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How to Trap a Beaver

Caution: Don't try this at home!

beaver

Photo by stevehdc on Flickr.

A fascinating explanation about how trappers caught beaver, by Richard C. Roberts and Richard W. Sadler in A History of Weber County:

Each beaver trap weighed five pounds and was usually attached to a length of chain that was used to secure the trap after it was set. The end of a small stick was dipped in the musk or castor taken from the beaver's sex glands, and the other end of the stick was pushed under the water in the jaws of the trap. As the beaver swam past the baited stick, it lifted its nose to smell and, as its hind legs were lowered, they were caught in the trap.

Furs were prime only in the cold season of the year, the time when most trapping was done. This meant much wading in cold streams by trappers, who usually placed between five and ten traps a day. The traps were usually positioned about dusk and raised in the gray light of dawn. Since the trappers were usually dressed in buckskins, which would become dry and brittle after being soaked in water, trappers would often go naked into the streams to set and retrieve their traps.

The beaver were usually skinned on the spot, with only the castor glands, the tail, and the fur taken to camp, where the pelt would be stretched on a hoop made by bending a willow in a circle and tying it tightly. The pelt was scraped with a sharp knife or an axe blade to clean it. It would dry rapidly and would be resistant to insects....

Although beaver meat might be used as food by the mountain men, they liked the tail best. They roasted it over the fire and ate it as a delicacy.