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#6347 - 02/06/06 10:42 AM Are your muskrats dieing off?
henry fitzgerald Offline
Member

Registered: 01/25/06
Posts: 72
Loc: Quakertown, Pa.
Back in the 60's when I trapped, even before the conibear, it was possable to catch 100 / 150 muskrats the first week of the season. This was done going to school and rideing a bike.
Seems like ever since they sprayed for gypsy moth and farmers stsrted to use chemicals to kill the weeds in their crops the muskrats are gone.
I have noticed boils or tumers on the hides or yellow spots on the liver of some muskrats. The thing that stands out is , they are not breeding or the young don't survive. Seems only large adult rats are caught with NO kits. The following season has even less rats if any. My question is, does this problem only excist here in S.E. Penna. or is this problem in other states?
The problem is not from over trapping as areas that do not allow trapping also have no muskrats.

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#6348 - 02/06/06 11:39 AM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
skipper Offline
Member

Registered: 06/28/05
Posts: 676
Loc: .Manheim Pennslvania
Just a observation I still have a decent population of muskrats but they are very spotty meaning they are at the same place every year.
The one thing that I noticed( and I live where they sprayed heavely for Gypsey mothes. ) As oposed to when you and I were young and the bank was riddled with water line holes. The holes that I find now are well below the water surface I don't know if this is a learned behavor or what the reason is. I have also notied that where I find good populations there is fairly deep water nearby ( aT least 3 or more feet deep)
Again just an observation smile

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#6349 - 02/06/06 12:04 PM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
Wm Offline
Member

Registered: 03/11/05
Posts: 109
Loc: Williamsburg, Virginia
Henry:

Tom Olson wrote an article on this subject in the Trapper and Predator Caller magazine a few issues back. I have not been trapping long enough to know but I get the impression from talking with trappers, that muskrats are not as numerous as they were say 30 years ago. Tom offered numerous possibilities in his article as to what might have happened. One that I remembered is predation. I am convinced there are a lot more hawks than there were 30 years ago. Assuming muskrat populations have dropped, the comeback of avian predators COULD be a big factor. Wm Hester

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#6350 - 02/06/06 12:53 PM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
WI_Archer Offline
Member

Registered: 12/22/05
Posts: 82
Loc: WI
I think that WM is on the right track. The number of predatory birds is on the rise and 'rat numbers on the decline. It seems like my best rat areas are in the thickest and tallest cattails, and I feel this is true because of the overhead cover it offers. Also I too have found rat dens are near deeper water and rats in creeks are almost non-existent by me anymore.

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#6351 - 02/06/06 01:21 PM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
Ric Offline


Registered: 07/22/00
Posts: 3650
Loc: Wellington,OH=USA
While I wouldn't say they are dieing off,populations are certainly lower than years ago.Two avian culprits pop to mind in my area.Barred and Great Horned Owls.Along with ditch and other small waterway "improvement".

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#6352 - 02/06/06 02:31 PM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
archer01 Offline
Member

Registered: 03/25/05
Posts: 340
Loc: N.E. Penna.
I agree with all of the above. Also there are fewer trappers here, which made for more mink. My favorite pond for rats, the mink beat me to it. I will be mink trapping next year for sure.

I also had one Very well known, old, trapping fart, give me a theory on canableism. When food is short, and habitat is being
reduced the parents will eat the young. He backs his theory up with the fact that few small rats come into his shop. Most all of the rats that are brought in are adult.
I don't know if I go along with this theory, but I thought
I'd throw it out to you.

Also remember rats are about as low as you can go on the food chain. Just about everything preys on them.

and last, 2 of the ponds I use to trap are now landscaped and mowed around to look nice. No more rats left in this twp.

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#6353 - 02/06/06 05:07 PM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
Jeremy Allen Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/18/06
Posts: 13
Loc: Pike county Ky
I have never trapped for muskrats, but with talking to local trappers catching muskrats here in eastern ky they say they aren't near as many as they use to be. One trapper told me they were extinct in his area.

