Thursday, November 20, 2014

National Furbearer Harvest Database Aids State Fish and Wildlife Agencies in Monitoring Trapping and Conserving Furbearer Species

Ever wonder how many beavers are harvested in the U.S. each year via regulated trapping?  Or maybe you want to know how many were harvested in the southeastern U.S. or just in Mississippi? The Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) has your answer. 

AFWA’s U.S. Furbearer Conservation Technical Work Group has collected data from state fish and wildlife agencies annually on harvest totals and value of pelts for furbearers since 1970.

The National Furbearer Harvest Database is the only collective source of information about 28 furbearer species including badgers, coyotes, four species of fox, raccoons, four species of skunk, otters, weasels, wolverines and more.

Furbearer populations are often cyclic and impacted by weather conditions and prey species abundance. Furbearer harvests are also heavily correlated with fur value. When the value of pelts is up, harvest will likely increase and vice-versa.

With these factors taken into account, researchers, wildlife managers and many others with an interest in the conservation of furbearers are able to use the National Furbearer Harvest Database to monitor population trends over time at the state, regional and national levels.

Contrary to public perception, furbearer harvest through regulated, law-enforced trapping is good for conservation and sustaining wildlife health and diversity. Trapping is one of the most important ways that biologists can collect data about wildlife including information about wildlife diseases, such as rabies, that can also affect people.

In addition, states rely on trapping to relocate wildlife populations to areas where they once lived but may no longer be found. The restoration of river otters in Missouri was made possible through the use of trapping as a management tool.

In the U.S., during a strict trapping season, licensed trappers are allowed to harvest specific furbearing species that are abundant or overly abundant in their habitats. The trapping season lasts a few months yearly, primarily during the fall and winter. States use this information from the database to help inform their annual trapping season and harvest limits to ensure population sustainability. 

The National Fur Harvest Database now includes information from the 2012-2013 trapping season. To view the database and to learn more about AFWA’s work in conserving furbearer species, use this link