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Furbearers animals is important recreationally and economically to many Arkansans. The hunting and trapping of furbearers, and the marketing of fur pelts, contributes to the stateâ€™s economy, reduces wildlife damage and helps prevent furbearer populations from reaching unhealthy levels. Fur-takers are effective and vital tools for managing this renewable resource.
Land use patterns had changed so drastically by the end of the 1800s that two furbearer species were lost completely, the eastern cougar and the red wolf (Canis rufus). The red wolf and eastern cougar are species with large home ranges. Neither species can tolerate human disturbance. As the acreage of South Carolinaâ€™s large forests and swamps dwindled, the habitat could no longer meet the requirements for these species.
Mature hardwood stands and pine savannahs, which historically covered most of South Carolina, often lacked the diversity of plant communities needed to support small mammal and bird species and the furbearers that preyed upon them. Modern timber practices, on the other hand, resulting in an interspersion of habitat types, appear to benefit foxes and bobcats by increasing prey abundance.
The conversion of hardwood stands to monoculture pine plantations, however, has reduced habitat quality for the raccoon in many areas of the state. The most noticeable change has occurred in the upper Piedmont region, where raccoons feed heavily on hardwood mast such as acorns, hackberry and wild cherry. Logging of den and mast producing trees has reduced the number of raccoons these areas can support.
Habitat:The greatest risk to furbearer populations is habitat loss. As habitat is lost, animal populations squeeze into smaller territories. Nutria can cause severe marsh damage in the form of eat-outs. These animals kill plants by eating the roots. Thus making the soil vulnerable to erosion.
Both male and female fisher are highly skilled predators and territory relocation are sometimes necessary as fishers are capable of overharvesting prey species. Fisher are aggressive hunters and competition with other furbearers is not only for the same prey species, but by direct contact. Raccoon may be killed by a large fisher in trees or on the ground.
Life Cycle: Distribution The only marsupial native to the United States, the opossum is found from the plains states to the Atlantic coastal states, and from Mexico to southern Ontario. They were introduced in California. Opossums are abundant in every county in South Carolina..
Today, all forms of furbearer harvest, including trapping, are closely monitored and well regulated by the Department of Natural Resources biologists. The greatest threats to South Carolinaâ€™s furbearers are development and the further loss of quality habitat. Land clearing, conversion of hardwoods to pine stands, wetland destruction and the channelization of our streams and rivers all contribute to this loss. The key to increasing our furbearer populations is the protection and improvementof existing habitat.
Trapping of furbearers, particularly with steel foothold traps, has become more and more controversial. The controversy is significant because the steel trap is considered the most versatile of the various methods available for capturing furbearers (Payne 1980). Whether traps are used to reduce livestock losses by predators or to harvest furs, the controversy has gained the attention and interest of various social factions, each with differing beliefs, attitudes, and philosophies.
The following equipment is permitted for dry-land sets: Deadfalls, wire cages or box traps. Foothold traps with a maximum inside jaw spread of six (6) inches measured perpendicular to the hinges. Body-gripping traps with a maximum inside jaw spread of seven and one-half (7.5) inches measured parallel with the trigger.
Furbearers are annually renewable resources. Most furbearers produce more young than can survive, and good management plans harvest this excess. Human health is also a concern for wildlife managers. Diseases like tularemia, bubonic plague and rabies can begin as an outbreak in furbearing animals and effect the human population. The most important furbearer manager is the trapper.
The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries set seasons for trapping, but the trapper running a daily line has an even better sense of how much to trap and when to stop. A wise trapper only crops the excess population without damaging the healthy breeding stock. Furbearer management is paid for through hunting and trapping license fees. We all benefit from the habitat and wildlife protection resulting from good furbearer management.
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