Editor’s Note: This is the second of two articles dealing with beaver management. Last week’s article can be found here.
Beaver control is best accomplished as soon as there is evidence of beaver damage. Once beaver colonies become established over a large area, controlling them can be difficult and costly.
Fencing of culverts, drain pipes or other structures can sometimes prevent damage; however, beavers often simply incorporate the fence into their dam. Fencing lakes and ponds to exclude beavers is generally not practical. Barriers of sheet metal or hardware cloth placed around the bases of valuable trees may help prevent damage. The barrier should extend from ground level to a height of about 4 feet.
A variety of traps and trapping methods is effective in controlling beavers. Live traps, leghold traps, conibear traps and snares can be used. The effectiveness of any trap is determined by a person’s knowledge of beaver habits, as well as proper trap selection and placement.
Live traps are rarely used for beaver control except in urban areas where other kinds of traps might endanger humans and pets. Live traps (such as the Bailey, Hancock or similar trap) should be placed in shallow water near a slide where the beavers are entering and leaving the water. A castor mound set will make the trap more effective. Castor mounds are small mounds of mud, leaves and twigs on which the beaver deposits its scent to mark its territory. Commercial castor scent can be purchased from trapping supply houses; or, trappers can make their own by collecting the castor glands from beavers previously trapped. After live traps have been set, they should be secured with wire to prevent the traps from being pushed or rolled into deeper water.
Double long spring or coil spring traps should be at least number three size in jaw spread and strength. All leghold traps should be placed in a drowning set, which allows the trapped beaver to swim to deeper water and locks to prevent it from surfacing for air. Leghold traps can be placed at beaver dams, on trails, at feeding areas, or lightly underwater at beaver slides.
The trap should be just off the center of the trail or run to ensure that a foot is caught, and should be lightly covered with leaves or mud. Traps can be baited with beaver castor and fresh cut twigs or set without using bait. This technique is known as a blind set.
The conibear trap, size 330, is the most common trap used for controlling beavers. The conibear trap is effective in both shallow and deep water. There are numerous sets that can be made with the conibear trap, depending on the specific situation. These include lodge sets, trail/run sets, under log/dive sets, culvert sets and dam sets. Texas Parks and Wildlife regulations concerning furbearers require that conibear traps be set in a minimum of 6 inches of water. When using this trap, inexperienced trappers should be extremely cautious and follow trap setting instructions. It is wise to have an experienced trapper demonstrate the proper setting techniques.
Snares can be used in conjunction with other trapping methods. A snare consists of a flexible wire cable, preferably 40 inches long and 3⁄32-inch thick, made into a loop which will tighten on the animal’s body as it passes through. A simple locking device on the snare holds the loop tight. Ready-made snares also can be purchased through trapping supply companies or farm and ranch stores. Snares are most effective when used in overland sets along feeding and travel trails. Slides over pond dams or bank slides are also ideal sites. The loop of the snare should be approximately 8 to 10 inches in diameter when set. The bottom edge of the snare should be at or just below the ground surface. Snares must be securely anchored to prevent the beaver from escaping. Snares are inexpensive, easy to carry and simple to set. However, they are not as escape-proof as other types of traps, they are sometimes knocked down by beavers or other animals and they must be checked frequently.
Where it is legal, beavers can be shot at night using a shotgun (with No. 4 buckshot or larger). A spotlight equipped with a red filter lens is most effective. The use of rifles is not recommended because of the possibility of bullets ricocheting off the water. One technique is to break a beaver dam in the morning and hunt the beavers that night when they come to repair it. The water level will drop during the day, thus increasing the chances of successfully shooting beavers. When spotlighting, it is best to set up at the shoot location an hour before dark. Sit in an area that provides a good view for shooting. Also, pay attention to potential back stops, as buckshot pellets will sometimes ricochet. Beavers can hear remarkably well, so it is necessary to be as quiet and still as possible. Spotlights with power packs and filters are available in many sporting good stores.
At present there are no repellents, toxicants or fumigants registered for the control of beavers.
Beavers are classified as furbearers in Texas, but it is legal to trap them. Under state law, a person may trap a furbearing animal at any time if it is causing damage; however, the pelt can be sold only during furbearer season and with the proper licenses. Other furbearers include otter, mink, ringtailed cat, badger, skunk, nutria, weasel, raccoon, opossum, muskrat, fox and civet cat.
Landowners wishing to live trap beavers and relocate them after they have been caught must notify a representative of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.
For additional information contact the nearest office of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service Wildlife Services.