Oral History Interviews:
Sam Snyder grew up on a small farm in western Washington. Coyote predation on the family's livestock was a common occurrence. Sam's father called on the services of a local trapper to remove some of the coyotes. Young Sam tagged along with the trapper. He was fascinated by what he learned about animal behavior, trapping activities and the potential to make a few dollars. At this early stage, Sam had already stepped into the realm which would dictate much of his life.
As a young man, Sam traveled to Montana where he hunted cougars and bobcats with hounds. Snyder soon returned to Washington, where he became a predator control agent for local lumber companies, as well as both the state and federal governments. Sam tells of trapping black bears with his good friend Mike Thornley and several close calls that the pair had with unhappy bruins. He also relates stories of the wonderful times he shared with his children in the great outdoors.
In 1960, Sam was offered a job as a lodge manager in Alaska. This was like a dream come true and he jumped at the opportunity. The Snyder family moved to the small village of McCarthy. The surrounding area offered wolves and Dall sheep, two species which became Sam's long-term favorites. In addition to his 'official' duties, Sam floated the mighty Copper River and branched out into big-game guiding. He relates stories of moose hunting with neighbors and wolf trapping with his kids.
After a few years, the Snyder family moved to Glennallen (and eventually to Fairbanks), where Sam worked for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Over the next twenty years, Snyder served ADF&G in a variety of roles on a variety of projects. He spent long stretches working on:
- Waterfowl in Minto Flats,
- caribou on the North Slope,
- Dall sheep in the Alaska Range, and
- wolves and caribou on the Seward Peninsula.
His fondest memories were always connected to time spent out in the field, working directly with the animals that he loved. During this period of his life, Sam had a few anxious moments with angry grizzly bears and balky airplanes.
Sam was a keen observer, which was certainly of great benefit to his co-workers. He was also a common-sense problem solver. He was a meticulous worker, whether the task at hand involved setting traps, sectioning teeth for aging or preparing a hide for the tannery. Throughout this recording, Sam repeatedly refers to the pride he had in his family, and to the satisfaction of making a living doing things that he loved to do.