Feb. 23—Bill Currier says he hopes that Grand Haven Township doesn't spend too much money trapping the nuisance beaver out of Pottawattomie Bayou.
After all, Currier had already trapped several beavers out of the lodge located just to the west of the township's Pottawattomie Park.
Currier, 83, has been trapping since he was a youngster, so when beaver began taking down small trees in front of his home on the bayou, he put his seven decades of trapping skills to work.
"They started cutting my trees about 5-6 years ago," said Currier, who worked at the Story and Clark piano factory in downtown Grand Haven until it closed, then eventually retired from Hayworth, where he worked in quality control. "I had seen sign of them down by Poel Island (in the Grand River), but never on the bayou. Then they started cutting trees. They cut down a tree that fell across my neighbor's bayou."
One of the beavers Currier trapped in front of his house tipped the scales at 49 pounds. Another weighed 22 pounds.
Currier says he doesn't trust the ice around the beaver lodge because it sits near a spring that runs alongside his yard. That spring keeps fresh water flowing into the bayou and weakens the ice.
"I can trap until April 23, so as soon as the ice goes out, I'll stick my boat in and row over there, and I'll start trapping again," he said as he leafed through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources' fur trapping guide.
Currier grew up in Robinson Township, where he and friends trapped the county dig lines that ran along M-45. His most memorable catch at that time was a mink; he sold the hide for $15.
"That was way back in '54 and I bought my high school sweater with it," he said.
Currier says he eventually expanded his territory. He would travel to the Upper Peninsula for long weekends, setting his trap lines in the evening and then spending the night in a trailer before checking the traps the next morning. He'd also trap during deer season, checking trap lines during the middle of the day, between morning and evening hunts.
Currier loves the outdoors. He's hunted ducks and geese, whitetail and mule deer, elk and caribou. He has the caribou antlers mounted in his garage, which is crammed floor to ceiling with a collection of traps, outdoors gear and much more.
At 83, he's realized that his trapping days are nearing an end — slogging through the mud and the muck doesn't have the same appeal it once did, he says, and his balance isn't quite what it once was.
He plans to sell most of his traps this summer at a garage sale. If those traps could talk, they'd have many stories to tell. He's trapped mink and muskrats, beaver, coyote, fox, otter — and even caught a badger at one point.
The money he gets from selling furs isn't much. This past year, he got $3.50 a piece for muskrat furs.
"The highest 'rat I ever sold was $30 — that was four years ago," Currier said. "It depends on the color, the quality — the later you get them, it's usually the better. I've got $40 for a mink, and the most I ever got with a fox was $70. Beaver was like $47 or $48. You don't trap unless you have fun doing it."
Currier also traps to help golf courses and neighborhoods deal with nuisance critters. He's trapped muskrats, groundhogs and the like at the Spring Lake Country Club and the West Ottawa Golf Course, and most recently at the Cutter Park subdivision. People get his contact information from the Michigan Trappers & Predator Callers Association, of which he was once the president.
Currier says he loves being surrounded by wildlife, and his wooded lot on Pottawattomie Bayou is a haven for deer, ducks, geese, mink, muskrats, fox and coyotes. He's even got a trail camera photo of a bobcat that walked through his yard last year.
"We've had sandhill cranes and turkey in the yard, too," he said.
Earlier this week, Currier was surprised to see what he estimated to be 40 robins flittering in and out of the brush near the water's edge. He assumes they were eating the dried-up berries off the bittersweet vines.
"I've never seen that many robins this early in the year," he said. "They usually don't show up like this until April."