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What's the Point?

Okay, so we know how I’ll benefit from this endeavor. I’ll gain experience in the great outdoors that will help me write a better book set in the Adirondacks. But you, my dear reader, may well be asking, “What’s in all this for me?” Hopefully you’ll gain a little knowledge, have a few laughs, and vicariously enjoy a sense of adventure. Think of it as a modern-day Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, where you get to sit comfortably at your computer screen – much like Marlin Perkins watching from a safe distance behind some bushes. I, on the other hand, will go out into the wild, ala Jim Fowler, and do all the heavy lifting in an effort to entertain you.

            Well, on second thought…

« I Will Survive! | Bobsledding For Dummies »

It's A Trap!

I have a problem with wild life. Correction: make that wildlife, because my actual life is pretty dull. My most pressing wildlife problem at the moment involves otters that visit my dock every night. I’ve never actually seen one of them, but I’m aware of their presence because they leave what my mother would refer to as their “calling card.” And if that’s their calling card, I assume that they like to call each other “stinky fish poop.”

That’s right – those cute little aquatic animals everyone loves to watch at the aquarium are actually sleek vessels of foul-smelling doom. Nearly every evening they torpedo my dock with droppings that smell like the scrap heap from Satan’s All-Night Sushi Restaurant and Chum Bucket Emporium. Any horizontal surface is fair game for their deposits: dock posts, kayaks, even flip-flops. And what they don’t poop on they drag into the water to play with and leave on the bottom of the lake. Thoughtless bastards.

I’ve tried various things to dissuade them from visiting my dock, including dried coyote urine, which resulted in giving the entire area a festive, unattended restroom vibe. I eventually called a guy who advertised the humane removal and relocation of nuisance animals. He told me, “Lady, it’s outside. There are going to be wild animals. Get used to it.” But I didn’t want to get used to it. I wanted to get even.

So naturally when I learned that the Becoming an Outdoors Woman program (BOW) was offering a course called “Beginning Trapping,” I was eager to sign up. At last, I thought, I’d find a way to be rid of my otter problem. And while I was as it, I might also learn how to keep chipmunks from digging in my garden.

The instructors were knowledgeable and experienced trappers. The first thing they stressed was the importance of responsible trapping and knowing the laws. Then we were told that a responsible trapper must kill a trapped animal quickly and humanely, either by shooting it or by asphyxiation. That’s when I realized that the proper use of Have-a-heart traps would not be on the syllabus. (Fun fact: otters and other aquatic mammals are biologically incapable of taking water into their lungs, so they asphyxiate rather than drown. Now you’re a shoo-in to win the next Grizzly Adams Memorial Trivia Bowl. You’re welcome.)

Once we’d covered the basics in the classroom, we hiked into the woods to observe actual trapping in action. We stopped at a place where the instructors said there were lots of signs that animals had been passing through. I looked around for one of those cute little Bunny X-ing signs, but there’s nothing except trees and rocks. I was going to raise my hand and point out it was impossible to see any animal signs with all this nature in the way. Then I remembered I couldn’t find my way back out of the woods following my own footsteps in the snow, so I decided to keep my mouth shut.


The instructors took out a trap and placed it in what they said was an ideal location. Again, I chose to defer to the experts, because at this point I couldn’t tell a rock from a hard place. Then it was time to bait the trap. My mistake was in thinking that by baiting a trap you would want to use something enticing to lure an animal to the trap. But there’s not a jar of Jif peanut butter or empty tuna fish can to be seen. Which was a good thing because all that hiking had made me hungry and I may have been tempted to go for the bait – trap or no trap.

Instead, one of the instructors whipped out a small vial containing a dark yellowish-green substance that looked like the reason penicillin was invented. She removed the cap, told us to smell it, and like a lemming with a craving for Kool-Aid, I blindly obeyed. An action I immediately regretted.

“What does it smell like?” she asked. I really didn’t know, because – on the plus side – I’d never smelled anything like it before. On the minus side – it was hard to think because I was too busy trying to find a way to reach inside my skull and rip out my own olfactory nerve so I’d never have to smell anything else. Ever again.

The instructor informs us that it’s beaver castor, made from the anal scent glands of beavers. You can buy it over the Internet, or you can also make it yourself. It can get expensive though because first you need a beaver. Then you have to buy it dinner. Otherwise it probably won’t let you anywhere near its anal scent glands. The effort might be worth it, though, because beaver castor glands are also used in perfumes (Axe body spray, anyone?) and is approved by the FDA as a “natural flavoring” (our government hard at work – bon appétit).

  It’s hard to imagine any animal being attracted to this scent. But maybe the idea is that once an animal gets a whiff it loses its will to live and willingly crawls into the trap to die.

Turns out, there’s a lot more to this whole trapping thing than Wile E. Coyote and the Acme Trap Supply Company would lead you to believe. So I guess my dock otters will live to see another day. I’m just going to have to get used to watching where I step.


Reader Comments (1)

Hi, Very nice piece of writing. What has my attention is the very cute bunny crossing sign. I have been searching the internet for it, and can't find it anywhere. Could you tell me where you found it.

Thank you,

August 20, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterErin Simon

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