Saturday, October 25, 2014

Beavers and 'valuable lessons'

Now the beavers are cutting down our birches
My current attempt at living in harmony with North America's largest rodent -- the beaver -- is just the latest chapter in a very thick book. It's a psychological thriller full of twists and unexpected turns. Over the years we have invested hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars into this relationship with mixed results, at best.
It started with fencing our trees. Beavers had cut down virtually every quaking aspen tree within 100 feet of the water at the west end of Red Lake except for those growing in the yard at camp. Eventually, these trees around our cabins were just too great a temptation and they started disappearing at night. We put our superior human intelligence to work and placed wire fencing around every aspen near the lakeshore. We reasoned that if the beavers got out of the water and discovered the trees could not be cut down, they would not bother going farther back into the bush where we had not fenced trees. It worked!
Also, to save money, we had cut the fencing so it made a barrier that extended just two feet off the ground. When you look at beaver tree stumps, they are roughly the same height -- the height of a beaver -- and are less than two feet high. Again, our plan worked ... for awhile.
After several years, beavers somehow learned to cut above the two-foot fencing. I don't know if they were standing on each others shoulders or maybe dragging a log to the trees to stand on, but trees started vanishing in the night again. So, there was nothing else to do but take off the two-foot fencing and replace it with three-and-four-foot fencing, a process that was even-more expensive and time-consuming than before. But at least our efforts weren't in vain, at least not for several years.
I got up one morning only to find beaver stumps where trees had been, right beside the cabins! Some beaver had gone right past the fenced trees at the water to see if all the trees were protected and discovered they were not. This had to be stopped immediately or we would need to fence hundreds of trees all around the camp.
It was then that I started thinking about how beavers learn. For years they had been swimming right past the fenced trees and assumed all the trees in camp were protected. This knowledge seemed to have been passed on to new generations of beavers. Then, some smarty-pants, not listening to the advice of his elders, went inland anyway and discovered the whole story was a myth. If he taught the rest of the beavers what he learned, we were in big trouble. But what if he had a bad experience and related that to the others? We needed to teach this adventurous beaver a valuable lesson and then he would pass that message on -- stay away from this place.
I came up with the idea of electric shock. It works with domestic animals after all. Think electric fencing. Once pigs and cattle have been shocked by the fence, you can take the fence down and they still won't cross where it had been, at least so I've been told.
The beaver had left a half-cut tree near Cabin 10 and I reasoned he would be back to finish the job the next night. A 12-volt battery, I guessed, would do the job. That's what the electric fencers used.
I fashioned a grate of heavy fencing all around the tree for the beaver to stand upon and wrapped finer chicken wire around the trunk, right where the beaver would bite. I set the battery down by the tree and fastened one pole to the grate, the other to the trunk. The beaver would complete the connection, get zapped but not killed and would head off to Beaverland with the knowledge this was a bad place to cut down trees.
It took me a couple of hours to lay the trap and since it was supper time, I went into the lodge to eat.
Afterwards I moseyed on down to the cabin hoping to actually see the trap in action -- a zapped beaver fleeing to the safety of the lake and probably slapping his tail repeatedly to warn off the rest of the clan.
Instead, I found the battery flipped upside down with both poles touching the metal fencing. It was sparking furiously and this had set the dry grass in the entire yard on fire. Oh yeah, the tree was gone.

But a valuable lesson had been taught.
I learned never to do this again.

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Anonymous said...

Q: What crime did the beaver commit? A: Treeson!

Q: What did the beaver say to the tree?
A: "Nice gnawing you!"

Q: What is a beaver's favorite snack?
A: Trees & Crackers!

I just couldn't resist !!!!

Anonymous said...

At one time, beavers were thought to have Human-like intelligence, due to their ability to build dams, lodges, and canals.
Joe Overman

Kim Gross said...

Sounds like that beaver could have Mafia connections- better watch your back!