AFP, published on Thursday 22 December 2022 at 10:05
It is a deceptively tracked path. But Jacky Larroque is not likely to be stuck there: he knows these wild lands of Couserans in Ariège, which he has criss-crossed for more than thirty years to catch rats, moles and other weasels that cause damage.
Sneaking through the forest, an agile and silent shadow, he knows how to spot a fox burrow here, a marten’s fresh excrement there, and beyond that the distinct print of a badger’s paw. “It’s a passage, he whispers. The animals regularly go the same way. You just have to know how to look.”
Not particularly talkative and with a keen eye, this 71-year-old licensed trapper, retired from a mechanical position at a paper mill, intervenes on demand when a nutria threatens to collapse a bridge by damaging the banks of a river, or that a weasel devours the house’s insulating glass wool.
“I never trap for fun. A person or a community contacts me and I go there,” Jacky Larroque explains to AFP.
He knows every animal in Couseran’s forests and rivers and is at one with the landscape where he grew up, happy to contribute to the balance of nature by some form of regulation of invasive species or classified as harmful.
Because no one can fall free. Prefectural approval is mandatory after training in ancestral know-how provided by a recognized organization: sixteen hours divided between theory (knowledge of species, compliance with legislation) and practice (handling and setting traps, safety measures).
“About forty authorizations are issued every year” in the department, specifies Michel Dedieu, president of the Association Joseph Artigues of authorized trappers in Ariège (AJAPAA 09), who are volunteers and of which Jacky Larroque is a member.
That day he goes to check traps set the night before in a field mined by moles and voles. Using a large spoon, he clears the soil from one of the galleries of the mole hill, extracting a trap and the animal that was caught in it.
At the wheel of his old 4L bumping, lightly, on the muddy roads, Jacky Larroque pushes on. In a few minutes, he prepares a trap: with his knife, he cuts two twigs, then places them at the entrance of a cave, avoiding handling them as much as possible.
“If the animal smells my scent, it will not be fooled.”