I Trapped A Beaver

So last week, I had an unusual experience: I was part of a good old fashioned beaver trapping.  Here’s the story and a few leadership insights the experience revealed.

I live a block from downtown Dundas.  There’s a bunch of water and forest close by, but our house is at least a mile from the closest potential beaver habitat, and that’s why we were shocked when we saw a beaver hiding under our neighbour’s front porch.  Technically, a dog saw the beaver first, but as soon as people were alerted, a small crowd of neighbourhood folks gathered to have a gander.  Country-dwellers might be tempted to make a joke about people in Dundas not getting out that much, but that wouldn’t be fair.  We get out plenty, but beaver sightings are rare for most city-dwellers – even in Canada.

Now, I don’t know what the standard protocol is, but I figured that beavers in the city have a propensity to become roadkill, so I looked up animal control and gave them a call.  “Oh yes – the Dundas beaver.” She sounded oddly familiar with the case.  “We’ve had a few reports about him in the past few weeks.  But it sounds like he’s wandering a little farther than before.”

“You actually know which beaver I’m talking about?” I could hardly believe it, although I guess it sort of makes sense, since there probably aren’t that many beavers who wander around Dundas.  I had a moment of appreciation that there were people whose entire job was to help track and, if necessary, capture and move, animals that were somehow out of place in the city.

So the van showed up shortly, and I offered my help to the solo officer.  Having exactly zero experience trapping beavers, I didn’t think I could actually be helpful, but I figured she had a hard job and it would be a nice gesture to offer. Her response came as a bit of a surprise.  “Sure!” She said. “You can work the cage for me.”

I tried to sound confident. “Yeah… no problem!”  I was a little scared.  Beavers have big teeth.  I’ve seen what they do to trees, and my legs are a lot more bite-able than tree trunks.  I had a brief vision of a beaver gnawing off my leg before dragging it down the street and throwing it on the dam.

She added, “Also, I might need your help to lift the cage into the van after we catch it.  Beavers are heavy.”  She seemed to exude confidence that we were, in fact, going to catch this beaver.  That made one of us.

Our initial plan was to use a big pole to corral the beaver in to the cage, but it seemed more willing to endure the poking than face the prospect of leaving the cover of the porch, so we brought in reinforcements (a 65 year old neighbour).  Using two poles with cable loops on it, they wrestled the beaver onto the lawn and lifted it into the cage.  Keeping a careful eye on the beaver’s mouth to ensure I kept all my fingers, I snapped the lid shut (the extent of my role…).  Although the 50 pound ball of muscle demonstrated his power with a few big writhing pushes, the beaver was, overall, more docile than I thought.  Maybe he knew he was getting a free taxi back home.

So – leadership tips and success insights from this little experience.

  1. Try to appreciate all the unseen effort that makes your life good.  A lot of people who have jobs that are essential (like animal control services) that aren’t really in the public eye until they’re needed.  It takes a lot of people to keep a community safe.
  2. Have faith that your followers can actually achieve what you’re dreaming to do.  The officer’s confidence made me feel a little better that things were going to turn out okay.
  3. Enlist the help of others.  Not only was the job easier with many people helping, but it actually made the helpers feel like we had some role in the success!  The officer did herself a favour by asking for help, but she also did US a favour!
  4. Be flexible.  Things rarely go according to plan.  Have a good backup plan and be ready to use it.
  5. Get involved with interesting things.  Even though I wasn’t the star of the show, my role was important, and I was proud to contribute!

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