Thursday, June 19, 1997Trapping beaver, then transporting is not the answer
Last modified at 12:24 p.m. on Thursday, June 19, 1997
You ought to see the weird mail I got in response to the two recent columns I did on the nuisance beaver situation in Arkansas.
One lady -- and I'm being generous, considering what she wrote -- said I was a Neanderthal and a murderer for advocating killing poor, innocent beavers "just because they made their homes in a place inconvenient to humans."
This lady was evidently very upset with me. Much of her letter was either underlined, or capital letters or both, and every sentence ended with multiple exclamation points. I assumed from this she wanted to make sure I was aware she REALLY MEANT WHAT SHE WAS SAYING!!!!!!
She told me I was short-sighted and selfish. She said there were plenty of ways to deal with a conflict between humans and beavers that didn't involve killing the beavers. But, alas, she didn't bother to mention any.
I got another letter from another lady who didn't call me any rude names, and there wasn't a single exclamation point or all-caps word in her letter. But she also took me to task for suggesting trapping was the only way to deal with nuisance beavers. Unlike the capitalization lady, though, this one did offer some alternatives. Trouble is, they're not workable.
First, she said live-trapping and transplanting nuisance beavers to areas where they won't cause problems is one solution. That sounds warm and fuzzy and benign, all right, but there's a hitch: It won't work.
The only practical method for live-trapping beavers without harming them is by using a giant clamshell-looking device called a Hancock beaver trap.
These things, when set, occupy about the same area as an open three-suiter and weigh about as much as a ballerina. They sell for more than $300. Each. (Hancock traps, not ballerinas.)
From the size, weight and cost standpoints, using Hancock traps for beaver control is already a strike-three proposition. And that doesn't even begin to address the other two problems: being able to catch enough beavers in Hancock traps to eliminate a nuisance problem, and finding a place to release any beavers you do manage to catch.
Like I said in the earlier columns that got me into this, we're already up to our unmentionables in beavers. All the suitable beaver habitat is occupied; that's why we have a nuisance problem in the first place. If I live-trap a beaver for Farmer Jones and release it in the creek upstream from Farmer Brown, the first thing that's going to happen is the resident beavers will gang up on the newcomer and -- if they don't kill him outright -- run him off.
So, the poor displaced critter will then enter another colony's territory, where he'll be set upon again and sent packing. Usually, this wandering beaver will become so weakened by poor living conditions and accumulated wounds from other beavers, it will die. This is not speculation on my part. It simply what happens in the wild, especially among territorial species such as beavers.
If somehow the displaced beaver escapes being killed or dying from disease, starvation or exposure, he may eventually find his way downstream to Farmer Brown's land. Farmer Brown has recently paid a nuisance control trapper to rid his land of beavers, so there's no colony on the section of creek that runs through his farm. Old Bucky has found a home. Next morning, Farmer Brown finds fresh beaver cuttings and calls the trapper to tell him he missed one.
Do you grasp the problem here? The suggestions of some people that we could solve the nuisance beaver issue by capturing them and giving them hysterectomies or tubal ligations and then releasing them again are so absurd they don't even merit comment, but there are folks out there who are seriously making these proposals.
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