Beaver are a large water dwelling rodent with large webbed shaped rear feet and a larger paddle shaped tail. Beaver are the largest of the water dwellers and can measure more than forty inches long and weigh in excess of sixty pounds.       The fur of the beaver ranges from light to dark chocolate in color with guard hairs making it one of the most sought after furs.

Beaver mate for life and usually breed between January and March with the young being born after a 128 day gestation period. Litters range in numbers from one to eight but two to four are more common. The young remain with their parents for about two years and mature at two years of age. Beaver only have one litter per year.

Beaver live in large holes in the banks of ponds, lakes and rivers. More common are the large dome shaped huts made of sticks and mud. They enter these homes from under water level keeping them safe from ground dwelling predators and the weather.

Beaver are truly Mother Nature’s engineers. It is an amazing feat for an animal to build its own shelters from sticks left over from feeding and mud. More amazing is how they build dams out of these materials to back up streams to create their water compounds. Being a nuisance trapper I get many calls every year from folks who have been invaded by these rodents. They can drop many trees in one evening and flood hundreds of acres of property in the same amount of time. Early in my trapping career I thought knocking down a dam would take care of the problem but to my surprise I would knock it down at dark and return in the morning to find it completely rebuilt. And if you think you can keep knocking it down they will leave you are sadly mistaken as they will win every time.

Beaver feed on both tree bark and water dwelling plants. They will chew down a tree, strip it of its branches and then haul them to the bottom of the pond. Once on the bottom they roll rocks and mud on them to keep them submerged so they can easily be accessed after the water ices over. Does it sound like what we as humans do to pack away the chow from the garden in the root cellar to have easy access to it when the snow piles up outside ?.Beaver are creatures of habit following the same routes every day. As long as food and shelter are plentiful they will stay in the area and once the supply dries up they pack up their bags and head for greener pastures. Beavers deposit secretions to mark their territory from their castor gland to stake out their territories and to communicate to family members and outsiders. Fresh cut sticks or trees and mounds of mud along with dams and lodges are all signs of beaver activity.

Beavers are carriers of tularemia and Guardia so caution should be taken when handling them. Tularemia is a nasty virus so gloves should be used when handling them. Guardia is a parasite found in the water where beaver live. A sip of pond water will get you a lot of saddle time on the porcelain horse. A little precaution here will prevent you from spending your fur check money on doctor visits.

As with all trapping you will need to scout for places to trap beaver. Any farmer or landowner who has beaver problems will welcome you with open arms. Remember permission is mandatory, not an option. Once permission is gained, scout the area thoroughly to find where the beaver are feeding, traveling and living. Make a map of these locations or mark with surveyors tape so you know where to begin. This is important as trapping for beaver in Vermont usually starts after the weather has gotten cold so chances are your sites will be snow and ice bound.

Next time I will walk you through all the sets for beaver trapping, how to handle the fur and even how prepare the meat for dinner.

Until then keep your waders patched, your lures in the shed and take a kid outside with you.