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#6354 - 02/06/06 11:29 PM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
Paul Fox Offline
Member

Registered: 07/16/05
Posts: 281
Loc: Deckerville mi.
Proper habitat management and predator control.If you have those two,you'll have muskrats.

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#6355 - 02/07/06 08:20 AM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
henry fitzgerald Offline
Member

Registered: 01/25/06
Posts: 72
Loc: Quakertown, Pa.
Thanks Guys: That's all good interesting input.
I really beleve it is some type of sickness from the water causing the tumers. At some places fish have it. The first to go was our giant bullfrogs then our mink then our pheasants now the muskrats. It's no wonder people drink bottled water. I am sorry to hear about the low populations in other areas. Trapping muskrats can be fun, hopefully the new trappers will get to know what a packbasket of rats feels like.

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#6356 - 02/07/06 08:41 AM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
Ric Offline


Registered: 07/22/00
Posts: 3650
Loc: Wellington,OH=USA
If you really think that there is an enviornmental issue by all means call the proper authorities and report your observations

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#6357 - 02/07/06 11:19 AM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
bora Offline
Member

Registered: 09/28/04
Posts: 63
Loc: Gowrie, Ia
I've noticed a very reduced population here as well. Years ago the few marshes we have around were dotted with huts. They are few and far between now. The waterways here have good habitat thanks to farm programs that have reintroduced wetlands and grass strips along creek channels. But the muskrat population still does not bounce back. The same creeks I trapped as a boy only produce a few rats each year. My kids think I'm crazy when I tell them the numbers I used to catch back then. I have thought for years that it was from chemicals in the water. confused I wish there was a study done on the subject.

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#6358 - 02/08/06 09:48 AM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
henry fitzgerald Offline
Member

Registered: 01/25/06
Posts: 72
Loc: Quakertown, Pa.
Just a closeing note. I did report the sick muskrats to our game protector and told him my experances and thoughts in reguards to the water.
He agreed but told me "to go against big companys or developers because of a few muskrats, I just may get my head chopped off." It's money first and enviorment second.

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#6359 - 02/08/06 03:29 PM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
kitchenhot Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/08/06
Posts: 18
Loc: LODI, OHIO
HI,was reading old news and todays I'm an old time trapper and have to agree with you about the rats being less than 30 years ago. Theory I have heard is the herbicieds, phorous, and pesticides farmers use now cause rats to be steril, thus very few mice or mediums. This
wasn't the case back then as you could count on 10% mice or mediums from your catch.
This year i caught 2 small rats out of 60, does this prove that rats aren't reproducing?

Also reading old news, I ran across snares for rats.
This is very interesting as I read pros and cons
snares will rust from the inside out?
Will muskrat oil applied in a soak work?
They have oil sacks just like beaver when you skin them save the oil sacks (along with the carcass for food or bait).
Freeze them for later when you clean snares soak them in the oil sacks , I know it takes
alot but you will be surprized how fast they add up.
Here in Ohio we sell the carcasses to whom ever wants them (helps with gas money ).
Just my thoughts.

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#6360 - 02/08/06 06:11 PM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
bblwi Offline
Member

Registered: 07/31/00
Posts: 288
Loc: Kiel, WI
Here in eastern WI from my experience over the 15 years I trapped rats quite extensively I would say our population is about 1/3 of what it was in the early 90s and that is with less trapping pressure. I have joined in many posts on several forums as to reasons why. I will just state that they are many and varied and probably all have some validity.

Bryce

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#6361 - 02/09/06 12:41 PM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
littleguns Offline
Member

Registered: 06/20/05
Posts: 269
Loc: Jay, Maine
I have noticed up here in Maine we are loosing vegitation. Our cat tails are being replaced by some purple flowers. The rats seem to be dieing off as fast as the cat tails. we havent noticed a surge in Mink eather. Though the population of Bald eagles has risen along with other birds.
frown ( owles, hawks, crows and ravens.)

