OAKLAND — Caleb Jones is up at 4:30 a.m. most days so he can head out to set and tend his beaver traps.

They are all over Kennebec County, where he has planned a route and set traps in large waterways.

“Sunday was my best day ever on beaver,” Jones, 28, of Oakland said last week. “It was 22. Last week, I set my record and caught a 67-pound beaver.”

Jones works full time during the week doing plumbing and heating, so trapping is an avocation he calls “Caleb’s Critter Removal.”

“I don’t make enough to claim it on taxes, but it sounds catchy,” Jones said.

Right now, it is recreational trapping season in Maine, which begins in mid-October and ends April 15, Jones said.

After recreational trapping seasons ends, people who want beavers removed from their property because the rodents chew through their trees can call Jones.

Jones said he is on a list of names the Maine Warden Service keeps in case people call.

“I always tell people they are the peskiest animals when they want to be,” he said.

Jones charges $100 to set up for and then trap the first beaver. If a person wants three beavers removed, it costs $200, according to Jones. Live trapping is more costly, at $200 a trap.

Last summer, a lake association contacted him about a beaver that was plugging a dam. When the chute was opened, the beaver would start shoving sticks under it, according to Jones.

“We took six beaver out of there,” he said. “The people with the lake association were very happy, and we relocated the beaver to a happy home where they could just be themselves.”

Trapper Caleb Jones of Oakland wades into the water March 21 while checking a beaver trap in China. Jones was checking about 40 traps he had set in Belgrade, China, Richmond and Windsor. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

The box traps he sets around the county during recreational trapping season are submerged in water and he uses a stick from a poplar tree and a lure made from the glands of a beaver to draw them in and they die in less than a minute, he said. Then he skins and fleshes them and places them on a board to dry and sells the fur to one of four buyers he knows in Maine, he said.

“The carcass usually goes to bait hunters who hunt coyote, or native Americans hunt bear in the spring on reservations,” Jones said. “There’s a lot of different things people use the fur for. A large thing for beaver fur is cowboy hats. I’ve watched a video. They grind it up in a pulp and form it on a mold. That’s how they do it.”

Jones has been trapping beaver seriously for seven or eight years, but he began doing it when he was s child growing up in Oakland.

“When I became an adult, I took a trapper’s educational course and started getting into it and had some help along the way and flourished,” he said.

He loves to eat beaver meat, which he claims is delicious.

“It’s excellent,” he said. “It’s the best. It tastes better than deer meat.”

A beaver is stored in a container as trapper Caleb Jones of Oakland loads another beaver into his truck March 21, while checking his trap lines in China. Jones was checking about 40 traps he had set in Belgrade, China, Richmond and Windsor. He says he trapped five beaver that weighed up to 45 pounds. Jones says the beaver pelts are used to make cowboy hats. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

He tries to tend his traps every two days.

“It’s a short season and it’s a lot of fun. It feels freeing. It’s something I love. When you have a passion, you have to do it.”

This time of year, a beaver can run anywhere between 15 to 77 pounds, he said.

Jones can easily drive 100 miles a day to tend traps, he said.

He is a member of the Maine Trappers Association, which holds an auction every year in April.

“They literally try to get three or four buyers to come and when you put goods on a table, people bid on them and the highest bid wins.”

A big problem Jones encounters in the spring, he said, is that people steal his traps.

“They don’t know it’s trapping season,” Jones said. “They see a trap, shove a stick in it, take it. This season I’ve had three stolen. Every time they take a trap, it’s 20 bucks, easily, and that’s the cheaper trap. The larger ones are $35. If people don’t know that, they don’t know any better. It’s not their fault. They’re not knowledgeable about it.”

Comments are no longer available on this story