The young are brought forth in April or May, from three to seven at a litter, and take to the water when a month old. The first four years in the beaver’s life is spent under the “maternal roof,” after which period they shift for themselves. To trap the beaver successfully, requires the utmost caution, as the senses of the animal are so keen, and he is so sagacious withal, that he will detect the recent presence of the trapper from the slightest evidences. The traps should be washed clean and soaked in ley, before using, and thereafter handled with gloves, as a mere touch of the finger will leave a scent which the acute sense of the beaver will easily perceive. All footprints should be carefully obliterated by throwing water upon them, and some trappers say that the mere act of spitting on the ground in the neighborhood of the traps has been known to thwart success.
Almost the only bait used in trapping the beaver is the preparation called “barkstone” by the trappers, or “castoreum” in commerce. This substance is fully described on page 150 under the head of “Scent Baits.”
To the barkstone the trapper is mostly indebted for his success, and the effect of its odor on the beaver is something surprising. Our best trappers inform us that these animals will scent this odor for a great distance, and will fairly “squeal with delight,” not being easy until the savory bait is discovered, which almost invariably results in capture.
Taking advantage of this curious propensity, the trapper always carries a supply of castoreum in a closed vessel.
There are various ways of trapping the beaver, of which we shall present the best. An examination of the river bank will easily disclose the feeding place of the beavers, as evinced by the absence of the bark on the branches and trunks of trees. At this spot, in about four inches of water, set your trap, which should be a Newhouse No. 4. Weight the end of the chain with a stone as large as your head, and, if possible, rest it on the edge of some rock projecting into deep water, having a smaller rope or chain leading from the stone to the shore. A small twig, the size of your little [Page 181] finger, should then be stripped of its bark, and after chewing or mashing one end, it should be dipped in the castoreum. Insert this stick in the mud, between the jaws of the trap, letting it project about six inches above the water. The beaver is soon attracted by the odor of the bait, and in reaching for it, his foot is caught in the trap. In his fright he will immediately jump for deep water, thus dislodging the stone, which will sink him to the bottom, and thus drown him. The smaller chain or rope will serve as a guide to the trap, and the victim may be drawn to the surface. Another plan is to set the trap in about a foot of water, chaining it fast to a stout pole securely driven in the mud further out in the stream, and near deep water. Bait as before. The trap being thus fastened will