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#6362 - 02/12/06 11:37 PM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
trap jaw Offline
Member

Registered: 06/09/05
Posts: 430
Loc: Lancaster Co. Pennsylvania
What ever the reason is I don't know but we have a fraction of the numbers we used to have.

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#6363 - 02/13/06 10:57 PM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
Nutra Rat Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/16/05
Posts: 7
Loc: La Place, LA
Down here you can't hardly find s muskrat any more. The nutria has crowded them out. Perfect example why not to introduce a non-native species into the wild.

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#6364 - 02/14/06 10:06 AM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
chuckieo Offline
Member

Registered: 11/03/05
Posts: 167
Loc: Stoneboro, Pennsylvania
I haven't seen much rat sign at all in certain areas that used to really produce. Did good on mink this year though. It dosen't make sense to me if the rats aren't there why would there be so many mink ?

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#6365 - 02/16/06 05:48 PM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
Bogmaster Offline
Member

Registered: 07/31/00
Posts: 240
Loc: Lakeland,Mn.
While there are many circumstances that indeed lower our rat populations----other than loss of habitat,Raptors are where I point my finger.While hawks and eagles take some daytime rats.It is the devil of the night---The Great Horned Owl that I lay the majority of the blame on.
Tom Olson

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#6366 - 02/16/06 07:38 PM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
trap jaw Offline
Member

Registered: 06/09/05
Posts: 430
Loc: Lancaster Co. Pennsylvania
I think you're right about the owls, in fact I think it's much more than that though. Between the owls, mink, hawks, and any other predators that kill muskrats, that, with good habitat becoming less and less,soon we're not going to have any. eek

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#6367 - 02/18/06 09:36 AM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
born2trap Offline
Member

Registered: 09/04/05
Posts: 29
Loc: arkansas
I spoke with an older well known mink trapper in my area. He did some bounty trapping for the Game and Fish several years ago to conduct a study of mink decreases in Arkansas, and insisted on being briefed on the findings as a condition. I disagree with the predatory birds. There is enough aquatic habitat and cover from above. It would be easier for the hawks, owls to catch squirrels and rabbits. The report, he said, pointed into the chemicals used by rice farmers, but much like a lot of water polution reports, money cleans the water up pretty well, unfortunately for all of us. I know of a certain film factory, that has cleaned up waste water flowing back into the white river. We used to catch lots of fish at the source of the flowage, you wont catch anything there now. But the water is supposed to be clean enough to drink, but only as the report comes back down hill from the top.

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#6368 - 02/18/06 11:30 AM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
Bogmaster Offline
Member

Registered: 07/31/00
Posts: 240
Loc: Lakeland,Mn.
There is enough aquatic cover from above???
There is no cover above most muskrat houses.It is hard for there to be overhead covering,when it goes into the building of their houses.Go through a heavy cattail marsh--where are rat houses located?in open pockets,created by the rats when they build.
Also rats do not live long enough for chemical buildups to affect them.Granted some chemicals may kill them on contact,but their short life span ,keeps chemical buildups in the body from doing most of them in.
Birds of prey learn the waiting game well.It is now pretty common to see hawks sitting patiently above urban bird feeders.They do the exact same thing along rat marsh edges.
Tom Olson

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#6369 - 02/18/06 12:56 PM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
BillWI Offline
Member

Registered: 01/01/01
Posts: 339
Loc: Bonduel,WI,US
I'll have to agree with bogmaster on this one. Predation from the air seems to be the biggest problem as far as I can see. Lost at least a half dozen rats to owls or birds this year. If a rat wasn't under the water seemed to be the biggest problem. Certain parts of my line haven't shown any real loss of numbers where others are decimated. Most of these are areas with lots of trees along the shoreline be it creek or ponds. Areas without the tree line seem to hold there numbers rather well. So seeing that the use of chemicals has allowed bird numbers to increase it would make sense the prey numbers would drop. I.E. Lynx and snowshoe hares.
Pollution could be a contributing factor not so much from killing the rat but by making the young weak or causing the mothers to abort. The same as the pesticides that make the egg shells weak for birds. Manure run-off has turned into a major problem in some water ways and I've seen some creeks where run off could be a problem.
Seeing their only a lowly muskrat not much will be done by most state agencies. Wolves and and other high profile animals yes but seeing this only affects such a small portion of the sporting community(Trappers). It won't get much for attention until to late.
Bill

