More people should be trapping beavers next fall in the Hill County park that is the animal’s namesake.
After several months of discussion, the Hill County Park Board at its monthly meeting Monday in Havre approved taking applications for trapping in Beaver Creek Park south of Havre.
With the explosion in the beaver population — and the corresponding loss of trees as the animals cut them down — local residents have been asking the board to have more trapping.
Shawn Keeley, who has addressed the board about the beaver problem at previous meetings, passed around photos showing the damage the animals have been doing in the park.
“My main concern is to stop the damage before it gets into these campgrounds …, ” Healey said during public comments before the board addressed its agenda. “My solution is, we need more people trapping. ”
For several years, longtime beaver trapper John Holmes has been the only trapper authorized to take the animals from the park.
In his report after the vote was taken, park Superintendent Chad Edgar said Holmes had trapped 76 beavers this season as of the end of March.
The park board has set the beaver trapping season on the park from Oct. 15 through April 15, mainly to keep the trapping from causing problems for campers and users of the park. Board member and County Commissioner Kathy Bessette said that was put in place after a family’s dog was killed in a beaver trap.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Park Warden Sergeant Shane Reno told the board that the state beaver-trapping season for this region is longer. That runs from Sept. 1 through May 31. He added that, if necessary, FWP would allow additional trapping during the summer, as it always has.
“As far as I’m concerned, you can trap any time you want, ” Reno said.
Edgar requested the board allow him to let Holmes trap through the end of this month, to try to catch a few more of the animals.
“And tell him to hit it hard, ” board Chair Steve Mariani said.
In the board’s March meeting, Holmes said he thought he would be able to take care of the problem, adding that he was going to be working with a local youth this year. He suggested that, if the board wasn’t satisfied with the work, it could add more trappers for next season.
Edgar said at previous meetings that when he started as superintendent, there were more trappers, but he had trouble with them — aside from Holmes, who worked closely with him — following procedures and keeping him updated on their work.
Board Chair Steve Mariani said at Monday’s meeting that just adding more trappers might not solve the problem. He can remember when two other trappers were in the park along with Holmes, but that didn’t solve the problem of too many beavers.
“I don’t know that more is necessarily better, but maybe (we need) a method to the madness, ” he said.
Mariani said he thinks the best solution would be to divide the park into sections, and assign trappers to the sections, as the procedure had been in the past.
He added that he thinks Holmes should be given the first choice as to what section he would like to trap.
“I think we’ve got to also reward him for some loyalty, ” Mariani said.
Board member Larry Kinsella suggested that the increased number start next fall, giving Holmes time to remove his traps from areas he no longer would be working and giving the new trappers time to plan.
Reno said that trappers do prefer to have some time to plan, so they know what areas they will be working.
“Trappers are like hunters, ” he said. “They want their own little area. ”
Mariani said he wants an application put out. Edgar will review the submissions, and make the recommendations to the board at its July meeting with the selection finalized in August.
Board member Robbie Lucke said to make sure Edgar has no problems with the trappers selected, he put all requirements including what reporting Edgar wants from the trappers clearly in the application and bring that up in the interviews so they adhere to the requirements.
“That’s why we ended up with just one (trapper) and that could happen again …, ” Lucke said. “Reiterate and say, ‘It's really important. You're not going to be there if you don’t follow (the requirements.) ’”