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Trapper's Corner: Brother Beaver
© 2006

Trapper's Corner The mighty Beaver has been around for centuries. It has always been hunted by humans, both for its food value and for its thick fur. When the fashion industry in the 1800's made it almost mandatory for every fashionable gentleman to wear a "Beaver Hat", this little animal was almost trapped to extinction. In 1830, this fad changed from beaver to silk, much to the chagrin of the trappers, but to the relief of the beavers.

Native people hunted the beaver long before the arrival of the fur traders. They roasted the meat for food and used the pelts for clothing. But it was changing fashions in headwear that made the animal so valuable to Europeans. Toward the end of the 16th century, a rage for the broad-brimmed beaver hat swept the salons of Europe. The beaver hat was not a fur hat in the same sense as the coonskin cap of the American frontier or the famous busby worn by guards at Buckingham Palace. It was actually a felt hat, manufactured by removing the fur from its skin and mashing it together with adhesives and stiffeners. (One of these additives was mercury, the fumes from which affected the brains of hat-makers, giving rise to the expression "mad as a hatter".)

This very large, dark brown rodent has a black, scaly tail which is horizontally flattened and paddle shaped and used as a rudder while swimming, as a sturdy support on land and for balance when the beaver carries heavy tree branches or building materials in its front paws. The back feet are large, webbed and black; the eyes and ears small; incisors are very large and chestnut colored. Average weight is 45-60 pounds but they have been recorded at up to 110 pounds.

The beaver builds its lodge out of inter-tangled twigs and sticks; as freezing weather nears, they plaster the lodge with mud making a concrete layer that no predator can break through. Predators include coyotes, wolves, bears, lynx, and wolverines; mink, hawks and owls will also take some kits. In late April to early July 3-4 kits are born. The beaver is highly adapted to its aquatic life with webbed hind feet, the rudder-like tail, valves that close off the ears and nostrils, skin flaps that seal off the mouth but leave the incisors free for underwater gnawing and carrying and clear membranes that slide over the eyes protecting them from floating debris. During the early nineteenth century the beaver pelt was the single most valuable commodity; the pelt being used for robes, coats, clothing trims, and top hats. Nowadays the pelt is still highly valued, the flesh and sometimes, the tail are considered tasty but the beaver is now protected from over- trapping.

The beaver can be found throughout North America except for the northern most parts of Canada, Florida, the desert Southwest, and Mexico. When I was living in New Jersey, years ago, a fully grown beaver sauntered into my back yard, looked around, and sauntered off again. I didn't even know there were beavers in New Jersey. I can understand their avoiding the alligator-packed swamps of Florida. I try to avoid those areas myself. However, the beaver is most commonly found in our far northern states and into Canada. Texas may have one, but it's in a zoo.


A perfect beaver track is rare as the tail drags and will often cover the print. The hind foot is large, triangular-shaped, webbed and has five toes. The forefoot is much smaller with five toes although all are seldom evident. During the winter the beaver's trail is often mistaken for that of a porcupine or otter because of the trough created by the beaver's trail. A closer examination of the track will generally show a portion of a print.

Where Do I Look?

Most of the beaver's diet is made up of tree bark and cambium, the soft tissue that grow under the bark of a tree. They especially like the bark of willow, maple, birch, aspen, cottonwood, beech, poplar, and alder trees. Beavers also eat other vegetation like roots and buds and other water plants. The beaver has a specialized digestive system that helps it digest tree bark.

If you don't have these types of trees in your area, you will never find any beaver.

Left: A large beaver lodge built in a dammed up area.

More on the Beaver

Beavers can have both a positive and a negative impact on the environment. When beavers build dams, they create new wetland environments for other species. These wetlands can help slow erosion, raise the water table and help purify the water. Beavers can play a major role in succession, when beavers abandon their lodges and dams, aquatic plants will take over the pond and eventually, shrubs and other plants will grow and the area will become a meadow. The shrubs in the meadow will provide enough shade to allow tree seedlings to grow, once the trees grow, they will take over and the land will turn into a woodland area.

Beaver dams can also cause problems. Dams can slow the flow of water in streams and cause silt to build up and some species can loose habitat. Dams can also cause flooding in low lying areas.

Beavers live in family groups or colonies. A colony is made up of a breeding male and female beaver and their offspring. Beavers are very territorial and will protect their lodges from other beavers. They mark their territory by building piles of mud and marking it with scent. When baby beavers get too big, they are booted out to form their own colony.

Beaver are very shy animals. They will keep to themselves most of the time. They are lightning-fast in the water but on land, they waddle like a lumbering ox, only smaller.

