Game wardens: There is a need for trapping
Amid the trees and bushes at a south Tyler lake, it appears Paul Jones is content.
With waders on, he trudges into the water near a beaver dam, pointing out how he traps the animals, and where they've been in the lake.
Jones, 67, has been to the area many times. It's one of the local places where he traps beavers for residents. Although the practice is business for him, he also has an interest in the animals.
"It intrigued me that they were so industrious, and that they could be so very, very destructive," he said. "So I felt there was a control issue there, and when I talked to game wardens, I learned they were a serious problem for ranchers and farmers because they change water courses (and can potentially flood areas and trees)."
Jones began looking at beaver trapping after his sister-in-law, who has a private lake east of Tyler, complained about beavers eating her sweetgum trees.
He lived in Austin at the time, but his wife encouraged him to learn about beaver trapping, go to Tyler and catch the beavers for her sister. So he came to Tyler in February 2007, and during the course of a cold and wet week, killed all eight beavers that were at the lake.
"It was an education. It was hard work to be blunt," Jones said.
Then after his wife died in September 2007, he moved to East Texas, and his sister-in-laws pushed him to continue his interest in trapping to keep himself occupied. Jones said he later talked with local game wardens, who said there is a need for beaver trapping.
One of his other sister-in-laws even designed a "chewed up" looking logo for him to use, and he seriously started beaver trapping in spring 2008.
"I had done some trapping in the Austin area for raccoon and fox and skunk when I was much younger, but the beaver was occasioned by her sister being besieged at her private lake with beavers chewing her trees," he said. "A beaver can take down a large tree very, very quickly. The problem is, you kill a beaver, one's going to replace it."
Typically, he said, a mother and father find a location, breed in January or February and will have a litter of three or four offspring. The gestation period is about 100 to 110 days.
Then by the time a second litter is born, it's time for first to leave the habitat, Jones said.
"Those pushed out find a water source mate. When you trap all beavers at a given location, it doesn't take long for other beavers to come in and fill the spot," he said.
At the private lake in south Tyler, six to 10 beavers were trapped years ago. Then last fall, Jones was hired to try to remove the problem because he said residents were scared beavers would tunnel into the dam at the lake. He killed 15 beavers there, but there is evidence that the animals are coming back, Jones said.
In addition to destruction of dams, beavers will also eat foliage and possibly damage roads. For instance, Jones said a farm-to-ranch road started collapsing because beavers were digging up from a marsh area under the roadway, and the weight of traffic collapsed it.
"They can cause a great deal of damage. ... It's a very serious economic issue," he said.
Last year, he trapped 88 beavers.
He said if game wardens or Tyler animal control have calls outside the city limits, they'll refer him. He also traps raccoons, possums, armadillos, and skunks. Occasionally, he said an otter will get in a trap, but he doesn't try to catch them.
Jones uses three traps for beavers, including a foot trap and a body trap that is set in water.
"I'm very meticulous -- I don't want to hurt anything that's not a target," he said.
He has multiple tactics for trapping, one of which is using a scent gland from the beaver, which will lure beavers from other locations.
"They are attracted in the sense that 'Some stranger's on my property,'" Jones said.
If someone does want him to trap, he said, he will not do anything considered illegal or questionable or trap just because the person wants to hurt an animal. He said there must be a purpose.
His trapping might bring in business and revenue, but he said he doesn't enjoy killing animals. Therefore, he ensures that, if he can, he will put them out of their misery as quickly as possible. He checks traps each morning and removes the animals once they're dead.
While Jones' interest in trapping beavers goes back years, his other interest -- fishing -- goes back even further. Jones attends places of historic events around the country and lectures on the history of angling in different eras.
He started fly fishing and tying lines when he was 11. Then when he was 14, his grandfather, an antiquities collector in the 1940s and 1950s, introduced him to a friend at a British museum, who sent him a Roman fishhook that had been found in the Thames river in ancient London. He said he started collecting at that point and continues.
He has about a dozen hooks that were found in the Thames river foreshore and has hooks from 300 B.C. to 1790. Occasionally, he said he enjoys fishing with rods from the early 1800s.
"I make horsehair fishing lines, which is what they used...," he said. "I am extremely interested in the history of fishing -- how it started. I can say with absolute accuracy that the way we fish today is only different by a degree of the way they fished in the 1600s."
Jones typically does five to 10 lectures a year.
"I just like to go where things happen, and I like to connect the dots, so when I'm talking about fishing, it intrigues me. Where did we get where we are today?" he said.
This month, he will be at Fort Loudoun in Tennessee, a French and Indian War historic site.
Troup resident Bill Lacy's, daughter feeds Jones' animals.
Lacy said his daughter wanted to grow a garden, and he tilled land for her to begin planting.
"He's also in the Rotary Club. He's just a real nice guy," he said.