November 11, 2013 8:57:12 AM
(The USDA estimates beaver damage to public and private lands in the Southeast to equal $100 million annually. )
Critters were building huts in the dam. Be it nutria or beaver, I thought I could trap it in my live trap.
A trail coming from the woods through the sage brush led to the lake. I put the live trap at the trail entrance to the lake. There's nothing to bait a beaver trap with so I just made it available. Either the critter would see the trap and avert into the high grass or the grass would serve as a guide and lead him right into the trap.
Setting the trap, I started to close one end and then realized I couldn't know if he was coming or going, so I opened both ends. From the field I gleaned hay and camouflaged the trap.
At the dam, there were sticks and limbs that had been stripped of bark to make the hut. It was most likely a beaver doing the damage. Trees are a good 20 yards from the dam. I'm often tempted to put the game camera out there to watch the beaver haul tree limbs six feet long across the field, up the side of the dam and down to the water, industrious little fellows they are. Perhaps there was a small nocturnal crew singing, "Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go ... " with the dam a regular construction site.
For days I watched the trap from the other side of the lake. Then one morning something happened out there.
I found the trap turned on its side. The camouflaging grass was strewn about. Both ends of the trap were sprung; one flap on the end was flipped outward at an odd angle. Something big and strong had tangled with the trap.
I'm thinking maybe a large beaver got stuck. Maybe he thrashed about with the trap on his head, finally heaving the trap over and turning it on its side. What a sight -- a beaver with a trap on its head.
To some degree my plan had worked. The critter had entered the trap, but the trap was too small. I put the trap back together and covered it with the hay. Maybe next time I'd get lucky.
Days passed and the trap sat undisturbed. On the weekend Sam and I examined the beaver dam for any activity. There was a new limb, about six feet long. We drove to the trap I had set.
As we got closer we could see the trap was still covered with the hay; still closer we could see the trap gates were closed. Something was in there.
The fellow was brown and furry and had a paddle tail. The beaver was just big enough to fill the whole trap. I had him. I did it. I had trapped the beaver, but most probably he hadn't been working alone ... "Hi ho, hi ho."
Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.