Photo and Text
By RANDALL P. DAVIS
I learned early on there are no two ways about it – beaver trapping is plain hard work.
The traps, chains and stakes are big and heavy, many weighing 10 pounds apiece (I usually pack along three too many). The water is often cold and deep, requiring wearing thick rubber chest waders that aquanauts would refuse.
And the quarry? Beaver, being North America’s largest rodent, can burden the scales 60-pounds and beyond. Add four huge incisors that can amputate a finger as easily as an oak limb and you have a beast worthy of extra consideration.
The client’s exasperated call was prompted by such a creature. A beaver had established residence in his three-tiered koi pond.
Already the rodent had whittled down several decorative trees and stored them in an underwater feed bed for its winter victuals, grateful for the homeowner’s generosity.
Connecting the three tiers were two waterfalls with gradients daunting to most salmon. Yet the koi seem to navigate the Class VI rapids comfortably. The beaver enjoyed them as well.
It’s this rushing water that stimulates the beaver’s dam-building instinct. The current felt in the animal’s whiskers triggers the desire to impede flowage.
Here was no exception. Along with the usual sticks and mud, a few sunflower stalks, and the mingling of an occasional yard ornament, the cascade’s velocity slowed. It’s amazing just how much water can be dammed by well-placed herbaceous debris and plastic pink flamingos.
I crawled into my over-sized chest waders, dove my arms into shoulder-length rubber gauntlets (by now I look like either a creature from a cheap 1950s sci-fi movie or an abused inner tube) and swung into my 50-pound pack basket. I was now ready to search for the den … with an audience.
You see, my client would later become our family doctor. And if he had known it then, he likely would have immediately severed the business deal. But on the other hand, he probably observed quickly the golden opportunity to reap huge rewards from an obvious revolving-door patient.
We began the search, the doc up on the bank, me wading in navel-deep, March-chilled water.
We had made it about halfway around the lower pond when I stepped on the beaver’s runway. I shucked my pack upon the bank and hauled out a pre-set 330 bodygrip trap.
These lethal traps work much like a giant mouse trap. When triggered, the heavy bars strike behind the head, breaking the neck. Death is generally instantaneous. But once in a while, a beaver won’t read the rulebook.
‘ARE YOU OK?’
Just as I was leaning forward to position the trap in front of the den entrance, the doc comes over to have a look. The invasion of privacy apparently had an unnerving effect on the denned rodent, as a huge bulge of water emanated from below.
In a nano-second, the beaver bolted from the den, foot-sprang off the bottom, and launched itself into the trap … that I was still holding.
The kinetic energy delivered by this 55-pound furry torpedo passing between my legs was enough to reaffirm the fact I never want to be a bull rider. I clutched the trap springs with the same tenderness as a linebacker grounding an opponent for a safety.
The beast jackhammered upward, then dove again. It seemed like five-gallon buckets of water were being hurled in my face by those massive feet.
Then somewhere in the distance, I could hear the doc calling, “Are you OK?” I wished he had stayed in the house.
It was about this time I lost my grip on one of the springs, allowing the beaver to flip on its back. I was now within easy reach of that broad tail and a mighty one-two punch.
The first blow came square on to the face, like getting smashed in the schnoz by a leather covered frying pan.
“Are you OK?” queried the doc at a higher octave.
I made a sweeping grasp, found the loose spring, and pushed the writhing thing off to the side. It only allowed for another opportunity to bludgeon.
The beaver instantly delivered a second scaly haymaker. This, stronger than the first, clocked me with the knee-buckling efficiency of a right cross from a canoe paddle.
Again I heard, “Man! You OK?”
But just as abruptly, the thrashing stopped. The beaver was dead. I can only guess the initial strike of the trap had partially fractured the neck and that the one-minute WWE donnybrook was enough to finish the job.
Still dazed, glasses bent, a small trickle of blood running from my nose, I flipped the giant mouse to the doc’s feet and hauled my soaked self onto the bank.
“Wow, what a brawl!” the doc said. “You’re like some mountain man. And look at the size of that monster. Are you sure you’re OK?”
“I’m fine doc,” I puffed. “I’ll just take two aspirin and call you in the morning.” And a friendship was born.