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COLUMN: Muskrats should be very, very worried

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By Ben Carlson

Most guys who don’t own trucks almost always make buddies with guys who do.

There’s no way around doing so, unless you want to haul a new washing machine home atop the family sedan, or the deer you just harvested in the sedan’s trunk.

To a lesser degree and dependent upon their varied interests, there are also guys who seek out buddies with ponds. Being the proud owner of a pickup, I’ve become the latter and have very well befriended a local guy with a sizable pond in his front yard.

Those who read this space regularly have already deduced who owns the pond and its location. Just for the record, he needs no more friends — at least no more friends looking for a guy with a pond. That would cut into my fishing opportunities, and that’s a non-starter so stay away from him.

For those who don’t know him, perhaps you’ll recall our recent ice fishing exploits which, I found out this week, prompted firefighters to conduct ice rescue training last week in the county park pond.

Guess I don’t blame ’em for that.

Anyway, more pond-based exploits are on the way. This time, though, we aren’t the ones who could die. That will be the job of several families of pesky muskrats screwing with an otherwise perfectly good pond.

Although we have only a week to trap them as of this writing — season ends Feb. 28 — my buddy is now armed and ready for action.

He stopped by my office Monday afternoon, grinning from ear to ear while hoisting a conibear trap from the window of his truck (he doesn’t need any of those types of friends, either).

Trouble was, he had no idea how to set it.

A trapper from my halcyon days in upstate New York, I used conibear traps for years to catch muskrats and other furbearers back when furbearers were actually worth a buck or two.

To the uneducated, a conibear is generally regarded as a more humane way of trapping because instead of snapping on an animal’s foot, it instead snaps their neck, killing them in impact.

They’re great for water critters, particularly muskrats that slide from their holes above the water level and into the pond.

Stand down, all of you who are anti-trapping. We’re not doing this for sport or kicks. It’s either remove some of these pests from his pond or risk having them ruin the dam and lose it. We could use live traps, but then what? Dump in someone else’s pond and have them ruin it instead?

Anyway, I showed my buddy how to set a conibear trap and used an empty Mt. Dew bottle to demonstrate just how much damage such a trap can do to a man’s fingers or wrist. Unless you want to spring for X-rays and a cast, I suggest taking a lesson before using one of these. I also suggest taking into account the chances that a pet could get tangled up on one and set them accordingly.

As I mentioned, fur is generally not worth much these days. For that I blame the anti-fur crowd, the majority of which has no trouble wearing leather shoes or plopping their fannies in “fine Corinthian leather” car seats. But let someone wear an animal’s fur instead of its skin and Katie, bar the door.

So, instead of selling the fur, we plan to tan the hides and put it to use perhaps as fur-lined leather gloves or whatever else we can figure out.

Just rest assured that the fur will be put to good use, even if we have to bust a few fingers to get it.

E-mail Ben Carlson at bcarlson@theandersonnews.com.