As a trapper I enjoy trying to match wits with God’s critters, and beavers, believe it or not can on occasion be very clever and hard to catch. When the new four-lane highway was built along Inman, a spot that was merely a big puddle along a drainage creek became a couple acre pond that’s a couple feet deep and holds water until the weather gets very dry. Every time I pass that pond I look for signs of beavers there, as it has all the makings of a good beaver pond. Just this week as Joyce drove past that pond, she saw what could have been a beaver swimming there, so it became time for a field trip to find out.
I first clamored up and over the railroad tracks to check for beaver signs along the creek opposite the pond. The grass beyond the tracks was lush and thick and shoulder high, and with each step I sank a foot deep into a mat of decayed stocks and vegetation left there from each time the creek flooded over the past who-knows-how-many years. It was a little spooky to tell you the truth; I could barely see what was in front of me and then to feel my foot sink with each step into something else I couldn’t see! There seemed to be no signs of beaver along the creek, so I moved on.
Going the opposite direction the creek first passes beneath the railroad, then under both lanes of the new highway, so I had to navigate the underside of three bridges worth of nesting swallows to get to the pond. I was still a good fifty yards away from the first highway bridge when a literal cloud of twittering swallows suddenly filled the air, probably numbering in the hundred’s. Back-and-forth they flew; under the bridge then out again until I was well clear of their space. Their mud-nest colonies lined the underside of the bridge like so many tiny baskets pasted against the otherwise intimidating concrete structure. They never became aggressive or dive-bombed me like they used to do cats when they caught them out in the open on the farm when I was a kid, but they gladly escorted me from the area. After clearing the bridges the creek basically became a muddy path full of cattails for a couple hundred yards until it reached the pond. At the pond, the cattails spread out 30 yards wide and then gave way to the water proper.
Some years ago on a nearby property I trapped beavers in a small marsh that formed alongside a deep, wide creek. The marsh was very shallow, but the beavers had pushed mud up against the marsh bank all across one end, allowing the water to become deeper. Looking at this pond from the highway, it appeared to have gotten the same treatment; another reason to suspect beavers had moved-in. The pond is often partially covered with a mat of moss, and as I waded into the water and stood in front of the 7 foot tall cattails, what appeared to be mud shoved up against them at the waterline proved instead to be thick slabs of moss, evidently deposited there as the recent high water abated. I picked up a big chunk of the dried moss and tossed it onto the bank; it was thick and stiff enough to pass for cowhide.
As evidence of beaver’s presence in the pond, I looked for dens dug into the bank or a mound-shaped hut of some sort in the water, piles of cut sticks in the water stored for future food, well used trails in the mud leading from the pond into trees along the creek and trees or sticks cut and freshly chewed on. I got scolded by red winged blackbirds perched high up on cattail leaves, serenaded by bull frogs, nearly carried away by hoards of mosquitoes and warned to mind my own business by legions of swallows, but I found zero confirmation of beavers living in or near the pond. I’m still convinced it’s only a matter of time!…Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors.
Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected]