[Castor canadensis. Source: Wikipedia]
beaver n. A large aquatic rodent having thick brown fur, webbed hind feet, a broad flat tail and sharp incisors used for felling trees and building dams.
–The American Heritage Dictionary (5th ed.)
When late summer arrives here in the North Country and the leaves begin to turn red, gold and yellow, I like to reminisce about the fun facts and involvement I’ve had with the wildlife that is abundant in the Northern Tier of New York State, deep in the Adirondack forest, where animals and plants, from bears to wildflowers flourish.
I’ve written about the fascinating lives of spiders, black flies, mosquitoes, gnats and bees. This year, I’d like to turn my attention to the cuddly little furry critters that scamper about my yard at all hours of the day and night. The squirrels are just so full of life…they scamper about and make cute attempts to scratch holes into our eaves so they can live in our attic. The deer almost seem ready to eat out of my hand as I sit on the front deck. Every time I walk across the tiny little patch of grass that we like to call “our lawn”, I get yet another chance to check my body for ticks.
We don’t see too many bears so I’ll skip them.
But what we have, living in some lodge in some hidden part of this relatively large Rainbow Lake, are a pair of beavers.
So, let’s talk about beavers. The North American beaver (Castor canadensis) can weigh up to 71 pounds! I got that fact from Wikipedia, so it must be true.
Are they social animals? You bet they are. They come right up from the lake and into our yard. Why just about two months ago, at night, while I slept just a few feet away, one (or both) of the local beavers chewed through and felled my wife’s favorite Poplar tree. I noticed it the next day when I was taking the recycling bags to the garage. There was the tree resting against the house, just outside our bedroom. Actually, the tree (about seven inches in diameter) was resting against our power lines.
This was serious. Our cable TV could have been taken out. How was I going to watch Dancing With The Stars or The Hoarders? We called the National Grid (sounds so Canadian) and within an hour they had the tree down.
Not one moment of interruption of our favorite shows!
But it was not all bad. We gained some useful information about our friends, the beavers. They loved Poplars and Birch. It so happens that I love those trees as well.
So, what did we do? Simple. We caged the trees. Our friend who sells us firewood and does some trimming (his name is Forrest, really) caged our vulnerable trees.
Now, because of those miserable beavers (what were they going to do with our tree, dam the lake?), we have a yard that looks like a display at Disney World.
How attractive is this:
Or worse, this:
At least they left these under our dock. Maybe I can find a nice walking stick from this pile:
In search of more beaver lore, I went to The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. There, in a tank, was a beaver. I felt some aggression rise within me. I stared into the beaver’s eyes and said: “You will not conquer me. You will not take out all of our favorite trees on our .5 acre lot. I am still the master of my domaine. Do you hear me through this thick plate glass? I will not be ruled by you!” I suddenly realized that the beaver was stuffed. A small crowd had gathered around me.
“Harriet, take the children to the car.”
“Don’t worry, Timmy, he’s just a grumpy old man…you know, like grandpa was when he became senile.”
I had to save face. I pretended I was a WWI veteran and slowly limped away humming It’s A Long Way To Tipperary.
I can only deal with these little frustrations philosophically. Soon, none of this will matter. The sun will expand to the size of a Red Giant and consume all the inner planets. Or, global warming will flood the Adirondacks.
And, if none of this happens, we’re going to spend the winter in England. I know they have hedgehogs, but I’m not sure about beavers. Hedgehogs don’t build dams, (I don’t think) but the beavers can gnaw away on our wire cages all winter.
At lease I don’t have to build a Wall.
[With the exception of the lead illustration, all photos are mine.]