They are definitely cuter than muskrats. Their size is considerably larger though. If you catch one of these still alive in a trap, don't count on him being "cute" any more. Teeth that can cut down trees for dinner can really do a job on your hand. They don't floss…

In times of danger, they "slap" the water with the flat of their tails, warning the family of danger.

Dam Set

Beavers generally cross dams at specific locations that are recognized by a worn appearance usually at the point where water flows over the dam. If sufficient water is flowing through the dam crossing, a 330 Conibear can be set on top of the dam where it blends into the dam's shaggy appearance. At dam crossings on older dams or where there is little or no water flowing over the dam, the trap should be set immediately below (downstream side) the dam. A dive stick or a fence of dead sticks can be used to guide the beaver into the trap.

Dam sets using the 330 Conibear trap are the least selective sets because otter and muskrat commonly utilize the same crossings when traveling to and from beaver ponds. In areas where otter are present, dam sets should only be used during the regular trapping season and in areas where otter may be legally taken to prevent unnecessary loss of this valuable furbearer. (If you're it anyway...RT)

Source: North Carolina Wildlife Dept.

Beaver Sets

2200 N. 33rd St., Lincoln, NE 68503 (402) 471-0641
[email protected]

Trapping Beaver

Trapping beaver is like moving up one step from trapping muskrat. Many of the tricks and sets used are very similar. The beaver can just grow one heck of a lot bigger than the muskrat.

If you are trapping ONLY FOR FOOD, you can skip reading all this stuff about saving the fur. Skin the beast, and cook it.

But - you are wasting a natural resource that (even if you don't use it yourself) could be traded for something that you really need.

If you are trapping ONLY FOR FUR, then you are wasting food. Beaver has been eaten by humans ever since we walked upright in the same pond.

Living in Florida, I'm a little rusty at beaver trapping: The alligators seem to get in the way.

The beaver pelt is fleshed clean with downward slicing strokes of the fleshing tool starting from the center of the pelt.

Beaver Traps

SUGGESTED TRAP SIZE: No. 3 or No. 4 double longspring, jump trap; No. 4 double underspring; No. 14 Oneida jump trap; No. 330 Conibear.

SUGGESTED BAITS: Fresh twigs and cuttings of aspen (poplar) preferred. Fresh cottonwood or willow twigs and branches.

Highly Recommended Reading: North Dakota Furtakers Educational Manual

Stretching and Drying Pelts

Procedures used for stretching and drying beaver pelts vary with different trappers. The procedures described here have worked well in the past and require a minimum purchase of specialized equipment and materials.

After the pelt is fleshed and the fur has been allowed to dry, it is ready to be stretched. All that is needed is a 3 foot square sheet of 1/2 inch or thicker plywood, a ruler, nails and a hammer.

The pelt is hung up by the nose and measured from top to bottom. This distance plus half this distance plus 2 inches, totaled and divided by 2 should give you the diameter of the circle into which the pelt should stretch. An example is given below:

Since "extra" plywood was in short supply, many early trappers nailed these up on the sides of their houses.

Pelt length = 30 inches
+ 15 inches (1/2 pelt length)
= 45 inches
+ 2 inches
= 47 inches
÷ 2 (divided by)
= 23.5 inches
(diameter of circle)

A circle of this diameter can be drawn on the board and the 12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock positions marked to provide a reference point for the first four nails. The pelt is then laid on the board fur side down and the nose and center of the tail nailed along the circle at the 12 and 6 o'clock positions. The sides are then nailed at the 3 and 9 o'clock positions. The skin should be pulled and nailed at points midway between these and other nails until nails are spaced at approximately one inch intervals completely around the pelt. Any fat left around the leg holes should be removed and the leg holes closed up with 3 or 4 nails. The stretched pelt should be further scraped of any remaining fat with a curved knife blade or similar tool. Drying boards should be placed on end in a cool dry area at least 6 inches apart. Under favorable drying conditions, the skins should be dry enough to remove from the boards within 7 to 10 days. Drying time can be reduced to as little as 2 days if fans and artificial heat are used. Heaters should be used only to dry the air under humid conditions. Excessive heat and direct sunlight should be avoided to prevent pelt damage.

Beaver require a large powerful trap. Most beginners will find the #330 Body Traps to be easiest to learn to trap Beaver with. The #280 is also a good trap and can be used to trap most all beaver. It is also an excellent size for Otter. Recommended foot traps for beaver are the #4 and #5 Longsprings, the MB 750 Beaver trap, the #5 Bridger Coilspring. A Beavers hind foot will span and be thrown off smaller traps. For front foot catches a smaller trap can be used such as the #3 coilspring.

