Goodnight Irene. My sympathies go out to everyone in the path of Irene that suffered damage or loss. It was a powerful and terrible storm. We are about 150 miles inland and were, fortunately, just on the fringes. We got a couple of inches of much-needed rain and winds of around 30 mph. For that we are extremely thankful.
The morning after the storm, I stepped outside to survey the damage. Immediately around the house everything looked fine except for bushels of leaves and twigs. Looking down the hill toward the pond, I was disappointed to see that our young willow tree had taken a hit. Planted on the pond bank five years ago, it was an extremely happy and robust tree, and I was shocked that it had been blown down. It was cracked off about 12 inches from the ground. My husband grabbed the chain saw, and we headed down to clean up the mess. As we neared the downed tree, my husband commented that something looked strange. Then he said, “That was done by a beaver”. Sure enough, the trunk of the tree was carved to a point, and wood chips were all around the base of the stump.
When I believed that the tree had been destroyed by the hurricane, I was disappointed, but resigned. It was an act of nature. But a beaver…. Now I’m angry. This is an act of war!
I remember the first time that we discovered beavers on the property. The house was under construction and we were driving 100 miles out here on the weekends to check on progress and were clearing a path around the bordering creeks through the impenetrable jungle that were our woods. My husband was using a DR Brush Mower to power through the tangle, and rounding a bend, he saw the dam. And a fine engineering marvel it was. Being a nature lover, I was ecstatic. Beaver’s are cute… Right? “Busy as a beaver; eager beaver; work like a beaver” ….all very positive connotations.
If we were going to share our home with these furry creatures, I wanted to learn all about them. This was back in the 90’s and the internet was still young. We had AOL, but they hadn’t developed all the filters that we take for granted today. I typed in the search term “beaver” and I was shocked and appalled by the articles that came up. So I gave up on the internet and went to the library. I checked out a couple of books and an excellent video on beavers by National Geographic.
I learned many fascinating facts about beavers. They have an excellent work ethic. They will toil all night long to repair a hole in their dam. Believe me, over the years, we have torn down dozens of their dams, to awake the next morning to see them back in place and stronger than before. They have a nurturing family life. Pairs mate for life. Adolescents live with the family for a couple of years, and babysit the kits while the adults go out and cut down trees. In a natural environment, they actually perform a valuable ecological function in creating wetland habitats for other species. And they are cute… Right?
I soon fell out of love with them after we found an ancient oak tree with a girth that would take 2 people to wrap their arms around, destroyed, after a beaver had spent the night gnawing all the bark off of it before determining that it was too big to fell and left it to die.
We have often encouraged them to move on by continually ripping up their dams. One year, they had built such a strong dam, that we even had the local welding company fashion a huge grappling hook, and even with the hook and the tractor, we were not able to break the dam. That year we hired a trapper to come and take the beavers. He got 3.
But coming out of the creeks and into our pond is a personal invasion. Cutting down our willow tree was the first volley. Take heed, Beaver. The battle lines are drawn.