Bob Noonan lacks neither opinions nor expertise and he’s fun to converse with. Born in southern Maine, he grew up in Scarborough and Windham. After graduating from Chevrus High School, he went to St. Michaels College in Vermont, earning a teaching degree. His teaching career began at Alburg High on the peninsula jutting into Lake Champlain, then it was on to a progressive school using the Summerhill model, in Bangor. He had an opportunity to work for the Small Business Administration in Fairbanks, Alaska for a couple years before returning to Maine where he became a carpenter, first working for others, then operating his own company.
Throughout all of his education and work experiences, something else lurked in the background—a love of nature, especially as a trapper. Bob is adamant that trapping not only connected him with the natural world in unique ways, but was instrumental in helping him deal with depression and bipolar illness, starting in his early teens. His family was middle class, Dad a salesman in the shoe industry, Mom a homemaker. He was expected to earn his own spending money and started doing so in a unique way.
Everything started with an impulse swap. Bob was weeding his comic collection and when offered a minnow trap, he exchanged an unwanted comic for it. This was at a time when he and his friends were fishing at night for eels under the Snow’s Clam factory wharf. On a good night, they might catch three or four. He baited the minnow trap with broken clams and when he pulled it the next day, it had more eels inside than he could imagine. Some were eaten (Mom cooked everything her husband and sons brought home), some were shared around the neighborhood, and the rest were sold.
His fascination with trapping led him to creating innovative ways to live catch mice and squirrels, using a regular snap trap, wire mesh and a coffee can. They were sold to Helen Perley who owned White Animal Farm on Pine Point in Scarborough. (more about her here http://www.afrma.org/helenperley.htm) She paid him ten cents per mouse and a dollar for each squirrel.
Another neighbor trapped muskrats in Scarborough Marsh and was happy to share his skills with Bob. That led to his taking a taxidermy class and then buying his first Conibear trap from the Sears & Roebuck catalog. Bob says this trap was the first major trapping innovation in over 100 years. It worked so well, he soon bought another dozen. Trapping became so much a part of his life that he ran a trap line in high school, burning both ends of the candle by checking it early in the morning and then at night. His trapping continued while in college where he ran a line within walking distance of the school. It was during that time when he discovered the challenge and allure of going after mink. He told me there were two general ways to set traps, with bait and by blindsetting. With the latter, the trapper must use his experience and powers of observation to predict exactly where the animal will go. When there are multiple holes in a river bank, this makes the task even more challenging.
Eventually, Bob’s love of trapping, his history as an avid reader, and a talent for writing merged and he began writing for a magazine called The Trapper. He made $300 per article, but soon ran out of topics based on his own knowledge. Realizing how much he enjoyed this aspect of the field, he began traveling around the country and into Canada, interviewing others whose experience made for good reading.
In 2009, he founded his own magazine Trapper’s Post (http://www.trapperspost.com/), which continues to this day as a bi-monthly publication with each issue sent to some 14,500 subscribers in the US, Canada, Sweden, England, Australia and New Zealand. The staff of five or six is supplemented by freelancers in the field. Many contributors have lots of experience, but are not great writers, so Bob spends plenty of time editing. The publication also serves as a collective newsletter for 58 state trapping associations (some states have more than one).
When not working on the magazine, Bob serves as the animal control officer for the town of Canaan as well as freelancing for other nearby towns, especially during skunk mating season. Part of his take comes from extracting skunk scent with a syringe and mixing it with petroleum jelly to create a product sold to trappers and hunters as an attractant and masking agent. Skunks can and do spray when you’re holding them by the tail, an experience Bob once had. If you ever get a chance to chat with him, it will be well worth your time and he’s your go to expert on all things trapping should you need information for an upcoming book…And you can ask him why he once had to stand in a Walmart parking lot wearing a towel.
All things Maine for sure. He sounds fascinating, John. Thanks for the introduction.
Skunk scent! Ick!