By Josh Boyd
If you’ve spent any length of time along the nation’s waterways, you’ve likely become very familiar with the work of the beaver. Stub-like remnants remain where trees of notable size once stood, and makeshift marshes take the place of once free-flowing creeks.
Beavers are quite destructive by nature and can take a toll on the ecosystems they inhabit. When waterways are diverted, the very makeup of the surrounding landscape is changed by a beaver colony’s handiwork.
Crop loss due to flooding, accelerated river and creek bank erosion due to tree loss are only a few of the ways exploding beaver populations can impart hardship on those who make their living off the land.
And it’s just some of the reasons why beavers have quickly become one of the most highly-targeted species on many trappers’ lines. Not only does a reduction in beaver numbers ease the strain on the habitat from which they thrive, but few species are as enjoyable to catch overall.
Beaver tend to be a lot wiser than many outdoorsmen and women give them credit for. They do not make things easy for a trapper on the line, and every catch is earned.
However, even at their wariest, beavers can be caught in good numbers if proper foresight is given to set and trap selection.
The following are a few trap sets that will help maximize the return on your efforts when in pursuit of beaver.
Castor Mound Set
Beaver naturally deposit castor scent onto fresh mounds of dirt and mud as a way to mark their territory and leave their calling card, so to speak.
These mounds can be found with regularity along the banks of rivers and creeks wherever beaver reside. Whenever a beaver traverses a waterway, they seldom miss an opportunity to check the status of these mounds.
An opportunistic trapper can take advantage of these locations and the behavior that is associated with their presence by constructing a castor mound set.
The caster mound set is intended to catch beavers as they exit the water to check these mounds. The presence of such entry and exit routes in a visible form is often referred to as a “slide.” The distance at which you set your trap from a scent mound is highly dependent upon the bank’s contour.
Beaver are relatively large animals that are known for being quite powerful for their size. This makes proper trap selection a must.
It is highly recommended to only use footholds with an inside jaw spread of approximately 7 ½” or greater. This is because beavers have exceptionally large rear feet, and trapping on the premise of only experiencing front foot catches is inconsistent at best.
Whichever trap you choose, it is imperative to anchor it to deeper water to produce easier to handle and increasingly manageable sets. If sets are not constructed in this manner, a beaver can often pull itself from the jaws of a trap with the power of its more than capable tail.
These traps are then situated within the water, at a depth that places a beaver’s foot directly in line with the trap pan.
As a beaver traverses a waterway on a repeated basis, a natural channel develops as a result of their consistent travel. These channels serve as something comparable to a highway for beavers. All the beaver within a given area are aware of these travel paths and utilize them frequently.
Because these runways serve as predictable beaver travel corridors, a trapper can fix their attention on these high traffic areas.
You must first locate these channels of travel. Try looking at areas that serve as pinch points between two ponds, or narrow fingers of water that connect a creek to a pond or marsh. These channels will be evident due to their worn appearance and relative lack of any debris.
Once a runway is located, a large conibear trap, most commonly of the #330 variety, is placed in the path of this corridor and solidly staked in place. The trap should be placed in a way as to prevent a beaver from having adequate clearance to navigate below or to the side of its placement.
One of the most important elements of a runway set is the placement of a dive stick. A dive stick is utilized to prevent a beaver from swimming through the margin between the water’s surface and the top of the trap’s opening, instead ducking directly into its path. A dive stick does not have to be elaborate in nature. A simple stick or other debris placed above your trap at the water’s surface will be sufficient.
Snaring is another worthwhile method of trapping beaver. The unique thing about the use of snares is that they can be substituted in place of various other forms of traps, in a number of different sets.
Snares also come with the advantage of being much lighter to pack than conventional foothold or conibear traps. This is of substantial value to any trapper who parks at the beginning of their line and walks great distances to cover its length.
A snare can be utilized in many ways, one of which is in conjunction with the abovementioned castor mound set. Alternatively to the typically-used foothold trap, a snare can be placed right at the slide or water entry and exit routes.
As a beaver makes landfall and emerges from a creek or river, it enters the snare and becomes subdued. A snare can also be used in virtually any other form of beaver travel corridor similarly.
Snares should be set in a way as to present a loop of approximately 10”, providing ample clearance for a behind-the-shoulder catch. When trapping in water, snares are best set at a level that submerges the lowest 2” of cable loop. When covering dry land, a snare loop should remain 2”-3” above the soil below. Snares can be anchored to lengthy rebar stakes that are driven to an acceptable depth to overcome loosely packed soil or mud conditions.
Trap Sets That Know No Compromise
By utilizing the aforementioned trap sets, you will be well on your way to a banner year of trapping along your area’s waterways.
Not only is beaver trapping immensely enjoyable, but it’s also an excellent way of testing your prowess against one of America’s most iconic furbearers.