Birdshot and backlashes - Beavers

by Bob Cary

Beavers are busy. The first nippy days of fall, the first whisps of snow, and beavers start to cut like the dickens. They sense that winter is just around the corner and they had better get their winter food supply cut and jammed in the mud, maybe get their lodge tidied up for the freeze.<BR><BR>There are a couple beavers nearby of which we keep track. One appears to be in dire need of good advice. He lives in two ponds connected by a culvert. His home is in a den on one side of the road, but nearly all of his timber cutting is on the other side. Thus, whatever he cuts for winter use has to be dragged through the culvert. So far, he hasn’t been doing much dragging. He seems to think the culvert won’t freeze and he will be able to get at his food supply all winter.<BR><BR>That’s one problem. Another is that he is a lousy logger. He has cut down a lot of birch for winter food but hung them up in the brush so he can’t get at the upper branches. There they are, out of reach. Lousy logging.<BR><BR>Once, when hunting grouse in the back country, I circled a pond and came upon a rocky ledge about 200 yards from the pond. On top of the ledge, several beavers had cut down perhaps 20 birch and aspen trees with no way to get them down to the pond. Never even tried. Just cut the trees down and left them there. <BR><BR>The scenario I see is that the rodent leader (let’s call him George Armstrong Beaver) led his troops to the top of the cliff and said: “Here we are boys! Look at all those trees! We can cut away to our heart’s content!”<BR><BR>After 20 trees went down, one of the tired beavers asked: “George! What the heck are we going to do with all these trees? We can’t get them to our pond.”<BR><BR>George snaps: “Are you questioning my authority? You have to admit these are excellent trees. Just right for our food supply.”<BR><BR>“But George. How will we get them down to the pond?”<BR><BR>“Details. Those are just details. Have faith, my boy. It will turn out all right.”<BR><BR>“But George. If we don’t have trees in the pond, we are gonna starve to death!”<BR><BR>“Hey! It’s gonna be all right! Would I lie to you? Hey, guys! Hey, don’t leave! Where are all you guys going?”<BR><BR>(You get the picture. This may be unfair to a lot of beavers, but some of them just don’t get it right. There have even been instances where a beaver cut a tree that fell on top of him.)<BR><BR>Beavers are big rodents, cousins of rabbits, squirrels and mice. Just about everybody knows that the first Frenchmen who came up here, around 1680, were looking for beavers because beaver fur made the best felt for hats that Europeans preferred. Hats. That’s what opened up the country. The Indians never understood it; they only knew if they came in with the hides, the silly white men would trade for rifles, axes, knives, blankets and other valuable stuff.<BR><BR>Of course, the Indians look back now and aren’t so sure it was such a great idea. The beavers probably didn’t think it was such a great idea, either, but they don’t talk about it very much. It is hard to talk with your mouth full of wood.