Beaver Trapping Tips - How to Trap a Beaver
This publication is meant to assist people to manage with
beaver problems by presenting techniques that will minimize
the negative aspects of beaver-caused damage.
The beaver is a semi-aquatic mammal and the largest native
North American rodent. Mature males weigh 19 to 25 kg (40 to
60 lb.), but can weigh over 40 kg (100 lb.) Only one litter of
4 to 6 kits is produced each year from April to June,
following a 100 to 105 day gestation. At two years of age,
beaver leave the home colony to search for winter quarters,
which may take them up to 10 km away.
The life span of beaver is 5 to 10 years, with some living up
to 20 years. Because of their size, behavior and habitat,
beaver have few enemies. Mortality is highest during the first
year; coyotes, wolves, bears and other large carnivores are
the main predators.
Apart from occasional sickness, trapping is the only major
unnatural cause of death. Research shows that beavers can
maintain or increase their numbers with an annual trapping
rate of 30 to 40 per cent. It is no surprise then, that beaver
numbers never seem to decline significantly, even in problem
areas where removal is the major method of control.
Beaver ponds play a valuable and significant role in the
formation of Alberta's plant and animal communities. Their
dams create ponds that contribute to the stabilization of
water tables and help reduce rapid rain runoff. Dams also help
reduce soil erosion and improve soil quality, since runoff
deposits in quiet pools near beaver dams. As a result, beaver
habitat is often rich in plant and animal life, making beaver
ponds excellent sites for observing nature.
Beaver ponds also provide recreation such as fishing and
hunting, and they have great aesthetic value. Furthermore,
beaver ponds create habitat for other fur-bearing animals with
good harvest value.
Harvesting of beaver is a major source of income to Alberta's
fur trade industry and annually represents about 30 per cent
of gross fur sale revenues (over $5 million in 2001).
Giardiasis (inaccurately called "beaver fever") is a disease
caused by a microscopic parasite found in the excrement of
infected birds and mammals, including beaver. Beaver often get
the blame for the spread of the disease because they are the
most obvious carrier in water contaminated with the parasite.
In Alberta, beaver problems occur wherever there are trees and
water. Most conflicts with beaver, however, occur in the aspen
parkland region, which covers more than half the province's
farm land. In these areas, beaver cause problems by flooding
cultivated land, hay fields, pasture land, roadways and often
detour or restrict water flow in streamways.
Damage in urban areas is generally minor. However, beaver
problems can be severe where beaver girdle or cut down
valuable ornamental trees and shrubs or undermine yards, walks
and roadways with their burrowing.
Beaver Damage Control
Before beginning any beaver control action, assess the beaver
problem fairly and objectively. Are beaver really causing
damage or creating hardship requiring control action? The very
presence of beaver is often seen as a problem when, in fact,
the beaver are causing no harm. You should also determine the
type of damage or problem the animals are causing, then match
the most appropriate and cost effective controls to the
Once you have decided to control beaver damage, you have three
prevention - treat the area to prevent or
reduce the damage
live trap and relocate the problem beaver
destroy the problem beaver and remove the
Since live trapping and relocating beaver are often cost
prohibitive, their use is limited and often not practical.
Also, research has shown that these methods of control are of
questionable value because translocated beaver either return
to the problem area or seldom survive relocation.
However, in urban areas where lethal trapping may be illegal
or unsafe, live capture and translocating may be the only
Beavers can be fenced out of a treed area or individual trees
can be wrapped with galvanized metal or chicken wire to a
height of at least 1 m. Valuable broad-leaved trees can be
protected by a galvanized metal fence at least 1 m (3 ft) high
and 0.5 m (18 in) below ground; however, this protection
method can be expensive.
Thiram, the only repellent known to reduce beaver damage, is
applied directly to trees and shrubs. However, this method
will usually work only where beaver have alternate sources of
food, i.e. other trees they can cut for food. No license or
permit is required to purchase or use this product.
Water level control without beaver removal
Where flooding is the major problem, the use of a "beaver
drain pipe" is the best solution. Make a "drain pipe" or water
level stabilization device by fitting two plastic sewer pipes
together and perforating one of them. The diameter of the
pipes can be 10, 15, 20 or 25 cm (4, 6, 8 or 10 in.),
depending on the volume of water in the stream.
Dig a hole through the beaver dam in line with the original
stream channel. Set three-quarters of the pipe at almost any
level in the dam, extending the perforated end out into the
pond (Figure 1). A weight should be placed on the end of the
pipe. Allow about one quarter of the pipe to extend on the
downstream side of the dam. Beaver pipes work best where the
flooded area is more than 1 acre and the minimum water depth
at the pond is 0.5 m (18 in.) or deeper. Be sure to add a 30
cm (12 in.) elbow or turndown to the end of the pipe to
discourage plugging of the upstream end of the pipe.
Figure 1. Drain pipe.
In the case of a plugged culvert, the dam should be removed
and a heavy wire mesh cover or fence (No. 6 concrete
reinforcing wire) should be installed around the mouth of the
culvert and secured with steel posts. When the beaver build a
dam on the fence, a "beaver pipe" can be placed through the
fence to keep the water at a desired level (see Figure 2).
Figure 2. Beaver pipe installation.
