In which… three intrepid explorers go search of a wild critter and get far more than they bargained for.
The Setting: Hoy’s Pond, a deepwater pond with a fishing dock across the road from the impoundment at Heinz Refuge.
The Players: Don, Robb and I; Mr. Beaver.
Prelude: Fall 2012. Gnawed trees begin appearing at the Refuge, sure signs of North American Beaver activity.
First Things First: March 27, 5:30 PM. I spy Mr. Beaver on the far side of Hoy’s Pond. Of course, that would happen to be the one time I didn’t have my camera with me. No one believed me.
The Second Time Around: June 6, 8:15 PM. Robb has a close encounter with Mr. Beaver at the dock, and comes away with a short cell phone video. Plans are laid for the Great North American Beaver Expedition.
Third Time’s the Charm: June 11. Robb, Don and I set out for Hoy’s Pond. Along the way, Don regaled us with stories of a fatal beaver attack in Belarus. He and Robb debated how to protect themselves from marauding beavers – mostly by hiding behind me.
We arrived at Hoy’s Pond at 7:30, which Don assured us is much too early, as he had arranged for Mr. Beaver to appear precisely at 8:15. Don is often wrong but never in doubt. Sure enough, there was Mr. Beaver, thirty feet away in the pond to our left. (See the Hoy’s Pond photo, above; Mr. Beaver is visible to the left of the walkway.)
Robb spotted him first, and put me on to him quickly. Don was slower to get with the program. Mr. Beaver swam in a circle near the shore, then under the dock, then back under the walkway. Then he turned and swam RIGHT AT US. (Look at the bow wave of that critter!)
When he was some 20 feet away, Don and Robb, being the courageous and chivalrous gentlemen that they are, beat a hasty retreat, leaving me to fend for myself. I was focused solely on GETTING THE SHOT.
When the boys’ cries of alarm (“It’s gonna CHARGE!”) became too much to bear, I took a step back. Whereupon Mr. Beaver gave a tremendous SLAP of his tail and disappeared, never to be seen again. We were all startled at the size of the tail slap. The resulting splash looked like he’d leaped from the water and did a tremendous belly flop.
The whole encounter lasted a scant but exhilarating two minutes. Leaving us with a tremendous tale to tell. Of course, Mr. Beaver gets larger and more ferocious with each retelling…
FUN FACTS: Adult Beavers weigh from 35 to 60 pounds, and have poor eyesight. Their good hearing and strong sense of smell more than make up for this. They can swim well and stay under water for up to 15 minutes. Their sharp teeth continue to grow throughout their lives, so it’s a good thing they have trees to gnaw on! Beavers eat trees and tree bark, as well as other plants. The dams they build are for protections and shelter; the largest one ever built was over 2500 feet long!
Always remember wild animals are unpredictable and should be viewed with caution and respect. Beavers are generally peaceful critters who dislike biting, but those teeth are SHARP and capable of delivering a fatal wound. Furthermore, too much attention can stress an animal. Moral of the story: always use extreme caution when dealing with any wild creature, and respect its right to go about its life without human interference. Remember, you’re the visitor on THEIR turf; be a good house-guest!
“Hoy’s Pond with Beaver” photo courtesy of Don Nigroni.
“The Wild Bunch” photo courtesy of Ned S. Levi, professional photographer. Taken with my amateur equipment, and Canon to boot.
Thanks, Don and Ned!
Coming up: Baby Steps