John Mahoney's Free-fire Zone
John Mahoney
John Mahoney
is editor of the Log Cabin Chronicles.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 05.22.02
Fool's Hollow, Quebec


Canada's official National Rodent moves in

I got helluva shock Monday when I walked down back to the swampy area where the two small brooks converge.

The beavers have moved in and are beavering away. Let the chips fall where they may and all that.

stumpThere are trees felled every which way. Some are more than eighteen inches across, and are gnawed off about two feet from the ground. There are trees on the ground and there are trees hung up in mid-air. Small trees and limbs have been cleanly gnawed off, beaucoup bark has been eaten.

And there is water. Quite a bit of water, actually. Behind the new beaver dam. Which is upwards of one hundred feet long. Maybe five or six feet of water at the deep end. And the beavers are still building.

And, I believe, breeding. Since January and February. Right this minute there may be up to four kits in the beaver lodge. Lord knows there's room. It stands about five feet above the water. Which means it might be ten feel tall, all in all.

stumpMisterman, it's a friggin' beaver jungle back there now.

Or, as the bio-folks say, a realm of biodiversity.

We used to walk across there during sugaring season to climb the ridge to the sugarbush. Forget about that. So, it looks like we've got to learn to love them.

This morning, I started trimming and cutting the trees fallen across the old road leading to the new beaver dam. If we have to play host, the least they can do is provide a little natural entertainment, eh?

A couple of hours with the chain saw -- I used bow saw and axe today -- and a couple hours of tugging and hauling and we'll be in good shape for beaver-watching.

Then, when the blackflies, horseflies, deerflies, and no-see-ums subside the Silver Fox and I can trudge down to the pond and watch all of our trees being gnawed down so the beavers can eat the bark.

Hey, they say there's a silver lining in every mud-daubed beaver dam.

More than you ever wanted to know about beavers

  • A big beaver will weigh sixty pounds. In the old days -- 150 years ago -- they could go a hundred pounds. The tails, they say, taste pretty good.
  • They grow up to four feet long, live 10-12 years in the wild, have webbed, five-toed feet that are 6-7 inches long.
  • Beavers breed for life, have up to four kits a year. The kits stick around for two years before striking out on their own to find some other place to denude and flood.
  • It takes a busy beaver six minutes to chew down a 10-inch diameter tree that took years to get that size.
  • Beaver turds are cylindrical, up to 2-inches long, composed of sawdust, and deposited in the pond.
  • They mark their turf with 'scent posts' -- stumps they create and smear with castoreum manufactured in a gland near the base of the tail.
  • Beavers like to dine on poplar, aspen, birch, willow, cottonwood, and basswood trees.
  • Aligators like to dine on beaver. So do bears, wolves, coyotes, lynx, foxes, dogs, and some of my neighbors. Hawks and owls like baby beaver.
  • They can run 6-8 mph and slap their tail on the water as a warning signal. Question: Is a beaver slap louder than a bitch slap?
  • Beaver lodges can be 10 feet tall and 20 feet wide, with entrance underwater. Our dome is probably that tall but not quite as wide. Our dam, however, is up to 100 feet across and the critters are enlarging it. Like the dome, it's made of gnawed sticks and mud, and very well architected.
  • The official beaver name is Castor Canadensis. We haven't named ours yet.
  • Beavers are vegetarians and love tree bark and water plant roots and stuff like that. I hope they don't like vegetable gardens because there's a .22 Stinger waiting for them if I find them in there.
I've accepted the fact that beavers live here now but, frankly, I wished they had stayed down in Boynton.