CASTOR - A secretion of the castor gland of the beaver. Trappers removed the castor when skinning beaver and used the highly scented chemical to lure other beavers into traps. This gland is very similar in location to the musk glands on the muskrat. It is a smell that only appeals to Beavers. It is not intended to please any human being I have met.

When skinning the beaver, avoid getting the castor gland oils on any of the meat. You'll regret it.

No - it is NOT the castor oil that Mom used to give you when you were a kid. This stuff is hideous, but it drives the little girl beavers crazy.

Beaver These are skinned according to the diagram on this site. When you finish there should be four small leg holes in the pelt. You can either skin clean or skin and flesh. Beaver pelts are difficult to flesh but with practice it gets easier. Then stretch the pelt oval as in diagram. For beginning trappers it is best to go to a fur buyer and watch what he does. A fur buyer can show you how to get top dollar for a well handled pelt.

Dinner Time

Beaver meat is dark red, fine grained, moist and tender, and when properly prepared, is similar in flavor to roast pork. Cut the head from the carcass and eviscerate the animal as follows: Make a cut through the thin layer of meat from the breastbone to the vent, encircling the vent, and being careful not to puncture the intestines. Lay the body cavity open, and remove the viscera by grasping them above the stomach and pulling down and out from the body cavity. Carefully cut out the tiny musk glands from under the skin on the insides of the legs and be sure to remove the castor gland under the belly near the tail. Trim off all the fat, then wash the carcass thoroughly with warm water. Collected by Bert Christensen, Toronto, Ontario

Beaver is a fine textured red meat. Fat deposits are found outside or between muscles, much like venison. While the meat will not dry out while cooking as fast as venison it will dry out faster than most lean cuts of beef. Unlike venison, the fat is not as likely to become rancid. Removal is however recommended, especially deposits inside both the front and rear legs which contain glands. The castor glands are found in the lower abdominal cavity. As with other internal organs, fluids escaping will give the meat an off or bitter flavor. Castor glands should be frozen and sold or given to a trapper who can in turn sell the glands to be used by the perfume industry.

Also unlike deer, beaver needs to be soaked overnight in salt water to remove blood from the meat. Trapped beaver do not have a chance to bleed out.

Cutting up a dressed beaver requires special attention to bone structure or most meat will end up on soup bones. Meat tends to cut easier when it contains some ice crystals. Most of the best meat on the beaver will be found on the hams and along the back bone. The larger muscles attest to the powerful back legs and tail. The tender loin or back strap found along both sides of the top of the back is wider at the shoulders and tapers to a point near the hams. The tender loin is found inside the body cavity at about the middle of and to either side of the back. Steaks are difficult to cut from the ham area. Most meat will be chunks or strips. The flanks, between ribs and the hams, are often strong tasting either by nature or contamination by body fluids.

Many of your favorite venison recipes will probably work with beaver.

Beaver Hoops
2224 Michigan Ave.
Stevens Point WI. 54481

This company sells Black Walnut or Red Oak hoops for stretching Beaver pelts. These frames are for decoration and are fine replicas of the hoops the native American Indians used to stretch their Beaver pelts. A finished pelt is seen on the right laced inside the hoop.

How to measure your Beaver pelt for the correct size frame is really quite easy.

1. Lay your tanned beaver pelt on a flat surface.

2. Measure the width of your pelt. Add 5 to 6 inches onto your pelt measurement, and then write this measurement down as your final width measurement.

3. Now measure the length of your pelt. Add on 5 to 6 inches to this measurement, and then write this measurement down as your final height measurement.

4. (Note) for the best fit if you added 5" to the width then add the same to the height.

5. The kit frames have an outside frame measurement and a inside frame measurement… Use the inside frame measurement sizes.

6. For a good fit, your width measurements should be within 1" of the frames inside width measurement.

7. We recommend that your trim off the nose and whiskers from your Beaver pelt before measuring, this will give you a nice symmetrical finished product.

The pelt stretched on the left is on a flexible hoop made from a vine or sapling. Narrow slits are cut along the outside edge of the pelt and rawhide lacing is used to pull the beaver pelt into shape. In the wild, this may be your only alternative if the plywood supply is low or you don't want to nail them to your house.

Once dried, the pelts can be removed and stored. The hoop can be reused over and over again.

