Chief Murphy traps varmint as side job
When Gahanna Police Chief Dennis Murphy isn't on the job protecting and serving the community where he grew up, he might be found working as a professional trapper.
"It's a passion," he said. "I've trapped in every state I've lived, including Alaska, the Carolinas and Georgia."
The 1976 Gahanna Lincoln and Eastland Vocational graduate started trapping in the Big Walnut Creek when he was 10, working with his older brother, Kevin.
"What lighted my fire was when Jeremiah Johnson came out in the 1970s," he said.
The 1972 western film was directed by Sydney Pollack and starred Robert Redford as Johnson, a jaded veteran of the Mexican War who sought refuge in the West. He planned to take up the life of a mountain man, supporting himself in the Rocky Mountains as a trapper.
Murphy, 53, said the 1970s brought a fur boom that lasted into the 1980s.
"Now it's coming back," he said. "China, Greece, Turkey and Russia are fur users."
During normal fur season, Murphy will catch and skin the furbearers and ship the pelts to Canada for the North American Fur Auction. Its auctions are held three to four times every year in Toronto.
"There are buyers from around the world," he said. Any profits are dependent on the market.
"Muskrat was $1.25 apiece, and then this year it was up to $10," Murphy said. "There's a glut in the market for raccoons. They average $10.65."
In its heyday, raccoon skins would bring $35 each, he said.
"It was lucrative to trap and hunt," Murphy said.
He started a business called Wildlife Balance Solutions in 2006 to help people solve wildlife problems. He specializes in coyotes, deer, beavers, raccoons, muskrats and skunks.
"There was a need for it," Murphy said. "I work closely with senior citizens and those on fixed incomes. I don't need to feed my family doing this, but I just need to cover costs."
As much as people like wild animals, he said, the critters can be destructive.
"Beavers take trees out of people's front yards," he said. "Then they lose their cute cuddliness. Wildlife can cause a lot of damage. They have to be kept in check."
Most importantly, Murphy said, fur is a sustainable, renewable resource.
"If we don't actively manage the population, you'll have disease come in," he said. "We don't have raccoon distemper in central Ohio, but they have it in Ashtabula."
He said coyotes are at the top of the food chain and the most challenging.
"They prey on livestock such as calves," he said. "My passion ignites. I like helping people, and I have a good track record."
He has attended classes through the Ohio State Trappers Association (OSTA) and the National Trappers Association, he said. He also watches video, reads and rereads books for best-practice strategies and even makes his own traps.
Murphy credits the late Louis "Old Blue Eyes" Souder for teaching him a great deal about the sport. The mentor even has a coonhound etched on his gravestone in Blacklick.
"The skills I learned as a boy helped me in as a weapons man on special forces to operate in the dark in different situations," Murphy said.
He retired early from the Army after 18 years to take his police job.
Murphy nuisance traps on the east side of Columbus and in some of Licking County.
When he retires from police work, he anticipates his business build.
"Everything I've done so far has been through word of mouth," he said. "People call, and I fix problems."
He said it's critical to get young people involved in trapping.
"It's a lost art," he said. "The Ohio State Trappers Association is a good resource. They're always looking for young people.
"It's about getting in tune with nature -- to see and feel it," Murphy said.
The OSTA's website is at ohiostatetrapper.org.