A Beaver Anecdote
A true and humorous story of the tenaciousness of beavers
from a book by James Poling
Excerpted from James Poling's Beavers, Their Extraordinary Lives and Curious History, published by Franklin Watts, Inc. This story was first broadcast around the world over the Voice of America radio network.
They don't quite know how to cope with all the dam trouble they've got down in Hampden, Maine. And according to town manager Leslie Stanley, it doesn't look as if things will improve any in the immediate future. "We've got a real gnawing problem on our hands," he says.
The gnawing began in late May. About three miles outside of town a colony of beavers built a dam near the mouth of a culvert that carries a stream under Canaan Road. Some 50 feet of roadway and several hundred feet of land on each side of the culvert were flooded. Stanley sent a road crew out to level the dam. The beavers rebuilt it. The crew tore it apart again. In fact, they tore it apart for ten mornings in a row -- and for ten straight nights the beavers rebuilt it.
On the eleventh day, the foreman of the crew said to-hell-with-it and tossed the problem back to the town manager. He, in turn, tossed it on to the local game warden. The warden, steeped in beaver lore, crept out one night and draped a gasoline-soaked burlap bag over the dam. (Any beaver expert will tell you the creatures just can't abide gasoline fumes.)
In the morning the bag was found artistically woven into the dam.
The warden set out three steel traps that night. In the morning one was empty. The other two had been stolen by the beavers and used to buttress the dam. The warden, cussing the state law against hunting beavers with firearms, got his traps back and set them out again... and again... and again... And every night the beavers stole them.
Town manager Stanley enlisted additional troops. He telephoned his police chief. Those beavers were breaking a state law against blocking up a natural watercourse. "Why aren't you out there upholding the law?" Stanley asked. "You're the police chief. So evict 'em. Dispossess them. Arrest them. Do something."
Three mornings later, the police chief proudly announced the end of the dam. At 2:00 A.M., he said, he and a licensed dynamiter had blown it to smithereens. Stanley said he'd believe it when he saw it.
They drove out to the culvert and found a new dam already half-built. They also found the highway so choked with mud and debris thrown up by the dynamite that it took four firemen, the fire department's 500-gallon pumper, and three constables an hour and a half to hose away the mess.
Stanley said maybe they should call in the Army Corps of Engineers. But the police chief's faith in explosives was unshaken. He launched an all-out campaign. Night after night, as June drifted into July, the sound of blasting shattered the summer air -- and tore holes in the dam that never saw the full light of day. The beavers always managed to have the holes plugged by the time the fire department appeared on the scene for its morning mop-up.
In time, the beavers tired of this nonsense and moved their dam "inside" the culvert -- where it couldn't be blown up without destroying the road too.
Stanley and his general staff held a council of war and agreed that fresh strategy was called for. Then they came up with an inspired idea. If we remove every branch of the dam by hand, they reasoned, we'll force the beavers to go in search of new building material to replace what we've taken. Then we can place box traps along their runways and capture them -- maybe.
The plan was unanimously approved. Moreover it worked. On July 30, town manager Stanley was able to announce that the beaver colony had been trapped and removed to a remote wilderness area. And there was great rejoicing in Hampden -- until the middle of October, that is, when a colony of young beavers was spotted swimming in the same waters from which its elders had recently been snatched."
[But to make a long story short, the strategy that worked with the older beavers worked with the young ones too.]
Used by permission of Voice of America radio network.
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