Ben and I drop my step-son, Chayce, off at school and make the short drive to the peninsula. We park at a small pull-out, and drag the sled out of the trunk.
Very little snow remains, and I think finding the traps should be easy. The two-day rain, however, has been followed by freezing temperatures and snowfall. As I jab the end of a shovel into the ground to spring the first trap, it closes in slow motion. The traps have been frozen despite our best efforts to mix antifreeze in with the sets. They've been in the ground now for about a month, so it's time to pull them and start again.
The second and third traps are the same--they barely close around the shovel handle when I stab the ground. Ben helps me dig the stakes out--quite a process because in sand we use two stakes, crossed in the ground to prevent any animal from dragging the trap and all away from the trap site. Sand makes everything more complicated. The stakes are 24 inches long, so we dig down into the sand a ways, and then loop a small piece of rope around the top of the stake and pull. The stakes come free, and we load everything into the sled.
The fourth trap set, despite its location being marked by orange flagging, is missing. I know it's there, somewhere under the snow--but the tell-tale mouse hole is missing. We dig, and dig, and dig, and still nothing. Maybe it was stolen. It's happened already with this project; not a trap, but a game camera.
In early fall, Carrie and I headed out to the field to set up game cameras. These are the kind you leave strapped to a tree, and it takes photographs if anything passes in front of the camera's sensor. We had a little luck, until one of the cameras came up missing. Each camera was in a metal security box, and then cable-tied to the tree with a lock. Each security box fitted with a combination lock, and then each camera inside has an eight digit code to access the controls and photos. So, whoever the thief is-- the camera is useless to them.
We return later that afternoon with my nephew, Andrew, who has a metal detector. Good thing children still have hobbies. The trap is steel, and the stakes are rebar metal, so a metal detector should easily locate the trap for us under the snow.
Andrew is eager to help. We return to the park, and make the short hike with Fenris and Chayce in tow.
A few passes over the snow, and beeping reveals a large piece of siding--probably put there by researchers trying to determine which snake species exist on the park. In the summer, large flat objects are perfect hiding places for snakes--so if they are provided a hiding spot scientists can monitor who takes up residence under the foreign object.
Scanning, scanning, scanning...I really don't want to report another theft for this project. I have Andrew widen his search area. I was the one who set this trap, so this is my fault for not remembering it's location. I vaguely remember the orange flagging not being right on target because there was nothing to tie it to. Andrew continues to search.
Just as we are about to leave, beep, beep, beep. Something else metal in a pile of dirt and snow. Andrew nudges it with his shoe, and it immediately becomes apparent to us that this is the trap! But it has been set off, and there is no sign of what or who was our visitor. No hair in the jaws. It's been here so long, that any tracks have long since been erased by wind, rain and snow.
We dig the last trap out, pull the stakes and head to reward ourselves with milkshakes. Jamoca for me please.