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Steve DeRochie

The Trapper

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Story by Stephany Hildebrand
Photos by Stephany Hildebrand

Steve DeRochie sees trapping as a role and a responsibility that has a good influence on the future of the wetlands at Cooper Marsh. As an added bonus, his work will inform the Great River Rapport.

Over the last century, the landscape along the Upper St. Lawrence River has changed from forests and wetlands to agricultural fields, industry, and urban areas; with that has come the transformation of the river’s edge. In many sections, these changes have hardened shorelines, affected land connectivity from one natural area to another, and left our region vulnerable to species extirpation, pollution, and climate change.

Wetlands are arguably one of the most important types of ecosystems in terms of maintaining the delicate balance of wildlife ecology, combating climate change, and storing carbon. As one of the few wetlands found along the north shore of the Upper St. Lawrence River, it’s critical that wetlands such as Cooper Marsh be maintained, restored, and protected.

When we speak about protecting these sensitive ecosystems, you may not think about trapping. And yet it does play an important role in maintaining balance, especially when you consider the activities and intentions of people like Steve, one of the few remaining trappers in the region.

Steve DeRochie sees trapping as a role and a responsibility that has a good influence on the future of the wetlands at Cooper Marsh. As an added bonus, his work will inform the Great River Rapport.

Over the last century, the landscape along the Upper St. Lawrence River has changed from forests and wetlands to agricultural fields, industry, and urban areas; with that has come the transformation of the river’s edge. In many sections, these changes have hardened shorelines, affected land connectivity from one natural area to another, and left our region vulnerable to species extirpation, pollution, and climate change.

Wetlands are arguably one of the most important types of ecosystems in terms of maintaining the delicate balance of wildlife ecology, combating climate change, and storing carbon. As one of the few wetlands found along the north shore of the Upper St. Lawrence River, it’s critical that wetlands such as Cooper Marsh be maintained, restored, and protected.

When we speak about protecting these sensitive ecosystems, you may not think about trapping. And yet it does play an important role in maintaining balance, especially when you consider the activities and intentions of people like Steve, one of the few remaining trappers in the region.

Beavers and muskrats are known for their positive impacts at Cooper Marsh, from creating new wetland areas and aerating the ground through tunnelling. But they can also be particularly destructive when their populations are unchecked. Left to their own devices, they can eat themselves out of house and home in a short period of time. That’s where Steve steps in.

A licensed trapper from South Glengarry, Steve is one of the few remaining trappers in the region, one motivated by conservation efforts, not economic gain. He is hired by the Raisin Region Conservation Authority to help regulate beaver and muskrat populations in the most well-known local wetland, Cooper Marsh. Throughout the year, the 62-year-old observes the marsh closely to determine the populations of beavers and muskrats at each hut. This information determines where he sets his traps, in late fall, in the dead of winter (through the ice), and early spring, when the pelts are thick and long. Generally, he traps about 30% of the population each year to help maintain the balance between animal populations and the health of the wetlands; this percentage will ebb and flow depending on the overall numbers of each species. To whit: there are years when few muskrats need to be trapped because their numbers have dropped due to predation and disease. Steve is sensitive to these changes.

For Steve, development is a sore subject. He feels the wetlands along the St. Lawrence River have “grotesquely changed” with almost none left on the northern shore. Cooper Marsh is one of the last places left alone for wildlife along this part of the river.

“People will move in from elsewhere and ask ‘where’s the wild-life?’”, Steve says. “They blame the trappers, the fishermen, and the hunters but really, [the problem is] development along the rivers, houses right up to the edge, and removal of riparian habitat.”

In collaboration with

Perch Magazine - Logo

Story by Stephany Hildebrand
Photos by Stephany Hildebrand

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