Pennsylvania Game News - January 2021 - 64

S

Beaver Tales

OMETIMES it's hard to imagine that a furbearer - a rodent no less - had a part in
the exploration of the American West. That mammal is the largest rodent in North
America: the beaver.
Mountain men knew beavers well, as do many modern trappers. Several friends
of mine who pursue a wide variety of furbearers rate beaver trapping as their
favorite. It certainly can't be for the money. Demand and prices for beaver pelts
have plummeted. And beaver trapping can be very time-consuming and physically
demanding, especially during the depths of winter. So why do it?
Might their passion be driven by a desire to sustain, even defend tradition? At one
time, fur trapping was a highly honorable and respected calling.
Perhaps my beaver-trapping buddies have deep-seated feelings that make them
anachronisms - throwbacks to much earlier times. Subconsciously, maybe they
visualize themselves exploring untamed wilderness with the likes of Jim Bridger
or Jedidiah Smith. Alone on foot, surveying an ice-covered beaver pond a mile or
more from the nearest road, laden with trapping gear, on a sub-zero January morning,
might be their escape.
Their willingness to embrace physical challenges in general, and beaver-trapping
hardships in particular, is innate, not easily understood or explained. In their minds,
maybe further introspection is not necessary.
Our beaver-trapping season begins around mid-December and extends through
March. Fewer people are trapping beavers, so their populations are quite high in
many areas and bag limits liberal. Although highly unlikely, a trapper can legally
harvest 125 beavers if the timing and wildlife management unit cards are played
just right. Locating active dams and bank beavers is not difficult: freshly gnawed
trees, and pale-yellow, de-barked branches are dead giveaways. Many landowners -
especially those who have experienced flood damage or undesired loss of trees - are
happy to grant permission to trappers who might help reduce beaver numbers.
With most wild fur prices near rock-bottom, trappers have found creative outlets
for their hard-earned hides. No sportsman's " man-cave " is complete without a tanned
beaver pelt, securely laced with deer sinew to a steambent willow hoop.
Years ago, a friend selected nine of his finest skins
and had them made into a luxurious beaver coat for
his wife. Rarely does he mention this labor of love.
But when he does, for the briefest of moments, he
might be envisioning an old-time trapper plying
a beaver set with the Rocky Mountains in the
background.

Gregg Rinkus
64



Pennsylvania Game News - January 2021

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Pennsylvania Game News - January 2021 - Cover3
Pennsylvania Game News - January 2021 - Cover4
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