Coyotes demand new government trapper’s time

Rocky Wilson/Chieftain Brady Smith, the USDA's new "government trapper" for Wallowa County, holds a remote-controlled calling device that can draw coyotes and other targeted animals in from a radius up to 700 yards.

With traps, an electronic call box, and snares his primary weapons, a young man raised in Roseburg with a diverse résumé has been employed to “resolve wildlife conflicts” in Wallowa County.

Brady Smith, 25, is denoted as Wildlife Specialist on his business card, and yet switches easily to local jargon when he refers to himself as “the government trapper.” Smith, who works for U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, says his pickup is his office. He succeeds the late Marlyn Riggs, who held the position for many years.

With nearly six years of experience in his current line of work, Smith has made a point of expanding his résumé, working in several places and dealing with numerous human/wildlife conflicts involving such animals as skunks, raccoons, coyotes, and, yes, wolves.

Since launching his career in Wallowa County July 21, Smith says he’s only been contacted to participate in one wolf-related incident. That was in mid-August in the Pine Creek area, he says, and it was a case of “textbook wolf depredation” where a calf was severely injured but survived the attack.

Smith says Wallowa County’s protocol for responding to wolf incidents differs slightly from other Oregon counties inasmuch the Wallowa County Sheriff’s Office responds to such calls along with USDA Wildlife Services (Smith’s employer) and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“Between the three of us,” says Smith, “someone is there quickly to collect evidence and document what happened.”

Coyotes have been the biggest wildlife problem, however, since he arrived on the job a month ago. He adds that the two largest sheep herds in Wallowa County – belonging to Skye Krebs and Clint Krebs – have been “in constant conflict” with coyotes. He estimates that about 25 coyotes have been put down during this period, some exterminated after being captured in traps and snares, and some called in and shot using an electronic call box and rifle.

The new government trapper would not authorize a photo shoot of his traps, yet was firm in his claim that animal traps – whether set for bear, cougar, or coyote – no longer fit the old image of a device that causes trapped animals to suffer until the trapper arrives. With an ultimate goal of not trapping innocent bystanders such as fox, Smith says modern-day traps are more like handcuffs on an animal. This gives the government trapper the ability to release animals that weren’t meant to be captured.

By employing an electronic call box advertised to be effective up to 700 yards, taped calls easily can draw coyotes and other animals within rifle range. Smith says he employs both lethal and non-lethal snares, and one excellent location to place one is in marked spaces where coyotes have been crawling under fences.

To date, Smith has worked in Bandon, La Grande, two locations in California (where coyotes were so problematic that they would attack dogs on leashes), back in Bandon, and now here. His plan now is to get married this month and then plant his vocational roots here indefinitely.

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