Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Fall Paddle

     This past November I decided to spend a bit of time pursuing one of Maine's abundant resources, and that is the beaver.  Maine is blessed to have a lot of water, and in those many bodies of water reside a large population of one of North America's most prolific fur bearers, the beaver.  Beaver inhabit streams, rivers, brooks, ponds, lakes, virtually everywhere there is water and feed.  Often times this puts the beaver at odds with man.  Many times they build their dams and lodges in locations that cause roads to wash out and require time, money and labor to repair the damage.  Since the roads the beaver often damage are maintained by the same people that give me permission to hunt bears on their property, I look upon my trapping of the beaver as a service for them.  A sort of good neighborly deed.
Soldier Pond
     Beaver trapping is a solitary pursuit of mine.  A time when I can load my canoe and paddle for a bit, clearing my head.  A friend of mine who has a small cabin on a remote pond in Maine, asked me to see if I could trap a few beaver from that waterway.  I agreed to load my canoe and go for a paddle and set up any beaver colonies I found, and hope to reduce the population to a manageable level.  I loaded up my gear and headed off to his cabin where I off loaded my canoe and trapping gear and headed off to see if I could find any beaver to trap. 

     I hadn't been on the water too long, when I began to notice the tell tale sign of beaver activity.  in this case the sign was small peeled twigs on the edge of the pond in numerous locations.  A short paddle later I was greeted by a typical beaver lodge with a large feed pile of twigs in front of it.
Beaver Lodge
The group of beavers had built a large lodge on the edge of the stream connecting two small ponds.  In front of the lodge was a cache of twigs and small saplings.  This cache is the beavers stored food for when the stream is covered by ice and snow.  Beaver, during the winter, swim under the ice.  They are prevented by the ice from being able to gather any food on land, so they must plan accordingly.  Usually the month of October and early November is spent by the beaver in building or enlarging their lodge, and cutting enough food to store for the long months of winter.  This lodge probably housed between 6 and 12 beaver.  I pulled a shore and located a few spots that I could set traps to catch some of the beaver.  I placed four traps in the immediate area.  I then continued to paddle further up the stream.
     I paddled my canoe along the main channel until it became impassable.  I was seeing beaver sign so I knew there was another colony close by.  I could hear flowing water, so I paddled off in that direction on a small side channel.  I soon found a small beaver dam with another beaver house and feed pile behind it. In this particular location the best opportunities for me to set any sets was in the vicinity of the dam.
     I tend to be a minimalist when I make my beaver sets.  Some other trappers build elaborate sets, I try to pick a good location and use just enough material to make an effective set.  I am not saying this is the only way to trap beaver, but it is my method.
     After setting up this second colony of beaver I made the return trip to my truck for the trip home.  I returned to check my sets on two future paddles.  I was able to catch eight beaver and an otter from the two locations.  I am certain I can return next year and do the same.  Beaver are a sort of passion of mine.  I enjoy the solitary pursuit of this abundant fur bearer.I hope to be able to continue this for many more fall paddles.          

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