From the very dawn of human history, animal fur has been a source of protection from the elements, a way of establishing social ranking, a trading commodity, and a medium used for artistry and clothing.
When out snaring coyotes, surrounded by snow, trees, and crop fields, a trapper is far more likely to consider the immensity of the natural world and his own small place in nature, perhaps conserving local game herds.
Most trappers would not think of themselves as being the cornerstone of a multi-million-dollar fashion industry that dates back many thousands of years, and with a future that is limited only by the imagination.
It’s snaring skills, wilderness expertise, and professionalism that ensure there is a supply of the finest in raw furs available for a far-reaching and demanding marketplace.
These days, predator populations are at an all-time high, including coyotes. That’s especially so in parkland areas across the western provinces and states. By taking the trapping course, outdoorsmen can help preserve game herds by eliminating predators during the winter months. A registered trapline is not needed, since you are mostly allowed to snare coyotes on private land. (But be sure to check local laws.) Below, I will explain how to set up and manage killing snares to eliminate coyotes to assist in conserving game populations.
It’s been stated that for every game animal you harvest, you should eliminate four coyotes to relieve pressure and to assure the surviving herd gets through winter and into the spring when fawns are born.
Coyotes are responsible for at least 50 percent of fawn mortality in semi-arid areas like the Canadian prairies. Deer and coyote populations are highly correlated, and every hunter should consider assisting the herds they plan to hunt next fall by eliminating coyotes over the winter months .
Snaring is a very effective trapping method to do just that. In addition, just like hunting has the added bonus of bringing home organic meat, trapping has the benefit of your using or selling the fur. Trapping is also a great outdoor winter activity that can be done with young children. You can teach them about predators and prey, the food chain, wilderness, and survival skills. During years of heavy snowfall, you can also use snowshoeing (which has grown quite popular in recent years) to manage the snare sets.
Before setting up a snare you must complete a trapper education course and purchase a trapping license. Depending on which province or state you reside in, you may or may not have to complete an exam to qualify to purchase your initial license. The trapping course will teach you humane trapping, such as the correct methods to set up and manage snares to ensure good-quality fur. Humane trapping guidelines will also cover the ethics that society demands. The course also provides information on cover, furbearer biology and management, and proper fur-handling techniques to maximize profits.
GET SET UP
Once you’re authorized to trap and set up snares, you either need to find permission on private land (resident trapper) or on a registered trapline (registered trapper). I only trap on private land and I use neck snares for coyotes and foxes. Coyote pelts are prime from mid-November to mid-January. I am usually bowhunting until December 1, so I start snaring after that.
There are a few different components and designs for snares, but the basic goal remains the same. The snare needs to strangle and hold the target animal. Snares are built from small-diameter aviation cable, and are generally five to six feet long. You secure one end to a solid anchor, like a tree. At the other end, you make a loop and hang it. You place the loop where you predict the coyote will travel. The loop needs to be 10 inches in diameter and 10 inches off the ground. Coyotes hunting along the game trails first have their head and neck enter the loop, then as the front shoulders touch the cable, it will drop off and begin to tighten. As the coyote struggles, the loop will continually tighten, never relinquishing, eventually causing suffocation and death.
There are two basic strategies for setting up snares on active game trails. I prefer to put out bait for coyotes, since they are drawn to food sources. I like to use game animal carcasses and scraps from local butcher shops. Bait stations tend to deter coyote prey like deer from causing accidental trapping. Here’s what to do:
- Place the bait pile in some semi-dense bush along travel routes in spots like field edges, riverbanks, and Doing this will allow for multiple snaring opportunities as coyotes come to investigate the bait.
- Put the bait out for a week during some snowfall, and then return to check for tracks.
- Wearing surgical gloves to cover your scent, hang the snares to capture coyotes along entrance and exit trails they now trust.
- I try to keep my boots free of foreign scents as well, but I have never avoided walking on In fact, I often pack down the trail, ensuring the correct height of the snare.
