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I was out early today, before the snow began to fall, nailing POSTED placards along either side of the town road that cuts through our land. We had recently seen from a window someone leaving the woods beyond our pond, being picked up along the road by a red pickup. Hunters or trappers, we’d figured.

So, on the morning of New Year’s Day we bundled up and hiked the area, looking for traps or signs of hunting. We found nothing suspicious, but decided that the time had come to post no hunting/trapping signs along either side of the road. Somewhat perversely, I guess, we like that all that wildlife around us–rabbits, turkeys, deer, fox, and the like–is free to invade our vegetable garden every summer, helping themselves to whatever we can’t protect.

I was just about finished with the posting when a white pickup truck pulled up at the side of the road and a young man rolled down his window. Introducing himself (the son of the tax collector in the town just to our south), he got to the point: could he and his dad trap beaver in the wetlands sitting on the southernmost portion of our land?

The irony of the situation did not escape me. Here I was in the very act of posting signs to prevent just such behavior and I was being asked to negate the warning.

The guy said that he and his dad had already been trapping a portion of the “swamp,” and which is owned by a neighbor. They had snagged five beaver. I figured they probably were already poaching on our land, and when he found out or saw what I was doing hurried to make his plea.

And here’s where I needed to make a decision: against the mean trappers and for those creatures of the wild, doing what they do naturally, busy engineers constructing dams and building their families; or for the trappers and against those nasty, destructive pests, indiscriminate destroyers of woodlands and cloggers of culverts who caused the flooding of the land around them.

I thought all this out for a couple of seconds, and chose the latter. Go right ahead and catch as many of those critters as you can, I said. But I just couldn’t leave things at that. Heartlessly, I added that all I wanted in return was one beaver pelt to cure and turn into something, maybe a hat? We shook hands on the deal, without an advocate for the beavers present.