A single "beaver pipe" can handle the normal runoff from an
800 hec. (2,000 acre) drainage area; some installations use up
to three pipes. It is not feasible to manage streams with
flows from drainage areas exceeding 10 to 11 square km with
A pipe installation usually provides a long-term water level
control at a nuisance site. However, it can also provide
control until beaver are removed from the site through a
regular fur trapping season.
The benefits of a pipe installation include the elimination or
reduction of beaver damage as well as the conservation of a
beaver colony and a steady supply of stock water. In problem
areas where emigrating beaver continually re-occupy the site,
trapping would be necessary on a yearly basis. If trapping is
required five or more years out of fifteen, a pipe
installation is a more effective and less costly method of
controlling the problem.
Three important requirements need to be considered when using
water depth and area must be adequate to install pipes
the normal flow of the stream during the control period
must not exceed the flow capacity of the pipe
you must accept short periods of high water levels
A wire mesh cylinder of 10 x 10 cm (4 in. x 4 in.) welded wire
mesh (0.4 gauge or 0.25 in. diameter) will protect culverts
from beaver. The diameter of the cylinder should be the same
as the culvert, and the cylinder may be in a horizontal or
vertical position (Figure 3).
Figure 3. Beaver guards.
The length of the cylinder may vary, but as a general rule,
the length should be twice the diameter (i.e. if the culvert
diameter is .75 m, then the cylinder length should be 1.5 m).
Secure the cylinder with heavy metal stakes and fasten it to
Shooting and trapping
Landowners may shoot and trap beaver without a license,
year-round, on their own land. On private land, hunters may
trap or shoot beaver, year-round, with written landowner
Shooting - Shooting beaver can be an effective control
technique. Shooting is best done at dusk or early dawn when
beaver are active. They should be shot only when they are out
of the water; too many are seriously injured when shot in the
water, only to die a slow and painful death. A medium-sized
calibre rifle such as .22 Hornet, 223 or .22 high power or
larger calibre is recommended; smaller calibre or shotgun
calibres are often underpowered for an animal the size of a
Trapping - In agricultural areas, beaver damage usually
occurs when fur values are low and beaver numbers high. The
solution is a combination of preventive control and timely
beaver harvest. To achieve this end, beaver numbers need to be
regularly and continually monitored to observe population
shifts and to avert potential problems. Contact your
agricultural service board or Fish and Wildlife officer for
the name of a local trapper if you do not want to remove the
Figure 4. Body Grip trap and setting equipment
You can resolve many beaver problems by trapping. The type of
trap and set used depends on the type of problem, location and
time of year. Beaver are generally easy to trap; however, they
can quickly become "trap-wise" from poorly placed traps or
The most effective trap for beaver is the body-grip trap
called a Body Grip The proper size of Body Grip trap for
beaver is 280 through 330.
Set and handle Body Grip traps with great care. To set them,
you will need a safety clamp and a seven-foot nylon rope to
ensure your own safety (Figure 4). You should also always
carry a hacksaw blade with you. A hacksaw blade is your
back-up safety if you get caught in a trap and cannot escape.
Most professional trappers sew a hacksaw blade into their
trapping coat, so they will always have a saw with them.
Body Grip traps are equipped with safety catches on each
spring, but the safety clamp should always be used when
setting and placing them.
The springs of the Body Grip trap can also be set with the
nylon rope by typing the rope to one spring coil and running
it through both coils two or three times. This method will
allow you to easily pull the spring coils together and secure
them with the safety catches.
One of the easiest and most successful Body Grip trap sets is
the canal set. Place a heavy pole through each spring coil of
the trap. Use baling wire to attach this pole to two anchor
stakes, and drive the anchor stakes into the canal banks. When
set, the pole should touch the water surface to cause the
beaver to dive under it into the trap (Figure 5).
Figure 5. Canal set.
If the canal is wider than 40cm to 45 cm (16 to 18 in.), place
a short pole on either side of the trap to encourage the
beaver to enter the trap. Note: Bend the trigger wires to the
sides, as shown in Figure 5, so the approaching beaver does
not sense the trap.
Bank den set
Place the trap at the bank den entrance and put a stake
through each spring coil. Drive the two stakes into the mud to
secure this underwater set (Figure 6). The bank den set may
also be used at the entrance to the beaver lodge.
Figure 6. Bank den set.
Locate the travel path on top of the dam and set a Body Grip
trap as shown in Figure 7. The trap may be camouflaged with
grass, twigs or leaves to break the trap outline. Scent lure
may be placed on the trail about two feet from the trap.
Figure 7. Body Grip set at dam.
Water edge set
Another set for unwary beaver is to secure a body grip trap in
the water about 30 cm to 40 cm (12 to 18 in.) from bait or
lure placed at the water's edge. The trap should never be more
than half submerged in the water. Use grass or leafy branches
to camouflage the trap outline. Do not place camouflage
material within the trap's jaws (Figure 8).
CONIBEAR® is a registered trademark of ONEIDA VICTOR INC., LTD.
Federal law restricts the use of explosives to only authorized
people who are specially trained and certified, including
landowners who may obtain special permission to use dynamite.
Most rural municipalities have beaver control officers who
remove beavers and/or their dams at the request of landowners.
For more information, contact your local municipal office.