Outdoor Alaska: Trapping lynx near peak of cycle
For centuries trapping has been a part of Alaskan subsistence life, and although technology has improved, the heart of trapping continues to be passed on to new generations.
"It's something I've always done. I've always loved trapping and I always joke with people and tell them that everything I've done in life is so I can trap full time in the winter," Lynn Keogh said. "So far it's working out."
This year Keogh is primarily trapping lynx. The abundance of the animal is cyclical, with the best years for lynx following years with a large number of snowshoe hares.
A folded piece of foil catches any moonlight to draw the lynx's attention. Keogh uses a breasted grouse attached to a tree as bait to draw the animal's paw into a foot trap.
"They're not meant to cut or break. The whole idea behind this trap is a simple restraint just to hold the paw in place, and not to damage them at all," Keogh said. "We're not exterminating anything. We're not mutilating or maiming. That's counterproductive, that's not what you're here for. You're here to harvest a renewable resource in an ethical manner."
Keogh says he expects to trap around 50 lynx this winter.
"Where we're at, I don't think this is the peak year but we're getting definitely close to the peak year on the cycle, and then it'll be a downward trend," Keogh said.
While lynx is a furbearer valuable in the garment industry, there's also a market to taxidermy mounts and rugs. It's also an important food source for some Alaskans.
Keogh learned to trap from his father and he has passed that knowledge on to his children.
"It's not a sport, it's a tradition. It's a lifestyle and it's deep-rooted in Alaska through the native community and others. You're harvesting a renewable resource no more different than cutting a tree down. Managed properly those species will be here for years to come," Keogh said. "The successful part is just being out here in the outdoors. Catching something is the bonus, that's what you're here for and you're hoping to make cover expenses and that, but just enjoying the outdoors and seeing what's out here is a real bonus."