My First Season: Beaver Trapping

Pro-staff Contributor: Michaela Anderson

I began trapping my senior year of high school with one of my favorite hunting partners. We were in the same outdoor connections class and our teacher used to trap in Alaska so we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to learn something new.  We only trapped a few weeks that first winter but were able to get two grey fox and learned a ton before our mentor moved back to Alaska. I go to college in St. Paul and there are not many places to trap near by so I took a year off. Last year I decided to try trapping something new after talking to my grandpa. He wanted to hire a trapper to trap the beavers that according to him were “devastating“ the forest at our farm. Because I had never trapped beavers before I did some research online to try to learn as many different tactics as possible before I actually tried my hand at trapping a beaver. YouTube helped a lot because there are plenty of videos that go through how and where to place different sets.

53lb Trapped Beaver

53lb Trapped Beaver

At our farm it was pretty obvious where the beavers were feeding so from there I started looking for slides and trails. Slides are where the beaver actually slides down the bank on his stomach back into the water. You can tell if they are fresh or recently used if they are muddy. I had a dozen snares from when we trapped foxes so I decided I would try to us them first. I was able to find five slides near where they were feeding and that is where I decided to place my first sets.

            When making my sets I started by cutting 2 sticks from a surrounding tree to use to keep the snare in place. These sticks can’t be flimsy they need to hold up to being pushed into the ground and the weight of the snare.  You want to place these sticks in the water one on each side of the slide and about an inch or two in front of where the slide meets the water. I took a small diameter wire and ran it through a rubber ring on the snare, which I used to hold the snare in between the two sticks I placed in the water. I had my snares partially in the water so it hid a portion of the snare. The bottom of the snare should be at least 2 to 3 inches off the ground if the beaver is going to be walking through your set. The loop on the snare should have a diameter of about 7 to 10 inches. With a snare you want to catch the animal by the neck so the trap will work effectively if you have your trap to low or with too big of a loop you may catch the animal by the stomach or miss them all together.

            You have to tie your trap to something that can with stand the fight of the animal you are trapping. This was the part I was most concerned about because there were not a ton of big trees in the area I was setting my traps. When I could not tie to a tree I used a big rebar steak and drove it as far as I could into the ground and tied the trap to that. The lead on the snares I was using was about 3 feet after setting the loop of the snare. This was nice because I was able to hide the snare wire better than the cord I used to tie the trap to. I used a thick wire cable that is coated in rubber so it is easy to tie but hard to cut.

Once you have your trap set and anchored you want to block off any other possible paths. We used broken tree limbs and sticks you don’t need to make it impossible to go through. Animals will try to go through the clearest path so adding obstacles on the nearest alterative paths increases your odds of the animal going through your trap. Beavers make caster mounds, which are clumps of mud that the beaver will secrete caster onto to mark their territory. You can order beaver caster online so I used that to make my own caster mounds in hope of causing the local beavers to come and investigate the new smell. I was not sure if this would actually work but I did notice all the mounds I built were destroyed with-in a week. I also added some fresh shaved birch sticks, which from my research I found out is a favorite snack of beavers, in the slide to try to attract a hungry beaver. 

            My grandpa came out with me and helped me set traps the first day. We set 9 total snares because some of the slides split as the entered the water. He definitely had his doubts as we were setting the snares; he kept asking me if I knew what I was doing or just making stuff up on the go. But after an hour our two we had all the sets ready to go. Unfortunately I had to go back home that night to get back for class in the morning so I had my grandpa check the traps for me the next morning. In Minnesota you need to check your traps every 24 hours but you can give someone written permission to check traps on your behalf if you cannot. That first morning I was so excited to hear from my grandpa that I could hardly pay attention in class. I knew from my previous experience with the foxes that the first night normally gives you a good idea if there are animals interested in your bait or using your trails. The first night is also when most misses happen because you are not sure what to expect or exactly how to place the trap. My grandpa finally called and he had good news, we had trapped our first beaver! It wasn’t any average beaver either it was a 53 pound beaver! This thing was massive it measured into the biggest class of beavers which is a double blanket. We also trapped three of the pups before the pond iced over.

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Michaela showing result after skinning beaver

            The hardest part was skinning and fleshing this massive beaver. I was really nervous because I did not want to ruin the hide and I had never skinned a beaver before so I was going off of YouTube videos. After it was all said and done I think I did a good job there were no massive holes just a couple small cuts. The pelt is at the tannery now and I am looking forward to getting it back to see how it turned out.

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Three Pup Pelts

Michaela Anderson is a professional angler fishing the FLW, B.A.S.S. College Circuits and select FLW Walmart Tour events representing krugerfarms.com, Trigger X
and the University of St. Thomas. You can follow her on Twitter
(@MichaelaFishing) and like her on Facebook (facebook.com/MichaelaAndersonFishing).

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