By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The beavers of Wyoming were in the spotlight this week on a popular hunting YouTube channel.
“Meat Eater,” a web series hosted by hunter and conservationist Steven Rinella, covered the Wyoming beaver and the centuries-old Mountain Man Rendezvous in Daniel, Wyoming, a town about 100 miles south of Yellowstone.
“Guys would come down out of the mountains after having little or no human contact for upwards of a year,” Rinella explained. “They would trade stretched and dried beaver pelts for things like alcohol, traps, rifles, gunpowder and lead and female company. It was a blowout party.”
Rinella said beaver trapping has always been difficult work, as it demands skill, patience and aptitude. He also pointed out that next to humans, beavers alter their environment more than any creature on earth.
Beavers are native to Yellowstone, and in 2015, there were around 100 colonies detected.
During the “Meat Eater” episode, Rinella traps and skins a beaver. He noted that at the height of the beaver trade, the reward for pelts was high enough that people were willing to risk both life and limb, literally.
“These guys out west were risking death by grizzly bears, other mountain men and Native Americans, who often resented these trappers for outright theft of their resources and livelihood,” he explained.
Rinella also discussed the explorer John Colter, who during the winter of 1807, became the first person of European descent to enter the region now known as Yellowstone National Park and to see the Teton Mountain Range. He is considered one of, if not the first, the earliest mountain men.
Rinella recounter “Colter’s run,” a story of the explorer and his partner being captured by the Blackfeet tribe.
“The Blackfeet killed his trapping partner, disemboweled [him] and took his testicles and guts and smeared them all over John Colter,” he said. “They stripped Colter naked, gave him a running head start and then they took after him to kill him.”
Colter ultimately ran five miles to evade his captors, but did so successfully, although he did kill one brave.