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#6370 - 02/18/06 08:58 PM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
WI_Archer Offline
Member

Registered: 12/22/05
Posts: 82
Loc: WI
I know for a fact the it is birds of prey. I have not gone a day the entire season without seeing an eagle along my best rat marsh. Hawks are in the trees boarding just looking out across. Just last week when running otter sets I found a large buck mink dead on the bank of the reservoir. Skinned him out and almost positive it is a talon mark right in the middle of his back. Not only have the rat numbers dropped in this area but so have the mink numbers I had only seen 3-4 sets of mink tracks through here the entire fall and then I find a dead one. This is in an area where last year it would be hard to go 3 days without finding fresh mink sign, we even spotted 2 mink out on the snow running the edge of the creek.

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#6371 - 02/19/06 12:51 AM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
henry fitzgerald Offline
Member

Registered: 01/25/06
Posts: 72
Loc: Quakertown, Pa.
Well guys, yes birds of prey will take advantage of easy prey like a muskrat in a trap. However if you read again I wrote we lost our frogs and minnows then our mink then our pheasants now our rats. This tumor thing was going on for years then the spotted liver problem started and having helped a fur buyer skin rats the first week each season, I can say there were less and less kits. So they abort or die very young. I am so sorry to hear you fellows are loseing your rats but it's not birds of prey or over trapping or drought, because the rats would always bounce back. It's the bad water even though it looks clean.

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#6372 - 02/19/06 08:46 AM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
Ric Offline


Registered: 07/22/00
Posts: 3650
Loc: Wellington,OH=USA
The reduction of muskrat populations is not restricted to areas where chemical contaminents may be an issue.Overall raptor populations are much greater now than they were in the past. This is a fact supported by surveys done by folk interested in such things.Large owls (Barred & Great Horned)don't just "take advantage of easy prey like a muskrat caught in a trap".They are flat out killing machines when it comes to small mammals.I cannot see anything being done in the forseeable future to reduce raptor populations.

It was suggested that you contact the apropriate authorities concerning your suspicion concerning chemical polutants but you didn't want to get involved.
If you are so certain that polution of some sort is the real reason why this decline is occuring.Then I will say it again,you need to report it to the agency(s) that deal with such things.I am certain nothing will happen if no one says anything about it.

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#6373 - 02/19/06 01:10 PM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
Bogmaster Offline
Member

Registered: 07/31/00
Posts: 240
Loc: Lakeland,Mn.
Henry,I must disagree with you.I trap in ares that are nowhere near chemicals.Many of these areas I have been trapping,hunting and observing for 33 years.
I have watched a change in our rats--as raptor populations exploded,rat movement shifted to almost entirely nocturnal.Not only that,rat movement ,even at night decreased.Now this change was not brought on by any chemicals,it was brought on by increased predation.Now I am not talking oportunistic birds,picking off a few rats in my traps.I am talking entire populations,changing in an effort to stay alive,and it isn't working.Raptor population increases--percentage wise are far out stripping our rats.
Two other factors to also look at:Our ever increasing coon population.I am from Minnesota,the northern half of our state,had very few coon in the 60s and 70s.They started showing up in the mid 80s.Their populations have also exploded.They are oportunistic feeders,and I believe they take quite a few young rats.I catch more and more coon every year at rat houses.And I am not taking those that ar right on shore.Coon are swimming great distances to these rat houses,why?Tender young rats.
The lack of young rats is also greatly influenced by water level spikes---flooding that takes place when the rats are young can wipe out every litter.With our increased amounts of black top and concrete,spring rains and snow melt cause flooding like we have never seen.small rats are poor swimmers.Water spikes--kill young rats.
So you have increased raptor predation,increased coon predation,increased flooding,and decreases in the number of wet lands.
These are the major factors in the decline of our muskrat populations---not chemicals.
Tom Olson

