Years ago, my son Paul and I trapped together, even when there was abundant habitat; we did our best to eliminate as many predators as possible, hoping we were helping the area wildlife.
Now, that we have a little habitat, we’re seeing more pheasants and unfortunately, they’re more predators, those that like nothing more than to destroy the nest and the young pheasant and quail chicks.
These predators include Raccoons, Skunks, Opossums, Coyotes, Fox, Bobcats, Hawks and stray Cats.
One animal that makes the biggest impact on nesting birds is the stray cats as they have no trouble in the smaller habitat tracts locating the nests and destroying them, killing the hen and the chicks.
There are indications that cats not hunting for food, killed for practice and/or sport.
In a 2013 study by Nature’s Conservation, indicated that free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.3–4.0 billion birds and 6.3–22.3 billion mammals annually. Those that are
hommeless cats, feral cats compared to owned pets, cause the majority of this mortality. The findings suggest that free-ranging cats cause substantially greater wildlife mortality than previously thought and are likely the single greatest source of mortality for U.S. birds and mammals. Scientifically sound conservation and policy intervention is needed to reduce the devastation made by cats.
The healthy birds actually killed far more for practice and/or sport rather than for food.
One of the things that will decrease the number of pheasant killed, producing more pheasants is heavier cover on larger tracts of land during the nesting and brood-rearing periods, making it harder for the predators to locate the nests.
Unfortunately as farm prices rose, much of the habitat and trees were grubbed out, decreasing habitat tenfold.
In the past, when fur prices were decent, trappers and predator callers took a pretty big bite out of the predator populations.
At this time, the only fir that seems to be of any value is the coyote with their fur being graded harshly, looking for any damage to the pelt.
Because of the Soviet Un ion and North Korea not purchasing as many furs as they had in the past, the fur market declined and in some places the market crashed, pelts were worth very little, with the fur buyers offering nothing for smaller animals and very little for the large prime critters.
Some trappers in northeast Nebraska were garnering better prices by preparing their furs, skinning and stretching them and then sending them to the North America Fur Auction (NAFA) in Canada.
Once the hides were dry they were picked up by a NAFA agent in our area and shipped to the auction.
Unfortunately, NAFA shut down with rumors that it was bought out by a group that dealt with only farm raised furs.
In Europe, farm raised furs are subsidized like our crops are here in America, with some European countries banning wild furs from being imported, which has also hurt the American fur market.
When I was a kid growing up in Watertown, we trapped in the winter to make a little money, now days; one can hardly pay for their time or fuel to go out after predators.
In South Dakota they tried to eliminate predator numbers, with the state offering a bounty for the tails of predators, so there was some incentive to go out after them.
Predators are tremendous reproducers, having large litters each year with each of the young ones becoming upland game predators.
Some conservation minded trappers are still running their trap lines, taking raccoons, opossums and skunks, using whatever they can and burring the carcasses.
Depredation is a huge problem, hard on all species of wildlife and unless we do something or Mother Nature does, we’ll never see bird populations that we saw in the past.
Gary Howey, Hartington, Neb. who is a former tournament angler, fishing & hunting guide. He is an award winning writer, producer, and broadcaster and inducted into the “National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame” in 2017. He is the Producer-Co-Host of the award winning Outdoorsmen Adventures television series and the co-host of Outdoor Adventures radio. If you are looking for more outdoor information, check out garyhoweysoutdoors.com, outdoorsmenadventures.com and like Gary Howey’s Facebook or watch his shows on www.MyOutdoorTV.com.