Cletis Richards, of Carthage, is the District 5 director of the Missouri Trapper Association and serves 15 counties.
“There are nine districts that make up the trapper association and I love working for them,” said Richards.
Richards has been trapping since 1969 and is retired from working in the plumbing business for 25 years.
“The whole purpose of the trapper association is to train people and come together for a defense of trapping,” said Richards.
The Missouri trapping laws are fairly extensive when it comes to rules and regulations of what can be trapped, he said.
“The two animals that you cannot trap in Missouri are wild weasels and spotted skunk,” said Richards.
The most commonly caught animals are raccoons and coyotes.
Richards does most of his trapping starting at Ritchie and going down to Shoal Creek.
“My favorite place to trap is Kansas, but I trap in several different places,” said Richards.
The whole process of trapping an animal is something that, according to Richards, not a lot of people know about.
“A lot of people don’t actually know what goes on, such as you don’t trap to kill. You’re only restraining the animal from getting away,” said Richards.
Missouri has put several laws in place that protect pets from getting killed in the trap.
“In addition to the laws being protective over pets, Missouri also rules that trappers have to release females who are pregnant or raising babies,” said Richards.
The trapping laws are regulated by the Missouri Department of Conservation. Different traps are used for different animals.
“The whole goal is not to break the skin, because that can ruin their coat,” said Richards.
Most trapping is done so the trapper can dispatch the animal and sell its fur.
“There are two international fur warehouses. One is North American Fur Auction and the other is Fur Harvesters of America,” said Richards.
Fur can be sold locally or to a larger buyer, he said, and there are trucks that drive on specific routes to pick up dried fur.
“In our process we skin, remove the excess, and air dry the fur. We do not put salt on them to help dry them,” said Richards.
Coyotes are mainly shot to be dispatched and bobcats can be put through a chokehold to be killed.
“Trapping is a great way to control wildlife population. Beaver, muskrat, and bobcat make great tableware and are edible,” said Richards.
There are also several conventions about trapping held annually for youth and adults throughout the country.
“This gives young people something to keep them constructive,” said Richards. “I have always had a love of wildlife and being outdoors. I appreciate what’s out there and I love educating others about it so they can, too.”
By Mattie Link