Trapper Suzy, Trapper John, and Libby the Possum pose for a photo.
Not too many animal trappers can boast the resume of St. Rose’s John Schmidt, who not only cleared out thousands of animals to improve the safety of the Louis Armstrong International Airport, but also helped clear out the hog population in St. Charles Parish.
Schmidt, 55, known a “Trapper John” by many, has been trapping animals for the past 37 years and has garnered fame after his appearance on several TV shows.
Schmidt began trapping bugs as a boy and moved up the food chain after his father bought him a bird trap.
“After that I started building and buying my own traps. I would save my birthday money and buy traps. I still have some of those traps,” he said.
By the time he was 18, Schmidt moved on to trapping wild hogs and has been doing so ever since.
Although Schmidt started off slowly at first, he quickly began to innovate using knowledge he picked up from a variety of other jobs.
“I stated off working on the river as a deckhand building and breaking tows, so I learned how to deal with cables and ropes. I went from there to Brown & Root and built half of the Shell Chemical Plant, so I got to where I learned to handle steel. Then, I have been and am still in construction,” he said.
By learning trade work, Schmidt also strengthened his ability to build traps that work for large animals, such as hogs and coyotes.
Shortly after he began trapping, Schmidt moved into Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge where in 25 years he estimates he trapped 2,500 hogs.
“When I was done they flew the area with a helicopter and they could not find any fresh evidence of any pigs,” he said.
Although still in the construction trade, Schmidt has worked as a trapper pretty much fulltime for at least the past decade, which included a five-year contract with Louis Armstrong International Airport.
“This airport was one of the most dangerous airports as far as bird strikes and animal strikes. I took it from one of the worst and made it one of the safest,” he said. “In five years I caught over 200 pigs and over 20,000 birds such as seagulls, pigeons, herons, egrets, hawks and owls. I caught them alive and transplanted them elsewhere.”
Schmidt said over the years he has also cleaned up the wild hog population in St. Charles Parish.
“Everyone got after (the hogs) and the main beat was behind the airport property, but when they hired me I took care of all of them,” he said.
Schmidt has also garnered fame with his appearances on TV shows on MTV, National Geographic and Animal Planet. He also did some behind-the-scenes work with Steve Irwin on “The Crocodile Hunter.”
Schmidt said in those shows he brought a few firsts to TV viewers.
“I am the only guy ever shown on TV carrying a wild coyote by the tail,” he said. “I am also the only guy ever shown with a 200-pound wild boar to flip him over by myself and catch him with my hands.”
In addition to his television work, Schmidt has also contracted with movie productions to trap in areas where filming is taking place. In fact, he recently just finished up trapping for a major motion picture, which he is not allowed to name, that is expected to be a blockbuster next summer.
For all of his meticulous planning, Schmidt has only suffered a few minor injuries, including a smashed thumb and being gored in the arm to the bone by a tusk. Overall, he says he has come out on top.
“Compared to what they can do I am way ahead. If one of them runs into you, just a hair can knock off your skin. If one of them hits you with their head, it can break every bone in your body. Then if he gets you with his teeth, I’ve seen pictures of people who have gotten hurt and you can stick your hand in the holes because they are so big,” he said.
Kyle Barnett, July 4th, 2014 St. Charles Herald Guide. Click here for the original story.