Outdoors: Man, What an Expensive Beaver

Steve Gilliland
Special to the Globe

I recently got a call from a landowner west of McPherson asking me to trap some beavers in his pond. It’s been a while since I trapped beavers, but sensing a good story somewhere in the adventure, I loaded up traps and tools and away we went.

The pond is an odd shaped structure fed by a creek. It lays in two separate pieces joined by a narrow twenty-yard-wide channel that runs under a tall sturdy bridge that is his driveway.

The water near and under the bridge is only a couple feet deep and is easily waded across by someone stable on their feet. I chose a spot on each side of the pond, almost under the bridge to set two traps. Each trap was set in front of a small opening created by a rock or tree stump along the bank.

Beaver lure was placed on a stick pushed into the bank and a body-grip trap set in front of the opening, forcing a beaver through the trap to get to the lure. I waded back-and-forth across the channel twice to get the traps set. My balance is horrible, and with each tottering step I had to break a thin layer of ice and avoid stepping on rocks on the bottom, while carrying traps and tools to boot.

I somehow managed to avoid tipping over and getting soaked, and vowed to find a better way to get to the traps on the next visit.

One of the perks of this job was that the landowner would check the traps each morning and call me if I had a catch.

The following morning, I got a call that a trap already held a beaver. One trap was easily accessible from a trail along the bank, but of course the beaver was in the other trap that had to be waded to.

That trap was off a point in the pond, and above that point on the steep pond-bank were twenty feet or so of overgrown cedar trees, brambles and rocks, which still seemed to be a better alternative that wading across the channel; at least if I fell down there, I wouldn’t be encased in chest waders full of freezing pond water.

I donned my chest waders and shoulder-length rubber gloves and entered the cedar tree jungle.

I pushed aside and snapped-off overlapping branches as I went, and once clear of the cedars, I bent over bramble vines and scrambled over rocks to reach the trap. The beaver had broken the trap trigger so that I had to replace it, so carrying a 45-pound soaking-wet beaver and the broken trap, I drug myself back through the rocky, viny cedar tree mess to the truck.

With a new trap, I headed back down, this time putting my sweatshirt hood over my head to keep

broken twigs from going down my neck. Project completed, I removed the waders and gloves and drove home.

Fast forward to later that evening. I had recently gotten different hearing aids, now wearing the type with the body that nests between my glass’s earpiece and my ear. I reached behind my right ear to find that hearing aid completely missing. I searched high-and-low at home to no avail, concluding it had probably been knocked out somewhere amidst the cedar tree jungle.

The next day a friend and I searched with his metal detector, hoping to pick-up the metal battery inside, but again with no luck. A needle in a haystack had literally become a hearing aid in a cedar tree jungle.

My old hearing aids were completely within my ear and would never have fallen out. I hear much better with the style I have now, so I guess the lesson learned is to wear a tight stocking hat of some sort when rooting around in the woods. Man, what an expensive beaver that was!

Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors (and keep track of your hearing aids while you do so.)

Steve can be contacted by email at stevenrgilliland@gmail.com