The revenge of the beaver

Busy as a beaver.

Busy as a beaver.

The following Living Rural column was first published in


I WAS tooling along on the ride ‘em mower, tidying up the grass around the house, when I passed under one of our Silver Maples and noticed what looked like some claw marks on one side of the trunk.

Upon closer inspection, I saw several bald spots around the bottom of the tree, with sizable chunks of wood littering the ground. The #$%$& beaver is back.

There are several species of wildlife with which I have a love-hate (some more of the latter than the former) relationship around here — coyotes, marmots, deer, magpies. The beaver is one I could do without entirely.

This is the time of year when the little beggar makes his annual appearance to wreak havoc on anything that lives within short distance of the river. The shoreline is dotted with dozens of maples and cottonwoods that are regularly pruned and pollarded by this four-legged lumberjack.

This particular Silver Maple is one that grew as an offshoot of a century-old (actually, by photos I figure it’s probably more than 110 years old) heritage tree about 20 feet away. It was just a stick when we bought the place, and has come along very nicely on a property that doesn’t have a lot of trees.

When my mom was growing up here early in the last century, there was a big orchard, she told me. And the old house is made partly with big pine logs that must have been cut close by.

But now, it’s hayfield country, and the only trees here are ones we’ve planted, transplanted or that are trying to outlast the beaver along the river. The few trees we have are important not only for shade and aesthetics, but their root systems help to significantly strengthen the river bank.

I wasn’t quick enough on the draw after seeing the work the beaver had started on the weekend, failing to immediately take counter measures. Yesterday, I discovered he’d been at it again. This time, he’d reached up and chomped his way through an impressive branch. He didn’t quite finish his work, for it remained barely attached to the trunk.

Furious, I went and grabbed a saw and finished his work for him, then wrapped a cage of rabbit wire around the trunk, as I’ve done with many of the trees that are close to the river.

Upon checking those other trees, it became clear our little logger had been busy there, too. In several instances, he’d managed to reach up above my wire and chew into the trunk and branches, doing further damage, though I’m sure he enjoyed snacking on the inner layer of bark.

A couple of hours’ work raised the bar, or rather wire, for our industrious buck-toothed friend and I’m now confident he’ll have to look elsewhere.

Oh, yeah, this morning when I checked that Silver Maple again, he’d come in the night and dragged that big branch away, probably floating it down the river to wherever he’s building his winter lodge. This was no small feat, since the river is low and he had to drag it across the grass, down a slope and over a significant drop-off to the beach.

I do admire his work ethic, but I wish he’d punch his time clock somewhere else.

Contact Mel Rothenburger at


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