If you don’t want to handle the bait, you can just set up snares on game trails since coyotes will travel those to hunt for food. A favorite spot of mine is to find wind rows of trees in between crop fields and look for trails cutting across between them. Look for fallen logs that only coyotes can go under and barbed wire fences with tracks showing frequent crossing. Snow is pretty much a must-have to gauge activity levels and routes.
IN MY PACK
Besides the snares and my winter clothing, my trapping pack includes wire cutters, 18-gauge utility wire, flagging tape, and twist ties. Even though you can use branch ends to hang the snares,
I prefer to create a hanging hook with utility wire, securing it in the exact position I want to hang the snare. Using this wire is quick, easy, accurate and reliable.
It’s very important to mark each snare with a small piece of flagging tape at your eye level. Do not use a long piece hanging down and flapping in the wind, because that sight can actually tip off incoming coyotes. Do not use the same small tree or branches that the snare could knock down when the coyote becomes entangled. Instead, pick a tree branch just far away enough but still close to the snare. If you are snaring along trails in a vast area, you may also want to waypoint your snares and their status (active or not). As a final note to your setup, keep a record of your active snare count.
Checking snares is the exciting part of this process. It’s when you get to see the results of your hard work. When checking snares, I carry a .22 caliber rifle to dispatch any coyotes that have not fully expired. It is the humane thing to do when not getting a perfect kill from from a snare Check each and every snare to make sure either a coyote is not in it or that it is still set properly. I also take note of any rejections, where tracks have walked towards the snare but have not crossed it and have backed away and turned around. I rarely take down the snare with a rejection, but add another one close by, flagging them as usual.
Snared coyotes are removed and carried back to the truck or sled. It is important not to drag the coyotes to protect the fur. I usually cut the wire as close to the anchor or as close to the neck as possible to preserve as much of the cable for reuse with snare extensions at a later time.
As quickly as possible, I spray the entire coyote with Raid household insect killer and place them in a thick, sealed garbage bag. This helps kill any fleas that may or may not exist on the host coyote.
Before leaving, I ensure my active snare count and flags are up to date. As the season progresses, things change, and it is vital to record and flag which snares are active and which have been removed. As the snare trap grows, things can get confusing, and you don’t want to forget about any active snares. I am also conscious of recording when I checked the snares and how many furbearers were caught. Good record- keeping is essential for year-end reports and profit measurement.
Once the snares have been checked in the field and you return home, hang the coyotes by their hind legs as soon as possible. This helps their stomach contents and vitals sink into the rib cage and stretches them out into an easier skinning position. Depending on the weather, you might have to hang them for a few hours or days at room temperature to thaw them out.
You have a few choices when it comes to fur handling.
The easiest one is to sell the entire coyote whole to a registered fur buyer. This involves the least amount of work, virtually none of the fieldwork, but the lowest margin. The other option is to skin, flesh, wash, sew (if necessary) board, and dry the fur in preparation for sale in the fur auction. Preparing coyotes for auction is time-consuming and must be done properly to maximize profits. All the basic skills for this are taught in the trapper course. It’s also best to learn tips and tricks from a veteran trapper.
Sometimes coyotes carry disease, such as shoulder mites or mange. That makes these furs not worth anything, so there is no point in trying to sell them or process these animals.
When I first began trapping, I assumed the most fun would be in the field playing the game of cat and mouse with coyotes. However, after skinning, flashing, and preparing some coyotes for fur sale, I realize that many memories can also be made just preparing furs in your home. It is warmer and peaceful there, and you will appreciate what our ancestors did to survive.
Snaring coyotes has become a favorite winter pastime of mine. I truly enjoy all aspects of it, and I enjoy teaching my children the game of predator and prey. They also like it because I let them drive the truck off-road, and they get out snowshoeing. At the beginning of each season, we make a plan on what to do with our profits. This helps motivate the children to continue to help as the season goes on. It is family time that I will cherish forever.