Wednesday, May 12, 2010

One Damn Big Beaver Dam...

...has been discovered in a remote corner of sprawling Wood Buffalo State Park in northern Alberta. For a lot of you this is probably not new news as proof of its existence, a Google Earth image, has been widely disseminated on the internet now for a few weeks. But since I've been involved in your basic love/hate relationship with the toothsome rodents for as long as I can remember I just couldn't resist tossing in my two cents...no news there either, eh?

Anyway for those of you unaware the dam is humongous by any definition: 2700 feet long (850 meters) it is thought to be the longest anywhere and an ongoing project of a large clan of ambitious rodents since sometime in the early 1970s. As a fellow blogger noted, "I'll bet a lot of landowners are saying thank God it's not on my property." Beavers, neat as they can be and often are, can and often do put even the most heinous vandalism acts to shame. For example back in the day a family of busy beavers set up housekeeping on a small creek on our property.

Over that first summer they erected several small dams, a single somewhat larger dam and built an impressive house. Next spring, apparently concerned high water might be a problem the crew dug an impressive ditch which allowed overflow from the main dam to enter our man-made pond, then cut an equally impressive, after all we're talking beavers here not D-8s, overflow trench which eventually eroded such the dam collasped. Each time we tried to fix it, the beavers quickly remodeled the repairs to their own liking.

Meantime the dam building continued up the little creek until eventually there were 11 dams as I recall flooding at least 100 acres of what was once prime woodcock cover. Oh well, wood ducks found it their liking so for a time we switched loyalities and instead of woodcock we ate wood duck. During all of  this we engaged and engaged the services of others in a futile attempt to trap at least enough of the culprits to slow the advance...didn't happen.

After about 7 or 8 years however the food supply was starting to dwindle big time. Evidently in desperation instead of alder, aspen and willow the beavers started on our many wild and productive apple trees scattered about the property. But the proverbial straw that broke the beaver's strangle hold was an old apple tree which produced in odd years about the sweetest, tastiest apples imaginable and stood at least 400 yards from the nearest water. For us that did it. We enlisted the aid of former bomb disposal guy with handy access still to explosives and...that as they say was that. 

Do I still have a fondness in my soul for the big rodents? Hell yes. But to paraphrase the man "Glad that big dam ain't on my place.  

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