Why I Decided to Trap Beavers

Beavah Diva!

Beavah Diva!

When I was a young girl, my mother arranged for me to be able to tag along with old Doc Kennard of Bedford, NH. Doc Kennard was kind of famous as a naturalist/surgeon and he had a bird-banding station at his house that I helped him out with after school. At least, I thought he was famous, because he wrote many articles in bird-banding journals, such as: Reverse migration in the Dark-eyed Junco. Anyway, he was a wealth of knowledge and he taught me how to identify birdcalls and to track animal and bird tracks in the snow and how to identify scat. He also removed my appendix.

I was a free-range kid. I was in love with the outdoors and built many “camps” in the woods where I set up small snare traps. I would camp out at my trap-lines overnight. I never caught anything, not sure I knew what I would do if I did find something in my snare. Actually, that’s not true. I did once catch a vole but it got away because it bit me. I still have a crescent shaped scar on my right thumb.

Most people automatically assume that I am a vegetarian. I have no idea why. Even as a young kid, I craved protein. While my younger siblings would be delighting in sweet treats, I would go straight for the leftover hunk of steak in the fridge. My sibs would be wallowing in chocolate pudding and I would be smeared with A-1 Steak Sauce.

I did go through a spell of vegetarianism in my late teens, as being macrobiotic was all the rage. By the time I was down to about 100 pounds, my hair began falling out and my periods stopped, I realized I had to embrace my Inner Carnivore. The migraines ceased with my first cheeseburger.

As an adult woman, my diet preference was fish with occasional poultry and no “red meat.” By the time menopause hit, the migraines were back with a vengeance. I realized I needed to embrace my Inner Carnivore once again. I craved all things red. It was a little scary. I became like Rosemary’s Baby.

But back to trapping. My husband, Tom Lajoie, likes to hunt and we have 400 acres of good hunting land in Ellsworth, Maine. I, however, don’t have a good history with guns. There was a very, very bad incident 25 years ago with my late husband and a 12-gauge shotgun. It did not end well. But I’m fine with trapping. And eviscerating. Tom is fine with killing but he developed a mild allergy to eviscerating. I took a course in “Field Dressing Big Game” so I can help him out. I am totally comfortable with cleaning out entrails. When we did in our 12 roosters that were originally sold to us as “pullets,” I found that I love having my hands in a still warm animal. It must be the midwife in me.

I like the idea of harvesting our own food. Tom and I are at a point in our lives where we would like to know the origins of the food we eat, as much as possible, especially meat. I would like to reduce the amount of commercially raised meat that we consume; the more we can avoid the hormones and antibiotics of supermarket meat, the better. Our dream is to provide as much sustenance from our own land as possible. We have about 100 beavers flooding our farm right now. Beavers have the highest concentration of protein of all the animals and are considered by some to be a gourmet delicacy. I want our beavers to be a sustainable, renewable source of protein for us.

And I want them in my freezer.


Postscript: Carol ultimately did apprentice with two seasoned New Hampshire trappers. One very experienced, life-long trapper was an older gentleman named Mutton Chop. The other trapper was a fearless Algonquin Indian woman trapper named Bonnie.

Carol got her NH Trappers license when she was in her early 60’s and Tom got his a year later. They have been eating beaver ever since.

Tom with a gorgeous red-pelted "ginger beaver" in Hopkinton, NH last week.

Tom with a gorgeous red-pelted “ginger beaver” in Hopkinton, NH last week.

Carol Leonard

About Carol Leonard

Carol Leonard is a midwife, a writer and a licensed beaver trapper. She was the first midwife licensed to practice legally in New Hampshire and has attended close to 1,200 babies born safely in their own homes. She was a co-founder of the Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA) representing all midwives in the US, Canada and Mexico. She was elected as the second president of MANA. Carol is the author of the best-selling memoir, Lady’s Hands, Lion’s Heart, A Midwife’s Saga, Bad Beaver Publishing, 2010. Carol is currently building a 400-acre farm in Ellsworth, Maine with her husband, Tom Lajoie. Her blog BAD BEAVER TALES: Love and Life in Downeast Maine, chronicles their informative and funny journey building their dream homestead on 400 acres of wilderness in Downeast Maine. Carol and Tom are also raising about a hundred beavers there that they argue about on a daily basis. These blog posts will be a collection of tales not just about Bad Beaver the place, but stories that meander around in her life, past and present—at the same time, Bad Beaver is where it all leads. As a writer friend says, “These stories from Bad Beaver are, at turns, brave, beautiful and just plain badass.”