Mostly Trapping

Beaver numbers high despite lack of ideal habitat
Jan 20, 2020 16:51 ET

(Reprinted from above link)

After being wiped out statewide by 1830 due to the demand for their pelts and the clearing of forests, beavers are now thriving throughout Ohio.

First returning to some rugged southeastern Ohio valleys in the 1930s from neighboring states, they expanded in all directions while under the protection of state game laws.

The beaver’s arrival is greeted with mixed reviews, with trappers having new opportunities to experience these historically significant animals and wildlife watchers allowed a chance to spot some. However, a few beavers can quickly become a few too many when they cut down prized timber, shade, fruit or ornamental trees.

The novelty of having them around is overshadowed by the affected landowner wanting them dead or somewhere else.

But, similar to deer, there are not many empty “somewhere else’s” remaining since beavers make such an impact that they are not welcomed everywhere.

Surprisingly, they have adapted to the ditches and streams of northwest Ohio and are increasing in numbers throughout the marshes along the Lake Erie shoreline. One local trapper has caught more than 30 in and around Magee Marsh this season, ranging from 19-62 pounds.

In March 2011, a young beaver made local headlines by entering the Port Clinton Kroger store and loitering in the bakery section until being removed by local wildlife biologists.

Due to their size, beavers are not easily mistaken for other animals, especially when their large flattened tail is seen. It is used as a rudder while swimming and to slap the water to communicate impending danger to other beavers.

All four feet are webbed, with the rear ones being exceptionally large and used along with the tail to balance on their hind legs while cutting trees or placing branches on their dams or lodge.

Even unseen they leave unique forensic evidence of their presence. They fell many trees, leaving pointed stumps, using leaves and bark as food and the logs and branches as framing material to construct their dams and lodges.

Dams are designed to keep water levels from falling to keep the entrance of their dome-shaped shelters underwater. These lodges are built in the flooded pools or along the water’s edge.

In large rivers or where the water depth is stable, they may burrow into the bank underwater and excavate living quarters above the water line just like an overgrown muskrat.

While subsisting mainly on bark during the winter, their summer diet contains more succulent wetland plants such as smartweed, sedges, water lilies, cattails and others within close proximity of their lodges.

Commonly, two generations of offspring reside with the parents, giving the average lodge a population of 6-8, as kit sizes can range from 1 to 4 per year.

Along the western Lake Erie marsh region, beavers excavating into the dikes can cause them to leak or even collapse and drain wetland cells, requiring heavy machinery to be brought in at hard-to-reach locations to repair the damages.

In Ohio, adult beavers’ primary enemies are fur trappers and otters, but owls, eagles and coyotes can take kits if caught off guard. There have been several road kills locally over the past few years.

Beaver trapping is very hard work, requiring heavy traps and hauling these large animals from the field. For hundreds of years, generations of mountain men endured hardships that included not having rubber waders and gloves, body-grip traps or modern transportation while keeping alert for hostile Indians, trap and fur thieves and unpredictable winter storms.

Beaver pelts brought $25 at the Ohio State Trappers Association’s fur auction last weekend in Bucyrus. Their (dried) castor glands, used to make Castoreum, mainly for perfume and soap fragrances and formerly for medical supplements and natural food flavorings, are up to $70 per pound.

Barbecued beaver meat is a hit at wild game dinners. Each time I have served it, there have been no leftovers.

Ohio’s beaver trapping season continues until February 29, 2020. See the Ohio hunting regulation digest for licensing, rules and trapping certification required before participating.