TWO years is far too long for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to sell trapping licenses without insuring that recipients pass a course and a field test, but that’s the reality and there’s no remedy in sight.

Right now you can pass an online course and qualify for a trapping license and tags without proving in any way that you’ve touched a trap or a cable restraint — let alone know how to use them ethically and responsibly.

Because of the work and dedication of the Wisconsin Trappers Association (WTA), this state has one of the toughest and most comprehensive trapper education programs in the nation. Or at least it did.

Now the field training is no longer mandatory and the online course is conducted with the same lack of credibility that plagues the online deer registration system — a lack of accountability.

One of the issues is a DNR decision to exclude trappers education instructors from state insurance coverage, though every other instructor teaching hunting, boating or snowmobile safety is covered.

Instructors blame the wording of state law and the interpretation of the DNR’s legal team for that flaw in the system, which often leads to cancelled classes because volunteer instructors can’t afford the insurance.

Mike Kortenhof of Sugar Camp, a well-known trapper, WTA member and volunteer instructor, said the problem with online certification is that the state has no idea who’s really taking the class.

“All they need is somebody else’s customer identification number and basic information in order to get that person certified to buy a license and apply for tags,” said Kortenhof.

He said the WTA has been fighting the insurance issue with the DNR and its legal team for at least two years.

“I’m so disgusted I want to quit doing it,” he said. “I don’t want to be party to an online system where anyone can get a license with no proof that they know what they are doing in the field.”

His frustration is shared by Shawn Rossler, the DNR’s furbearer biologist for the state, who supports mandatory field testing to give trappers the skills and ethics they need to succeed.

“I can’t say I fully understand all the legal issues but I support trying to get the department’s insurance coverage for all instructors,” he said.

Rossler said trapper education is vital for teaching people how to trap ethically and responsibly.

“The goal is to lessen conflicts with others, be fair to other outdoor users and capture animals as humanely as possible,” he said. “It’s very difficult to accomplish that without a hands-on component in the education.”

Apparently the “catch” in the department’s system is that trapper education is the only course where they’ve struck an agreement with an outside organization that has the expertise to carry on the program.

Somehow that partnership with the WTA and the wording of a statute has caused the suspension of insurance coverage for trapping instructors.

The scribbler couldn’t find any proposed legislation or solution to the ill-fated wording. Two years into the frustration of handing out trapping licenses to potentially un­ed­u­cated trappers, you’d think they would have a solution.

Kortenhof said the private insurance they are now forced to purchase costs $250 for a class. With revenues being only $12 per student, he said most classes with small enrollment are being cancelled.

“We just can’t afford to do it.” he said.

Rossler praised the WTA for its aggressive support of regulated trapping and furbearer management. He said the organization has provided basic trapping skills to thousands of people.

One of the advantages of the hands-on course was giving first-time trappers the most up-to-date knowledge on equipment and techniques that not only work, but position trappers to get the job done as humanely as possible.

As an example, they introduce trappers to new-age equipment that’s species specific — intended to hold various animals with minimal damage to feet or legs. They go way beyond the historic foothold traps of old.

The last thing the department should be doing is licensing trappers who don’t have the education and skills to do it right. But currently, that is the system that hundreds and even thousands of people are using to get certified.

And there are no refresher class requirements, so those unqualified trappers taking advantage of the current flaws will be certified to buy licenses and tags for a lifetime.

The scribbler feels the same way about giving out hunter’s safety certificates without requiring a field test. It just shouldn’t happen without a hands-on component to the class.

As a longtime trapper, I know the huge learning curve that came without required education classes. The DNR?and WTA?did a great thing here, and now the validity of the education is suspect.

It’s time for lawmakers to step in and right the wrongs of this flawed statute, so in-field trapping instruction can resume.