Maine Trapping vs. New Mexico Trapping:
How Do They Compare?

By Sheldon Smith

My brother, Vaughn Smith, suggested that I write about the difference between trapping in Maine and New Mexico. The fall of 1937 my brother Richard and I sold 14 skunks to Freeman White for seventy dollars; a fortune at that time. My wife Marion and I caught 24 mink in the fall of 1948 in Aroostook County for another fortune.

We now live in the community of Navajo Dam, NM. at an elevation of 5832 ft. on the San Juan River. We moved here July 18, 1977 without much enthusiasm by the request of the National Parks Service. We thought we would stay a year or two to manage the facilities of seven National Monuments located on or near Indian Lands. After a year you could not have moved me for love or money.

The weather here is great with four seasons, warm summers and cold winters. Bear, deer, elk, upland birds, waterfowl, we have 7700 miles of accessible dirt oil field roads. Navajo Lake is split between Colorado and New Mexico and reaches about 25 miles. The San Juan River is probably the best trout fishing in the West.

CAPTION FOR PHOTO ABOVE: New Mexico trapper Sheldon Smith (right) and a friend discuss Smith's pelts.

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The biggest city in San Juan County is Farmington with an approximant 60,000 population.

Now let us get back down to trapping. The difference between here and Maine is accessibility, only 6% of the land here is private. The rest is government, state or Indian reservation. Government land requires a state trapping license and Indian land requires a permit. Ranchers usually welcome trappers for coyote control. You must have land owner permission.

Our trapping season for most animals is 4 months long. Nov. to March 15th. High country snows limit access. Our Bobcats usually bring in high dollars although in 1987 my wife Marion and I sold 119 bobcats for $77.00 each and I was glad to get it. This past season out first sale brought $350 average and second brought in $600 each. We must tag all cats but there is no closed season on Coyotes.

We use 1.75 traps 6' chain and flat drags. In freezing weather we use wax dirt or other methods to keep the trap working. We catch and hold lions, bear etc. in the traps. Traps must be offset and trappers must carry a release device(we dispatch all cat with this device and release all lions with it as well).We have a 24 hour tend law although we are allowed to use a second person to check if we choose to tend every other day. Coyotes in late 70's and early 80's brought an average of $75 each and they were plentiful. We averaged $24 last season, grey fox $40, red fox $20, badger, ringtails and coon did well.

In case you are not acquainted with Ringtail they are of the cat family the size of Maine mink with a long tail resembling a coon's tail only longer. You catch most of them in cat sets.

All our beaver sets are open water with more bank dens then beaver houses. The beaver are much larger here then Maine with the largest we ever weighed tipping the scales at 94#. Muskrats are plentiful but much smaller than yours. Mink are a protected animal.

Fur dries much quicker here than in Maine. We turn the fur on most animals the next morning and it will be ready in less than a week.

Earlier in this article I referred to releasing Lions. We catch several each year. I have written several articles and provided pictures if interested I will send you one of the articles.

The Game and Fish as well as our SLS present Government support trapping as a game management tool. So we are one of the lucky states.

Please keep teaching young people you're trapping skills; this is our salvation.

Trapper Sheldon Smith grew up in Maine. He and his wife Marion now make their home in Navajo Dam, New Mexico.

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