November 13, 2007
Turner Co. -- No one better exemplifies the old saying about time is money than Kirk DeKalb. "If you're not efficient, it just won't work," says Kirk as he quickly pulls a fishing boat out of his storage space.
Some people can't wait for the morning commute to work. "Let's go get them," says Kirk about the upcoming day's excitement and the mystery that lies ahead. "You don't know what's going to be there," says Kirk as his paddles to the other side of a pond.
Kirk DeKalb's work involves a battle of wits. "I've got nine traps in here," says Kirk, a self-taught trapper who thinks like beavers. State law requires him to check his traps daily.
"You got to think about what he's going to do," says Kirk.
He immediately sees foot prints near the receding waterline. "They're there," says Kirk knowing that beavers want fast food and live close to peanut fields, for example. They eat and quickly return to the safety of water.
"He, he look at here," says Kirk with obvious joy in his voice.
He lifts a 35-pound beaver from under the water, caught in one of his strategically placed traps. Kirk beat them at their own game this time by studying their runs, the slick places near the water that beavers frequently use.
"I'm going to set this trap right back where it was," says Kirk, as he decorates the trap site.
He used floating sticks that cause an unsuspecting beaver to dive right into Kirk's waiting trap.
It would seem he has contempt for the animals when you see and hear the joy he expresses when he catches one. "I don't hate him. I respect him. I understand what he does. He's so destructive," says Kirk.
Big time destructive. USDA's Wildlife Services estimates they cause $200 million in damage in the southern US alone, even more when considering all parts of the country and Canada.
Beavers have become nuisances almost everywhere, and they can create safety hazards for motorists.
A group of beavers have started undermining a roadbed in the County, and you can see the opening of their den several feet below. If the damage continues in as little as two years, the road could suddenly collapse.
"You're trying to outsmart them," says Kirk, and one way he matches wits with them involves weather forecasts.
"When fronts come through, that's when the animals move," says Kirk, and hopefully they will move into his traps.
He expects a population explosion when the drought breaks. "They are just like a cancer. They're still having young. They're still getting more and more," says Kirk who expects an army of beavers to march when water levels increase.
He'll go after them, working 15 hours a day. "Oh, boy. We got another one here. Hot dog," says Kirk who noticed one of their den's openings looked a little more used than another. His hunch paid off.
The remaining beavers learn quickly. "Once you catch a few, they spook and so I'm constantly going to new places," says Kirk.
His approach works. "I catch about 900 to a thousand beavers each year," says Kirk.
He gets $40 each and worth much more to him since he doesn't mind being trapped in a world of professional enjoyment.