PHS students build bear trap for DNR
Project to help agency deal with nuisance bears
By Kevin Boneske
PULASKI – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources now has another trap to deal with nuisance bears after a couple of students at Pulaski High School built one for the agency.
The DNR picked up the trap Thursday, May 31, from the high school, where members of the media were on hand for the sendoff.
A PHS graduate who is now a DNR wildlife technician, James Robaidek, contacted the school about the idea of building a bear trap.
“We bounced it off the school and they readily said ‘Yeah, we think that there’s an educational component in this,’” Robaidek said. “When I really heard of how they did it – with the CAD drawing and the research, the welding and every different aspect of these type of classes – I was pretty darn impressed with, one, they could save us a lot a money and the product is phenomenal.”
Robaidek said it can cost up to $6,000 for a bear trap, for which the DNR provided no input as to how the one at Pulaski should be built.
“I gave them a few parameters – it has to fit on the trailer, the gate needs to be quick – but they did all the research, and this is a phenomenal design…,” he said. “You learn from what other people are doing. Luckily we don’t trademark bear traps in this country, as far as I now, so they just took the best of what they saw and improved upon it.”
The culvert-style trap is comprised of metal tubing and mounted on a trailer. The trap is set up so that bait can be placed inside to lure in a bear, which would be trapped by stepping on a pressure plate that activates a door and shuts behind the animal.
High school agriculture teacher Kaleb Santy and tech ed teacher Jerad Marsh agreed to help the DNR with the construction of a trap, which was put together from scratch by junior Chasten Fatla and sophomore Brock Bogacz.
“There were no blueprints that we could find, so (Fatla and Bogacz) had to kind of engineer it through,” Marsh said. “Past that, it was a majority of metal working with welding…”
Marsh said Fatla and Bogacz constructed the trap as part of an advanced agricultural diesel engine class, which also includes some engineering aspects in the course, and used “trial and error” to test the trap.
“They would take the big boys that we have, and have them crawl in there, and make sure that everything worked,” Marsh said with a chuckle.
Fatla said he and Bogacz looked up some ideas on the Internet for how to build a bear trap, which is painted camouflage and has Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources lettering cut out on the door.
“For the door to shut, (we designed to the trap to) bring the door above the culvert and have it slam down, and (we used) a pulley system,” Fatla said. “That’s kind of what we got off the Internet. And the rest was common sense – what you’ve got to do to keep the culvert from moving around and stuff like that.”
Bogacz said the project started with using a plain culvert and ordering a lot of square tubing.
“We cut a frame around it and kind of just built around the frame…,” said Bogacz, who noted the trap took about six months to complete. “It should work good. I think it will be nice for (the DNR) to have – have something to transport bears and gets bears out of neighborhoods they shouldn’t be in.”
Robaidek said the trap built at Pulaski will be able to hold the largest bears that exist in the state and be used in northeast Wisconsin to respond in a timely fashion to incidents of nuisance bears.
“This (trap) is going to be centered in Brown County and be deployed all around northeast Wisconsin,” he said.
Once bears are trapped alive, Robaidek said the DNR will take them to remote public lands about 80-100 miles away for their release.
“Bears start from there, and they move around again and find their place in the world, and we’re giving them that second chance to get it right,” he said.
The DNR reports it and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services in the state will receive more than 1,100 complaints annually about black bears, which result in the trapping and relocating of more than 500 of the animals each year.