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Okanagan woman traps historic certification

Vernon’s Holly Wise becomes first woman certified instructor with 78-year-old B.C. Trappers Association
Vernon’s Holly Wise (third from right, wearing apron) has become the first woman certified as an instructor with the B.C. Trappers Association. (Facebook photo)

The sawdust princess has ascended to a higher power.

Vernon’s Holly Wise has become the first woman certified as a B.C. Trappers Association (BCTA) trapping instructor. The BCTA is Canada’s oldest trapping organization, established in 1945.

An Interior Health clinical operations manager by day, Wise went through a mentorship program of the BCTA, going around the province and working with excellent instructors. She learned from them, took their tips and tricks and honed her skills, making herself, she said, a better instructor based on the expertise already out there.

Wise came about her love of trapping naturally. She is the daughter of local North Okanagan wildlife business personality Pete Wise.

“I’ve been a trapper my entire life,” said Wise. “I started off as the sawdust princess, helping my dad with the processing of hides after he had done all his trapping when I was knee-high to a grasshopper.

“My dad is proud as heck for me. He’s been a huge influence on me, a real driving force.”

She got her trapping licence in 1994 and started working for her dad. She purchased her own trapline in 2005.

“For 26 years, I’ve been a trapper so becoming a certified instructor was a natural progression for me,” said Wise. “I love sharing the craft and the education that goes with it.”

She also loves being a woman in a male-dominated industry.

Wise is currently the vice-president-elect of the BCTA (she lost the 2023 election for presidency by a mere 37 votes), as well as its communications chair. She’s been on the BCTA board for five years.

To now have the opportunity to provide mentorship to up-and-coming women trappers, is, said Wise, “extremely empowering.”

“The men can go sit down now,” she said. “It’s about getting women involved. The industry is so male-dominated but we are starting to see women coming out of the woodwork, and it’s amazing. We (BCTA) lend our arm out to the B.C. Wildlife Federation and I go in and teach trapping seminars for women at their courses. This is a phenomenal opportunity to move forward in this industry.

And it isn’t to say that the men don’t appreciate having Wise on the board. On the contrary.

Some men, said Wise, are always going to be set in their ways. They don’t talk to her or with her, but talk around her. Others have told her what she is doing is absolutely amazing.

“I get told ‘you are inspirational for other women, that my wife or sister wants to get into trapping,’” said Wise. “It’s not solely about the opportunity the BCTA has brought to me (certification), it’s so much more than that.”

Wise is a big believer of managing the ecosystem and wildlife as a whole as a trapper.

“We’re looking at what is our overall carrying capacity of our area that we’re trapping on, what could that look like,” she said. “We ensure we’re not over-harvesting and reducing (wildlife) numbers to a point it becomes detrimental to the area. We’re always being mindful to really make sure when we’re out trapping, we’re really just what helping what would be that natural selection over the harder months.”

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Roger Knox

About the Author: Roger Knox

I am a journalist with more than 30 years of experience in the industry. I started my career in radio and have spent the last 21 years working with Black Press Media.
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