A Beaver Tale

By Clarke Birchard

Many SFN members know that we live at the edge of Chesley with our yard backing onto a mill-pond on the North Saugeen River. Upstream between Chesley and Scone on both sides of the river there are several beaver lodges, some of which have been there for many years.

Each fall before their second winter young beaver set out or are “urged to” leave home and set up housekeeping on their own. Occasionally in September we have had beaver visit our backyard and sometimes they have pushed up small piles of mud and sticks on to the lawn in attempts to start lodges. We clear away their work and that is usually the end of it. The fall of 2014 they got serious.

We returned from a vacation in October to discover a full-sized new beaver lodge on the riverbank between our willow tree and dock. This was exciting at first. But before long pride and excitement turned to concern as we learned of trees being removed from our neighbours’ properties and the town park nearby. What to do?

Beavers in town are like mice in the house. Regardless of one’s love of nature something has to be done. So we resorted to calling the local trapper used by the municipality and other landowners to remove “nuisance” beaver. I told this story at the November SFN meeting and the inevitable question arose – “Why not live-trap the beaver and relocate them?”

That would usually result in a more cruel and agonizing death. If relocated to an area already occupied, fights resulting in death or injury would occur with local resident beaver. If lucky enough to be relocated to an unoccupied territory even with ample food supply there would not be enough time before freeze-up to build a lodge and assemble a food pile that would last until spring. Running out of food mid-winter would result in weakness, slow starvation or being forced out on top of the snow to forage for food and exposure to predators.

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