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#6374 - 02/19/06 05:50 PM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
henry fitzgerald Offline
Member

Registered: 01/25/06
Posts: 72
Loc: Quakertown, Pa.
Bogmaster, you mentioned some good points and the raptor problem does exist. Judgeing from the replies it's a series of proplems for the muskrat. The information and replies from several different states speak of a decline. Whatever the reason or reasons, it's a sad time for the muskrat.
Most people wpold rather see a hawk or owl rather than a muskrat hole in their pond. I am afraid we are fighting a loseing battle fellows.

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#6375 - 02/19/06 07:12 PM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
OldCoon Offline
Member

Registered: 11/13/01
Posts: 204
Loc: Middletown, Pa
Henry, I have the same dwindling 'rat population here in Dauphin County, Pa.

This has been hashed and rehashed on various fourms. It probably is a combination of things. We do have a lot of hawks and owls and of course they do spray for gypsy moth and black flies not to mention whatever farmers are spraying with their crops. I guess you could even ask what chemicals are being put on the highways in winter. That stuff runs off into ditches and from there into streams and waterway. In the past 10 or so years we've also had a lot of dry summers. A lot of places that held water and where I trapped 'rats are bone dry for much of the year now.
_________________________
Mink Trappers Do It Better

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#6376 - 02/20/06 06:20 AM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
born2trap Offline
Member

Registered: 09/04/05
Posts: 29
Loc: arkansas
Guess there were never any raptors back in the early 80's when the fur boom was on and everyone had traps out, didn't seem to bother the rat population much back then, I'm not a rat trapper, but I saw a plenty of em on the rivers and everyone that trapped for em brought in a lot. Not now a days for some strange reason. And a report is a report.

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#6377 - 02/20/06 08:37 AM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
Bogmaster Offline
Member

Registered: 07/31/00
Posts: 240
Loc: Lakeland,Mn.
born2trap---you are correct--there were few raptors back in the 80s.The Bald Eagle was almost extinct,owls and hawks were shot as predators.
Total protection the last 3 decades,has caused a tremendous boom in their populations.
And just the opposite for our little furry friends.
Tom Olson

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#6378 - 02/20/06 09:41 AM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
OldCoon Offline
Member

Registered: 11/13/01
Posts: 204
Loc: Middletown, Pa
Good post, Tom. I was just ready to add that back in the 80s the raptor population was still on the low side here in my section of Pennsylvania. But in the last 10 years or so the population has taken quite an upsurge. Going about I see many hunting hawks sitting on utility poles or in trees while they wait and watch.
_________________________
Mink Trappers Do It Better

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#6379 - 02/20/06 10:13 PM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
bblwi Offline
Member

Registered: 07/31/00
Posts: 288
Loc: Kiel, WI
Tom good insights that do add value to many who have posted as to rat concerns on many forums for over 3 years now.
When we have several factors that are all increasing slightly simultaniously it does not take much tip of an additonal factor to cause a decline in an otherwise stable population.
Habitat, drought, gully washers, herbicides, otters, mink, coon, ferel cats, dogs, yotes and then the raptors day and night and a population that was in stability with a fur harvest can now drop to catistraphic levels or almost dissappear totally.
I need to prospect more and then review the localized spots of rat concentration to see what it is about that spot that holds the rats and keeps them from being over harvested.
Another thought if rats move less due to overhead fear (raptors) much like how deer change habits in the woods when wolves move in); does that make them more vulnerable to say mink, otter,coon and other preditors?
Also if males travel far more than females and the ratios are about equal would not more adult males find nesting females and may prey on the litters as another increased loss factor?
Pockets of rats when found can be really cleaned out fast by preditors, just as a small pond can be cleaned out by otter in short order.

