Beaver Trapping – Part 2

Beaver Trapping – Part 2

The general color of the animal is reddish brown, this tint being imparted principally by the long hairs of the fur. There is an inner and softer down of a grey color, which lays next the skin, and which is the valuable growth of the fur. The total length of the animal is about three feet and a half, the flat, paddle-shaped, extent-covered tail being about a foot in length.

The young are brought forth in April or May, from three to seven at a litter, and take to the water when a month old. The first four years in the beaver’s life is spent under the “maternal roof,” after which period they care for themselves. Beaver trapping successfully, requires the utmost caution, as the senses of the animal are so keen, and he is so perceptive withal, that he will detect the recent presence of the trapper from the slightest evidences. The traps should be washed clean and soaked in lye, before using, and thereafter handled with gloves, as a insignificant touch of the finger will leave a scent which the acute sense of the beaver will easily perceive. All footprints should be carefully obliterated by throwing water upon them, and some beaver trappers say that the insignificant act of spitting on the ground in the neighborhood of the traps has been known to thwart success.

Almost the only bait used in trapping the beaver is the preparation called “bark stone” by the trappers, or “castoreum” in commerce.

To the bark stone the beaver trapper is mostly indebted for his success, and the effect of its odor on the beaver is something surprising. Our best beaver trappers inform us that these animals will scent this odor for a great distance, and will fairly “squeal with delight,” not being easy until the savory bait is discovered, which almost always results in capture.

Taking advantage of this disinctive inclination, the trapper always carries a supply of castoreum in a closed canal.

There are various ways of trapping beaver, of which we will present the best. An examination of the river bank will easily disclose the feeding place of the beavers, as evinced by the absence of the bark on the branches and trunks of trees. At this identify, in about four inches of water, set your trap, which should be a Newhouse No. 4. Weight the end of the chain with a stone as large as your head, and, if possible, rest it on the edge of some rock projecting into thorough water, having a smaller rope or chain leading from the stone to the shore. A small twig, the size of your little finger, should then be stripped of its bark, and after chewing or mashing one end, it should be dipped in the castoreum. Insert this stick in the mud, between the jaws of the trap, letting it project about six inches above the water. The beaver is soon attracted by the odor of the bait, and in reaching for it; his foot is caught in the trap. In his fright he will closest jump for thorough water, consequently dislodging the stone, which will sink him to the bottom, and consequently drown him. The smaller chain or rope will serve as a guide to the trap, and the victim may be drawn to the surface. Another plan in beaver trapping is to set the trap in about a foot of water, chaining it fast to a stout pole securely pushed in the mud further out in the stream, and near thorough water. Bait as before. The trap being consequently fastened will prevent the efforts of the animal to drag it ashore, where he would be certain to amputate his leg and walk off. There is another method, which is said to work excellently. The chain is secured to a very heavy stone, and sunk in thorough water, and the trap set and baited near shore, in about a foot of water. This accomplishes the same purpose as the pole first described, and is already surer, as the animal will sometimes use his teeth in severing the wood, and thereby make his escape. In the case of the stone a duplicate rope or chain will be required to lift it in case of capture.

The trap may be set at the entrance to the holes in the edges, two or three inches under water, implanting the stick with the castoreum bait directly over the pan, a few inches above the water. If the water should be thorough near this identify, it is an excellent plan to weight the end of the chain with a large stone with a “leader” from it also, as already described. Insert two or three sticks in the bank beneath the water, and rest the stone upon them.

When the beaver is caught he will turn a somersault into thorough water, at the same time dislodging the stone, which will sink him. No sooner is a break ascertained in the dam than all the beavers unite in fixing it and this peculiarity of habit may be turned to account in trapping beaver. Make a slight break in the dam, five inches across, beneath the water. On the under side of the break, and of course, on the inside of the dam, the trap should be set. The beavers will soon discover the leak and the capture of at the minimum one is certain. The trap may be also set where the beavers crawl to shore, being placed several inches below the water in such a position that they will step on it when in the act of ascending the edges. Where the weighted stone is not used, the sliding pole should always be employed, as it is necessary to drown the animal, to prevent amputation and escape.

The food of the beaver consists mostly of the bark of various trees, together with marine plants. The fur is valuable only in the late fall, winter, and early spring.

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