|Photo Credit: L. Powell|
Along my trip, I came across a marker obviously staked near an active beaver lodge. It was clearly put there intentionally, and well marked. When I saw a second near another beaver lodge, I figured something was going on. I checked two other lodges, and they also had similar markers. What's up?
Today, I got my answer. On a walk around the lake we came across a couple of people at one of the markers. They are trappers, and I learned a lot about beavers and trapping.
Trapping season runs from November through April; starting in November, beavers grow a layer of soft fur, which makes this the best season for pelts. There isn't much of a market for beaver pelt; he sends the pelts to Idaho for tanning, and is collecting enough to make a bed cover.
A small piece of poplar wood is used for bait, which makes the trap pretty much a one-species snare - no other animal will be attracted to an old chunk of wood! Trappers must check their snares at least every three days, so it's a pretty intensive undertaking.
Trapping to meet the insatiable European demand for pelts completely eliminated beavers from all of New England except the farthest reaches of Maine by the middle of the 1800s. After their reintroduction in Vermont in the early 1900s, their population has boomed - they have few predators left and little market value. It is not uncommon for a colony to completely harvest their available food supply, and have to move on or starve. Land owners in the lakes region will hire trappers to reduce the size of a colony if it is devastating their property.
Lake Wicwas and its surrounds are probably near the limit of a healthy population, based on the observations I've made. I've identified eleven lodges within the boundaries of Lake Wicwas alone, not including the Chemung Forest or the Hamlin/Eames/Smyth area. It might sound cruel, but trappers are doing what nature no longer takes care of on its own.
This particular trapper will help people with problem animals, including skunk and raccoon. Let me know if you need a contact.
On Saturday we took a hike - no snow shoes needed - up to Arbutus Hill Pond. On the way we saw deer, moose, rabbit, and fox tracks.
There are also splendid ice formations on the streams.
We were startled at one point by a grouse that flew out from under cover of a hemlock tree, followed shortly be two or three more. We followed their tracks a bit; they are rather narrow, often in a straight path without distinct foot prints except where the snow was barely an inch deep beneath the tree they were hiding under. Without seeing the birds we never would have identified the tracks.
|Ice Fishing on Lake Wicwas|
|Squalls coming from the West|
A late update: I captured a beautiful gray fox coming and going on his nightly rounds early this morning. Keep the trappers away from him - we need the foxes - they keep the rodent population in check!