Conibears, or body gripping traps, may be the most widely used beaver trap, simply because any farmer or landowner knows how to set them, and that they will kill beavers. Conibears can be set just like footholds and snares, at slides where beavers are coming out of the water to feed or check a castor mound. Where they really shine though is in natural travelways, established channels, or runs, where beavers are used to swimming. These areas can be easy to identify either by sight or feel. If there is a lot of vegetation, or very clear shallow water, you should be able to see a well defined run 12-16″ wide. If the water is deep enough many times beavers will prefer to travel on the bottom rather than the surface. Over time this will result in a depression along the channel of hard packed mud. This depression can be felt with your feet as you are wading around the beaver pond. In cases where beavers have been in an area for a number of years these depressions can be significantly deeper than the rest of the pond. Many a trapper and duck hunter has gone over his waders, or his head, by stepping off in an unknown beaver run.
When you do locate a run you simply place the conibears directly in the run and wait for the beaver to be caught. If the run is shallow and part of the trap sticks up out of the water, that shouldn’t bother anything, but there are instances where beavers can become trap-shy and avoid the square outline of conibears. These instances are ready made for dive sets. A dive set is just a conibears placed in a run with a stick or log over the trap. The stick encourages the beaver to dive (typically beavers will swim on the surface or right on the bottom) and when they dive they go right through the trap. A lot of times you can find a natural dive set location but if you don’t you can place a stick over the trap with the same affect. You want a good sized stick, about the size of your arm, and you want it to stay put, so you may have to wire it in place. You just want to be sure it doesn’t float away and the beaver swims on the surface right over your trap.
The key to setting conibears is stabilization. You can’t just set a conibear in a run and leave it. You have to use some method to make sure a beaver doesn’t just knock the trap over and swim right past it. Below you’ll see a picture of three different means of stabilization.
The trap on the left is stabilized with sticks. This is a good option if you are in shallow water, or if theft may be an issue and you don’t want to draw unnecessary attention to your trap. You simply push a couple 2″ or so sticks in the mud, angling them towards the center of the trap. You can then position the springs up or down to put pressure against the sticks and make the trap solid. Another good way to keep the trap from being wobbly is to let the top end of your sticks go right between the upper corners of the trap. This way if the trap does move, it will only move slightly before it comes in contact with the sticks, then it will hold firm.
The stabilizer in the center is an H stand, these come in both long(as in the picture) and short sizes. For these you set your trap, then slide the set trap onto the stand. The stands are made to fit certain sized conibears, so they hold your trap very solidly. The uprights of the stand will go between the springs on each side of the trap, then you slide the trap all the way down until it seats firmly at the corners.
On the right you have a Stakealizer, which is a rebar stake adapted to hold a conibear. As you are setting the trap you close the jaws between the rods on each side. This locks the trap in place and doesn’t allow it to leave the Stakealizer until the trap is fired. This also helps to keep your trap profile low which can be a plus.