, Italy, Asian countries – bid on all types of rare mink, marten and cats.

“They have every fur you’ve ever seen in your life,” Sansone said. “It was crazy.”

While he plans to make it back to Seattle for the event some day, for now, Sansone is happy to be in Montana, where he has turned his trapping skills into a business, “ASAP Wildlife Control.” With a certification from the National Wildlife Damage Management Academy, Sansone spends his working hours much as he does his recreation: trapping critters – though he spends more time catching animals like bats and skunks for the business.

In many ways, wildlife control is tougher than recreational trapping, Sansone said. Different traps must be employed to avoid harming customers’ pets. And unlike recreational trapping where he might take one beaver out of a pond, when someone hires him to deal with a beaver problem, he has to make sure he leaves that pond empty – which is no easy feat.

“You have to catch every one; it’s tough,” Sansone said. “If you leave one, you really didn’t do anything.”

With another season of recreational trapping almost behind him, Sansone’s business will now begin picking up as the summer residents of the Flathead return. But he’s already thinking about the following winter, and what he might catch.

“I think I’ll always have fur traps out,” Sansone said. “I’m glad I’ve got the trapping in that I have, though, and caught the animals that I have.”
On 05-11-09, Freedom commented....
By the way Alison, under control does not mean leashed!  It means that the dog responds to a form of contact and will obey that form of contact from the owner.  By the way, have you ever watched dog whisperer.  You might learn something!  Have you ever seen a beaver…
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