ROLLIN TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Two old friends in Lenawee County's Rollin Township have teamed up to start an unlikely career as beaver trappers.
Gregg Ries and Melvin Tanner have taken out state licenses and registered part-time businesses as trappers, specializing in removing a nuisance animal most people do not yet realize is setting up colonies in Lenawee County.
Beavers got the attention of Lenawee County Road Commission officials recently when they discovered a bridge on Medina Road was in danger. Beavers were gnawing a large tree that reportedly would have fallen on the bridge.
Tanner and Ries caught three beavers in Bean Creek near the bridge, the largest weighing 43 pounds. Ries said they will keep a lookout for more in that area while preparing for their next project.
A farm owner east of Devils Lake has hired them to trap beavers that Tanner said have caused serious flooding of property along Sandy Beach Road.
The two men said they have been trapping as a hobby since they were boys. The arrival of beavers in Hillsdale County some years ago sparked the idea for turning it into a part-time business.
Beavers began showing up in Hillsdale County at least 10 years ago, Ries said. It was about five years ago that a friend who farms in that county asked for help when beavers began harvesting a corn field to build a dam. He got his state license at that time, going into business as Trapper G.R.
Tanner said he got his license two years ago and started out trapping on farms in Hillsdale County where fields were being flooded.
"They've got it pretty heavy over there," Tanner said.
He also removed a family of beavers that was damming a creek along Junction Road, north of Addison.
"I'm just more or less getting started in it," said Tanner, who has been laid off from a factory in Jonesville for two years. Business is expected to pick up as beavers become more established in Lenawee County, he said.
"They can do a lot of damage once they get a foothold," Tanner said.
Ries said he works at a factory in Adrian while pursuing the trapping business in his spare time. His biggest customer so far has been the Hillsdale County Drain Commission office. This year he received his first paychecks from the Lenawee County Drain Commission after trapping beavers at Horseshoe Lake on the county border.
"I've always enjoyed trapping and I've been doing it all my life," Ries said. "It's a whole different thrill catching beavers than anything else."
The animals are similar in behavior to muskrats, he said. But their size puts them in an entirely different class.
The largest of the more than 100 beavers he has caught so far weighed 63 pounds, Ries said.
He said he expects trapping services will be more in demand as beavers spread into Lenawee County.
"Yeah, we're hoping," he said with a laugh.
Beavers may have made their way as far east as Adrian, he said.
"They probably already are there, just people don't realize it," Ries said. A friend recently told him about finding a small beaver that was hit by a car along U.S. 223 in Adrian near the bridge over the South Branch of the River Raisin.
Tree and flood damage can happen quickly when a family of beavers arrives to establish a new home, he said.
"If they're left unchecked they'll take a 2-foot creek and build dams across it and have several acres flooded," Ries said.
"You can knock their dam out and they'll put it back in a day or two," Tanner said. "It's amazing what they can do."
Information from: The Daily Telegram, http://www.lenconnect.com