Friday, August 31, 2012

Grad student tackles trapping

When SNRAS graduate student Heidi Hatcher began researching community involvement in wildlife management through activities such as trapping, she took more than an academic approach. She took lessons from the Alaska Trappers Association and set up her own trapline.

“I did it so I would know something about trapping,” Hatcher said. Last winter she caught marten, lynx, fox and ermine.

The first-hand experience broadened her knowledge and helped her understand the people she interviewed for her thesis work. The project centers on why villagers in Allakaket and Alatna don’t trap as much as they used to. “The communities want wolf control and the locals can trap but they haven’t been,” Hatcher explained.

Of primary interest is the decline in moose populations, a source of food for the residents that wolves also enjoy eating.

In addition to identifying why previous attempts to increase local trapping have been unsuccessful, Hatcher sought ideas for programs or incentives that the communities could implement that would be more successful at increasing wolf trapping.

Even snaring clinics offered by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game haven’t really caught on.

“There used to be more trapping,” Hatcher said. “The trappers are getting older and the younger generation is interested but there are cultural issues.” For instance, it is deemed inappropriate for women to trap wolves.

“There is a lot of interest; it’s just getting someone to organize that interest and spearhead ideas.”

During spring semester, Hatcher conducted 16 interviews in the two villages, with her work funded by EPSCoR. This semester she is writing her thesis.

Hatcher earned her B.S. in ecological and environmental biology at Appalachian State University in North Carolina and came to UAF two years ago to work on a master’s degree in natural resources management. Her advisor is Associate Professor Peter Fix.

“It has been a helpful experience and made me a better biologist,” Hatcher said of her research. “The people were super friendly and helpful and very willing to talk.”

In her spare time Hatcher enjoys photography. Her goal after completing her master’s degree is to work in a biology position in Alaska. “Wildlife is kind of my thing,” she said.

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