Bryce

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#6380 - 02/21/06 07:58 AM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
born2trap Offline
Member

Registered: 09/04/05
Posts: 29
Loc: arkansas
The one thing I can't figure out from the birds of prey is that Bill Fields, (editor for the Arkansas Trappers Association News in the Trapper & Predator Caller Magazine), repeatedly writes of making impressive catches of muskrats in the same location and I was raised there. There are hawks everywhere and at night you can hear the owls. It is at the upper end of a river, a few miles from its start of a spring. Plenty of coon and several folks have spotted otter. You can't hardly float the river without seeing a muskrat. There is no crop farming up there. Mainly cattle. Where I moved to in the south is all farms, but very few if any muskrats. I never want to crowd a fellow trapper, but I may have moved to the wrong place.stupid me.

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#6381 - 02/21/06 07:59 PM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
skidway Offline
Member

Registered: 12/17/03
Posts: 27
Loc: Traverse City, Mi
Maybe between the predators and trappers they're being over harvested. Something to think about.

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#6382 - 02/22/06 07:30 AM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
born2trap Offline
Member

Registered: 09/04/05
Posts: 29
Loc: arkansas
Well, I respect your input skidway. The problem from what I understand is that the numbers of the young are deminishing and a very low catch rate is the result. In my own small opinion, if the problem were overharvesting, it would be mostly young caught and few adults. It seems as though there aren't as many young being produced/making it long enough to show numbers like in the past. If and I do say IF, it is environmental change or pollution, then if we (the trappers: natures first and true managers) reduced catching them they would most likely decline at an even faster rate.

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#6383 - 02/22/06 03:36 PM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
EARL 8656 Offline
Member

Registered: 02/22/06
Posts: 25
Loc: MADISON, VA
DON'T FORGET ABOUT THE OTTERS. WE HAD A GREAT HORNED OWL(OR OTHER BIG BIRD) TRY TO TAKE A 40# BEAVER OUT OF A 330 EARLIER THIS YEAR.

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#6384 - 02/22/06 03:47 PM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
Bogmaster Offline
Member

Registered: 07/31/00
Posts: 240
Loc: Lakeland,Mn.
Mike,a lot of the areas I have talked about,were trapped solely by me.They were good for a consistant number of rats every year.I have left them untouched for over a decade--still very few rats,but oh so many--raptors.
With diminished rat prices for almost 20 years,trappers and over harvest--at least in mn. has not been a problem---with the low prices,few were trapping them.
Earl,had a bald eagle try to take off with a yearling beaver--he didn't make off with it.lol
Tom Olson

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#6385 - 02/22/06 06:03 PM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
skidway Offline
Member

Registered: 12/17/03
Posts: 27
Loc: Traverse City, Mi
That's an interesting observation Tom.Being able to manage your own area blows my overharvest theory away. Hopefully most all trappers keep their yearly harvest in mind when running their lines. We have a large increase in bald eagles compared to years past. DDT from the orchards had them pretty much gone from the area.I've seen eagles and opsprey grab rats but never gave a thought to how many they might take.

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#6386 - 03/13/06 06:55 PM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
firman Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/19/05
Posts: 1
Loc: phoenix,ny
when i started trapping about 30 yrs. ago, there were lots of rats in our pond. my first year trapping at age 13, i caught 40 rats with 6 conibears in one 5-6 acre basin. now i couldnt catch over 10 or so. it hasnt been trapped in years either. the only difference between now and then is we now have a good largemouth bass population. i think the bigger bass eat the little rats!

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#6387 - 03/13/06 09:51 PM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off?
deerehunter03 Offline
Member

Registered: 11/02/05
Posts: 80
Loc: NE Ohio
This year in northeast Ohio where I trap I have a rockey creek that normally doesn't catch alot of rats (normally 3 per year) and this year I caught 9 in 2 weeks in 3 traps but also there were some coon in the traps as well. trapping now days you take what you can get.

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#25368 - 10/17/17 12:23 PM Re: Are your muskrats dieing off? [Re: henry fitzgerald]
Archive Offline


Registered: 03/12/03
Posts: 1116
Dated for search.

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