TRACKING TIPS: The two arrows point to what may be the only real sign you can see for the presence of beaver. Once at the water, however, look for gnawed trees


Fried Beaver

1 small beaver (20 lbs.), cleaned and skinned, cut into serving pieces, strips or cubes
6 slices bacon
1 tsp. seasoning salt

Remove fat from beaver and soak overnight in cold water. Drain. Cook in small amount of water until tender, then fry with bacon and seasoning salt. Variation: substitute hickory-smoked seasoning salt for plain seasoning salt.
Recipe Category: Wild Game Recipes

Beaver Tail

Hold over open flame until rough skin blisters. Remove from heat. When cool, peel off skin. Roast over coals or simmer until tender.

Beaver or Raccoon Roast with Barbecue Sauce

1 small to medium beaver or raccoon cut into serving size pieces
1/2 tsp. salt
1 teaspoon instant minced onion
3 tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 cup chili sauce
1 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 ( 7 oz.) bottle of beer or pickle juice

Place pieces of beaver or raccoon in a foil-lined roasting pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and roast, covered for a half hour. Meanwhile, mix other ingredients in a small bowl for barbecue sauce. After meat has roasted a half hour, uncover and pour barbecue sauce over the pieces. Then roast, uncovered, for another half hour to an hour--until tender. Baste several times during cooking, using your barbecue sauce.

Deep Fried Beaver

2-3 lbs. 1 inch cubes beaver
6 eggs
2 cups flour
Salt, pepper, ginger, sage, poultry seasoning, etc.
Oil for frying

Mix eggs, flour and any combination of the spices above for a variety or about 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper. Alternate beating and adding about 1 tbsp. of milk until the mix has thinned enough to jiggle when shaken. Continue to beat with a fork until the ingredients are thoroughly blended. Stir in the beaver cubes until all cubes are well coated.
Drop individual coated cubes in hot oil (at least 2 inches deep). Cubes will sink and then float as they start frying. Stir and turn until golden brown making sure no chunks remain stuck to the bottom of your fry pan.
Eat plain or dip in sweet and sour sauce, BBQ sauce, honey, honey-mustard sauce or your favorite steak sauce. Try different types of salad dressings.

Beaver Stew

2-3 lbs 1 inch cubes beaver
Bacon grease
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 medium onions
1/2 lb carrots
6 medium potatoes
2 stalks celery

Combine flour, salt and pepper in a resealable bag or 2 quart plastic container (with lid) and shake until mixed. Add beaver and shake until well coated.

Dice onions. Melt enough bacon grease in the bottom of a fry pan to sauté onions and beaver. Sauté onions and floured beaver in bacon grease, adding more grease as needed. Place sautéed cubes and onions in a 4 quart pot with enough water to cover. Add water to fry pan to remove the remainder of the bacon grease and flour. Add this pan gravy to your stew.

Slice carrots and dice celery. Add carrots and celery to your stew and simmer until beaver is somewhat tender (about 30 minutes). Taste broth and add salt or pepper to taste. Cut potatoes into 1 inch cubes and add enough water to just cover the meat and vegetables. Simmer until potatoes are done (about 30 minutes).

Country Style Beaver

2-3 lbs beaver steaks 1/2 inch thick
Bacon grease
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 medium onions
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can or 1/2 lb mushrooms

Combine flour, salt and pepper in a resealable bag or 2 quart plastic container (with lid) and shake until mixed. Add beaver and shake until well coated. Save remaining flour. Dice onions. Melt enough bacon grease in the bottom of a fry pan to sauté onions and beaver. Sauté onions and floured beaver in bacon grease, adding more grease as needed. Place beaver aside.

Combine soup and mushrooms in frying pan. Dissolve 2 to 3 heaping tbsp. of seasoned flour in 2 cups cold water. Add to soup mix and simmer 5 minutes. Add beaver and onions to mix and simmer covered for 30 minutes

Barbecue Sauce

1-32 oz. bottle ketchup
32 oz. cider vinegar
1 lb dark brown sugar
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp ground red pepper (heaping)

Mix and simmer 5 minutes

Remove as much fat as possible from one small or medium beaver. Place beaver in a foil lined roasting pan and bake, covered at 350 degrees F. for 1 1/4 hours, starting with the back down and then turning over after half an hour. Add water if beaver seems to be drying out. Cover with sauce, inside and out and cook uncovered for about half an hour. Add sauce every ten minutes. Tomato sauce will burn easily.

Traditional Vinegar Sauce

1 gal cider vinegar
10 oz. texas pete
1-32 oz. bottle ketchup
1 1/2 oz. C rushed red pepper
16 oz. honey
1 1/2 cups salt

Mix and simmer

Roasted Beaver

1 small or medium size beaver, cleaned and skinned
Baking soda
Sliced onions

Remove all surface fat. Cover meat with a weak solution of soda and water (1 tsp. soda to 1 qt water). Boil 10 minutes and drain. Cover beaver with bacon and onions and roast until tender. This will taste like roast goose and will fool anybody.


