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Beaver Trapping – “Controlling the Eager Beaver”

When you hear the word beaver, you imagine adorable creatures building dams. However, did you know that beavers are considered the largest rodents in North America? To understand is a need for beaver control, one must actually know more about beavers including their behavior and habitat.

Beaver Biology

Beavers thrive in aquatic areas because nature had designed them that way. They have webbed feet that helps in swimming and can produce tracks as long as 6 inches. Their nostrils and ears close when underwater. They have a broad, flat, scaly tail used in paddling. Their large livers are able to store oxygen which allows them to remain underwater for as long as 20 minutes. They can also slow their heart rates when submerged. They have membranes that close the eyes when underwater but generally have poor eyesight. They do have a keen sense of hearing, smell, and touch.

A beaver’s diet involves inner barks of trees. They prefer aspen, cottonwood, willow, birch, maple, alder, dogwood, birch and cherry trees. Since they are semi-aquatic rodents, beavers also feed on sedges, pondweed, and water lilies. Beavers are distinguishable by their teeth which continuously grow in order to sustain their feeding habits. Their incisors are made up of hard orange enamel and maintained like chisels through their self-sharpening wear pattern.

Beavers are industrious creatures. It is a compliment in the workforce if you are likened to a beaver. Dam-building is the famous beaver activity. They are known to remain and maintain watery systems. Beavers build their dams by chewing and making trees fall. The trees used vary depending on the type of beaver. For example, a European beaver would be using smaller trees while others would use large, mature trees. A beaver dam is their protection against their predators such as wolves, bears and coyotes. You will find them building their dams at night as they are nocturnal creatures. Aside from wood, they would also be carrying mud and stones using their fore-paws. Other materials of a beaver dam include tree limbs, cornstalks and even trash. Beaver dams can range from a couple of feet to hundreds of feet in length.

If you’ve seen a beaver dam, then you would have likely seen a beaver lodge. A lodge is a pond formed within a beaver dam. Therefore, lodges use the same material as beaver dams except they appear less structured. Lodges are great hiding places for beavers during winter. The fresh mud used to cover the lodge during autumn will be completely frozen when winter comes. Beavers enter through an underwater entrance.

If your relationship is likened to a beaver, then you must be lucky. Beavers form lifelong monogamous partnership. Their families consist primarily of an adult male and female but can include around ten members. Beavers naturally follow the wedding vow “until death do us part”. They would only partner with another one after their mate dies. The pair also takes care of their young together. The father would be maintaining their territory while the mother is acting as the caretaker. Young beavers, called yearlings, will then help their parents in building the dams. Yearlings tend to stay with their parents for two years.

Beavers are territorial in nature. They will maintain and defend their areas of feeding, nesting and mating. Beavers will mark their territories with a scent mound. Scent mounds are composed of mud and debris. They mark it using castoreum – a substance excreted by sacs found between their pelvis and base of the tail. An unfamiliar scent within their territory would likely cause aggressive behavior. Beavers construct as many scent mounds as possible to protect their area. There are more scent mounds during their mating season to protect the yearlings.

Beaver and Humans

Beavers are usually captured not for pest control but for commercial purposes. Their testicles and castoreum have been used in traditional medicine including contraception. Castoreum has been used as natural flavoring. It has been manipulated to liken the flavors of vanilla and strawberry. Beaver’s fur appeared to be excellent for felting. Beaver fur trade used to be rampant in Canada and Europe. Traders preferred the soft fur found in a beaver’s underbelly. They contained densely matted strands that were perfect for winter coats and European felt hats.

Landowners tend to panic when they spot a family of beaver in their area. The law permits landowners to remove beaver dams if it causes damage or nuisance in your area. Living with beavers is more recommended unless there is an evident danger of flooding and property damage.

Beaver Control

There are three main beaver control strategies to avoid beaver damage in your area. The first one would be installing a beaver pond leveler to manage water levels. Beaver ponds have the tendency to flood certain areas. By building a leveler, you are in control of the flooding caused by the dam. You will need flexible, corrugated plastic pipes which you will insert through the dam. You will then have to guard the pipe with welded-wire mesh cage to avoid the beavers from plugging the pipe. Note that pond levelers require regular maintenance. Floating debris tend to pile up in the pipe and fences through time.

The second method for beaver control would be fencing any trees that are possible materials for a beaver dam. Try staking screens and metal flashings around your plant. You can use electric wires if your area is massive. There are also chemical repellents that can be used in the barks of trees to avoid gnawing. You can check with your animal control the brands that are safe to use. Some repellents tend to give out a strong odor that is not recommended for residential areas. These repellents tend to be washed away through time so make sure you re-apply accordingly.

Beaver trapping remains to be the most effective method of removing beavers in affected areas. Before constructing or purchasing a trap, check your region’s trapping regulations. The beaver population is in decline so they are protected by certain laws. Beaver traps have the tendency to be lethal. Remember to check and monitor the beaver’s behavior before taking action. Also, ask yourself if beaver trapping is really necessary.

Since beavers are territorial, constructing beaver traps should be done annually. There are different types of beaver traps that you can choose from. Here are the most common but not all humane:

a. Body-grip Kill Traps: These traps are obviously designed to kill beavers. This is not recommended as the goal should not be to kill the beavers but to relocate them.

b. Foothold traps: Foothold traps are placed around the runways of beavers and are designed to catch the front or rear foot. Go for traps with padded jaw to avoid severely hurting the captive. There have been reported cases where animals would chew their leg off the foothold traps. Do not leave the animal caught in the trap for a long period of time.

c. Snares: Snares consist of a looped cable with a locking device and swivel to avoid cable twisting and breakage. Snares are simple but very effective. They can be cheaply produced in large numbers. However, snares have been criticized for its evident cruelty.

d. Cage Traps: Cage traps can cost you around $350 as they are designed to humanely catch a beaver for reintroduction to other areas. Compared to other traps, cage traps are considered “live traps”. It aims not to harm any part of the animal. There are countries that only allow cage traps when hunting.

Dam removal is not recommended before beaver removal as they can easily construct a new dam overnight. It is also recommended to have professional help when removing dams as there is a high risk of drowning. Small beaver dams can be removed using rakes or backhoe and other power tools. Dams should be removed gradually to avoid sudden rush of water and erosion

Beavers are rodents that should not immediately be considered as pests. They play a crucial role in nature and should be treated humanely. You should always weight the positive effects of beavers in your land before plotting beaver control. Most of the time, you and the beaver family can live in harmony.