From the Fur Trade to Today: Trapping in Northwest Ontario

Trapping wild fur bearing animals has come a long way since the height of the fur trade as depicted at Fort William Historical Park.

trap at fwhp
Fort William Historical Park - Photo by Stephanie Reid

Even up until 1948, trapping was a free-for-all with no regulations or management in Ontario. Today, however, the culture of trapping encompasses a respect for nature and a responsible wildlife management plan through regulations administered by the Ministry of Natural Resources.

furs at fwhp
Fort William Historical Park - Photo by Stephanie Reid

Ontario has over 2,800 registered traplines and the Thunder Bay District alone has about 145 traplines, where the focus, like the days of the voyageurs, is the beaver. A quota system on each line ensures the management of beavers to protect lands and infrastructure, and to preserve a sustainable beaver population.

beaver pelt
Beaver Pelt - Photo by Kathy Toivonen

The beaver has more to offer than just its pelt. Castors, for example, a gland found within the beaver, is used to retain fragrance in perfumes; the carcass is used for baiting and feeding other animals; and the tail can be used to make items such as wallets.

beaver tale wallet
Beaver Tail Wallet - Photo by Kathy Toivonen

The federal government has designated the third Saturday in September 2015 as the inaugural National Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Heritage Day. Dryden High School even offers a day on the trapline as one of the units in the outdoor recreation program. Trapping is a way of life.

Dryden High School outdoor rec
Dryden High School Outdoor Recreation Class - Photo courtesy of Kelsey Pennanen

The mission of the Northwestern Fur Trappers Association’s (NWFTA) is to educate, preserve and protect. The NWFTA, a membership of trappers, organizes workshops in education and trapping courses. The Association also offers workshops in building marten nesting boxes to promote habitat, and green techniques. To find out more about wild fur trapping and its role in the culture of Northwest Ontario, the NWFTA will be hosting its annual Trappers’ Convention on Friday, February 27th and Saturday, February 28th 2015 in the Coliseum Building at the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition grounds.

Everyone is welcome. 

Conibear beaver trap
Conibear Beaver Trap - Photo by Kelsey Pennanen

About Kathy Toivonen

What's your story? Through writing and visual art, Kathy Toivonen explores how people and cultures engage in the landscape and lifestyle of Northwestern Ontario. Contact her at


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