County tackles gnawing problem

PESKY FELLOW — Martin County’s beaver population has risen over recent years, due, in part, to a low bounty fee. The county recently increased the fee in an effort to help area trappers better cover their expenses.

FAIRMONT — The beaver population in Martin County has been on the rise, causing no end of trouble for area farmers.

In December, Martin County commissioners increased the county’s beaver bounty from $20 to $50 per beaver, in an effort to alleviate the issue. According to drainage administrator Michael Forstner, this was necessary because of the low value currently in the market for the pelt.

Paul Grussing, a local trapper utilized by the county, explained the issue and was able to share some insight into the trapping process.

“The previous bounty was $20 for each beaver; at that amount it costs trappers money to trap them,” he said. “Trappers refused to trap them, resulting in a large increase in the population of beavers in Martin County. Traps and lures for beaver trapping are expensive, plus it is hard work.

“The population is quite high in our county, and beavers tend to build their dams in hard to reach areas. Most of my calls begin in September when farmers start their harvest. They see damage to their crops and dams being built.

“A lot of them use corn stalks for their dams,” he continued. “So they’ll cut out a large area of corn, and they also make their homes along the banks on the edge of the ditches, which can cause cave-ins.

Grussing noted he usually does a lot of preseason trapping, as the regular trapping season does not start until the end of October. He went on to explain some of the work involved, and why he believes the bounty increase will help.

“At this time, all beavers caught cannot be sold and must be properly disposed of,” he said. “The value of beaver is low and during the regular trapping season you would only average $5 each. If things go right, it takes four to five days to set up and catch them.

“You might drive 200 miles in that time setting up and checking traps. Usually there are two to four beavers per colony. Also, at times you run into ‘educated’ trap-shy beavers that can be very time consuming to catch.

“The bounty increase to $50 will help,” he continued. “Landowners have realized the amount of destruction such as crop loss, damage to drainage systems and fields because of beavers. Some have helped me with expenses, which I appreciated.

“Removal of dams are difficult and costly. As a result, more money is spent on the beaver after the destruction is done.”

Grussing went on to share some information concerning the trapping process.

“Usually for traps, there’s two different types,” he said. “There’s a foot-hold trap, and the other is a Conibear trap which is humane because it quickly dispatches the animal. Also, a lure is used quite a bit of the time, and most of those are castor-based, which is a secretion from a gland that beavers use to mark their territory.

“Sometimes a food lure is used, which usually consists of different sources of oils from trees that are attractive to beavers. If there’s a new dam in an area, it’s usually 2-year-olds that have left the colony to start their own. Older pairs of beavers usually have two to four young in their colony.”

Grussing said prime beavers are used in clothing for fur garments, and most beavers from around the county area are used in the hatting industry. In addition, castor is also valuable, used as a base for a lot of perfumes and oils.

“I’ve also had a lot of items made out of the pelts I’ve caught,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of earmuffs made, which I’ve given to property owners when I trapped on their property. I’ve also had some people that wanted some pelts so they could have fur items made. For instance, I had one person I caught for, so they could have a vest made for their daughter.”

Grussing said the pelts are at their prime in the early spring.

He then shared some information for those who might develop an interest in trapping.

“The Minnesota Trapper Association is really strong in the state,” he said. “Young people and others who want to get into trapping have to take a trapper education course before they can start, which is also a good thing for everybody.”

For those interested, the Minnesota Trapper Association can be found online at www.mntrappers.org

As far as Martin County is concerned, only beavers trapped within a drainage system or within one-quarter mile of a drainage system outlet will be accepted for the bounty, and the county only uses licensed trappers registered with the county for the process.

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