Illinois Department of Natural Resources

CONTACT: Bob Bluett, 217-782-6384


SPRINGFIELD, ILL. -- Irv Schirmer, an Illinois trapper from Marengo, won the 2004 Fur Takers of America’s prestigious American Heritage Award. The national honor is given annually to an outstanding individual or organization for promoting trapping as an important wildlife conservation activity.

Schirmer was credited for his “tireless work to promote trapping and conservation, particularly with kids who have little knowledge about trapping and its role in our nation’s heritage,” says Carol Krumwiede, FTA Secretary, from Onarga. Previous honorees include Congressman Don Young from Alaska and the Wildlife Legislative Fund of America.

“Irv shares his passion for trapping and wildlife with anyone who will listen,” Krumwiede adds. “It would be hard to determine how many lives he’s touched with his positive messages and example.”

Schirmer’s efforts include teaching Illinois trapper safety and education courses (mandatory for first-time trappers under the age of 18); organizing trappers to form a strong FTA chapter in Illinois; hosting exhibits at local and regional fairs; and speaking knowledgeably to Illinois legislators about the benefits of trapping to wildlife and society.

Schirmer also is a certified animal control operator, licensed to trap nuisance wildlife such as raccoons and beavers for Illinois residents who experience damage to homes and property. He uses these opportunities to spread messages about the benefits and methods of trapping.

“Trapping will be my life until I can’t do it anymore. I’m almost 72, so I have 28 more good years left,” says a cheerful Schirmer, who has run a trapline since he was seven. “For me, a big part of trapping is teaching people. I plan on doing that as long as I can.”

Schirmer shows a side of trappers that people don’t normally consider -- as dedicated conservationists who care about wildlife and use the latest technology and methods.

“Society has evolved a lot over the years,” Schirmer says. “And trapping has evolved along with it. In every class I teach, I encourage trappers to improve their skills. Another 140 volunteer trapper education instructors in Illinois do the same thing.”

Schirmer came to trapping naturally. His mother trapped skunks and weasels and sold pelts during the Great Depression to make ends meet. She also hunted, and the family ate the game she packed home. When Schirmer was old enough in 1939, he helped his mother run a trapline. He has been a devoted trapper ever since.

Schirmer says, “Trapping has always been a big part of who I am. Even when I lived in Chicago for much of my adulthood, working days and nights, I still found time to trap.”

Schirmer maintains an active winter trapping schedule in addition to his education and outreach efforts. He and a friend run an ambitious trapline with 90 traps that they check every morning during trapping seasons. They primarily trap raccoons, beavers, muskrats and coyotes.

Very little goes to waste. Schirmer sells pelts and has a license to sell game meat. Muskrat meat goes to a wildlife rehabilitation center to feed raptors. He sells beaver meat to dog breeders who feed the raw, ground game to their charges (“It’s a great remedy for allergies and low weight in dogs,” Schirmer adds.).

In addition, Schirmer is well known among surrounding communities whose members consider raccoon meat a delicacy. “Folks come from Joliet, Chicago, Rockford and as far away as Milwaukee to buy my raccoons for the dinner table,” Schirmer says. “Some folks will buy all the raccoons that I have.”

Bob Bluett, wildlife diversity biologist at Illinois Department of Natural Resources, has worked with Schirmer in conducting trapper safety and education courses; he has seen his talents first hand.

“Irv has enormous energy and enthusiasm, and people respond warmly to that,” says Bluett, who nominated Schirmer for the award. “Even folks who disagree with Irv respect him, because he always acts in goodwill. He knows that training trappers and working with the public is a long-term investment in trapping’s future. Illinois DNR is pleased that Fur Takers of America recognized Irv with the American Heritage Award.”

You can learn more about Fur Takers of America at

Visit the Fur Hunting and Trapping in Illinois website

For more information about trapping, visit the Illinois DNR’s new website, “Fur Hunting and Trapping in Illinois,” at, or contact the Illinois DNR at 217-782-6384.