Beans, Beer, and Beaver Tail

Source: North American Hunting Club
"Celebrating Wild Game" p.127, Andi Flanagan, Seward, AK
Prep Time Varies

Ingredients Utensils
1 beaver tail Dutch oven
3 cups dried navy beans
6 slices bacon
3/4 cup molasses
2 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1/4 cup minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons salt

Skin beaver tail by holding over flame and charring until skin blisters and comes off in sheets
Cube the meat
Place beans in large Dutch oven and cover with cold water and bring to a boil
Boil for 5 minutes, remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour
Add water to cover beans and bring to a boil
Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour
Drain, reserving liquid and setting beans aside
Chop 3 slices of bacon and place in bottom of Dutch oven
Mix beans with beaver tail and put in Dutch oven
Mix beer, molasses, mustard, onion, garlic and salt and pour over beans, adding liquid if necessary to cover beans
Place 3 slices whole bacon on top, cover and bake at 250°F for 6 to 8 hours
Add bean liquid, beer or water as needed to keep beans barely covered
Remove lid during last hour of cooking to brown beans

Roast Beaver

Source: Justin Oxford
Prep Time Varies

Ingredients Utensils
1 beaver 5-6 gallon bucket
1.25 pounds rock salt grill

Skin beaver, remove tail head and tail (save tail for other recipe)
Place carcass in large bucket (5-6 gallon), cover with water and add 1.25 pounds of rock salt
Let stand overnight
Drain, and repeat for 3 days
On fourth day, rinse well
There is no reason to season with anything else, but you may flavor to taste with cayenne, garlic, or any other hearty spice
Fire up the Weber (barbecue grille) and cook over indirect medium heat until it pulls easily from bone
Tastes like a cross between great roast beef and moist turkey

BBQ Beaver-wiches

Submitted by: G E McIntyre

1 medium beaver, cut into serving pieces
1 cup chili sauce
1 cup beer
3 T. brown sugar
2 T. minced onion
1 T. minced garlic
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. liquid smoke
Dash hot pepper sauce
Salt and black pepper to taste
Kaiser rolls
Cole slaw for a relish

In Dutch oven, combine all ingredients except Kaiser rolls and Cole slaw; stir well to mix. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, or until meat is falling from bone. Remove beaver pieces with tongs and set aside until cool enough to handle. Pull meat from
bones and return to sauce; discard bones. Reheat gently if necessary. Warm Kaiser rolls in oven and fill with meat mixture. Top with Cole slaw. This is also very good served over rice.


Beaver Chili

Sent in by John Eifert.

2 3 lb. beaver meat
salt and pepper, course ground if available
1 large onion, chopped
4 carrots, dice
6 celery stalks with leaves, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 medium potatoes, cubed, optional
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1 can (15 oz) chopped tomatoes
6 8 roasted chili peppers, remove skins and seeds, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder

Liberally season meat on both sides with salt and pepper. Place in refrigerator uncovered for at least two hours.
Remove meat from refrigerator and place on counter for 20 minutes. Cube meat into bite size pieces.
In a large skillet, pot or Dutch oven, melt a little butter. Sauté the onion, carrots, celery and garlic until semi-soft.
Add the meat and cook over medium heat until cooked through.
Microwave the potatoes until semi-soft. Don't overcook.
To the meat mixture, add the potatoes, tomato sauce, chopped tomatoes, chopped chili peppers, cumin and chili powder. Stir together.
Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 60 - 90 minutes. Add a little water if too thick and not fully cooked.
Serve and Enjoy!


Roasted Beaver

Sent in by Brandon Mills.

1 whole beaver, cleaned
4 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced
2 onions, chopped
favorite seasonings
2 cups water

Liberally season meat inside and out with your favorite seasonings, salt, pepper, seasoning salt, garlic salt, etc.
Place beaver in large roasting pan. Add the potatoes, onions and water.
Cover with lid or foil.
Bake at 375 degrees for 2 1/2 hours or until done.
Remove lid and bake another 5 minutes or so to brown meat and veggies.
Serve and enjoy.


Fried Beaver

1 small beaver (20 lbs.), cleaned and skinned, cut into serving pieces, strips or cubes
6 slices bacon
1 tsp. seasoning salt

Remove fat from beaver and soak overnight in cold water. Drain. Cook in small amount of water until tender, then fry with bacon and seasoning salt. Variation: substitute hickory-smoked seasoning salt for plain seasoning salt

Source: Martin's Wild Recipes