It's all fun and games until a starving beaver starts gnawing down your shade trees

·4 min read

Sep. 6—Over my lifetime, I have been thwarted, taunted and otherwise outwitted by an astounding array of animals, both wild and domestic. I've made no secret of those assorted ... um ... misunderstandings, and have shared many of the stories in this space. Today (eventually) my tales of woe will take a turn of the buck-toothed kind.

But first, a rehash of some history.

Squirrels and I? We don't see eye to eye. Well, there was that one time, when a red squirrel climbed up into my tree during deer hunting season (in retrospect, I'm sure he saw things from a totally different viewpoint), and perched over a foot above my head, demanding that I leave my tree stand immediately.

I didn't. Instead, I bared my teeth at him, He skittered away, scared to death. I win! (Or not: I haven't seen a deer since).

Deer? They always outsmart me. See also: Previous paragraph. And this: I've never, ever, ever filled my deer tag. Period. (Whitetails are the critters I was referring to when I said I'd frequently been outwitted. But if you've read a few of my columns, you already knew that).

I've also been occasionally taunted by massive moose who only show up when I don't have a camera handy, or when I don't have a moose permit, or when I do have a moose permit, but the opening day of moose season is a couple days later.

Don't get me started on dogs. I love all of my pooches, past and present, but, well ... some of 'em eat $20 bills, and some of 'em refuse to find me birds, and some of 'em just lie on my bed at night and fart.

In my book, that means that my dogs have thwarted, taunted and outwitted me for much of my adult life.

But up until Saturday afternoon, there's one critter I'd never had any reason to write about, nor demean. In fact, seeing as I'm married to a Canadian woman, and their national animal happens to have buck teeth and a flat tail, I have always taken the stance of our neighbors to the north when thinking about the species: Beavers are fine and noble beasts.

Until, that is, they end up in your own backyard.

Then, they morph into buck-toothed menaces. At least, that's my current attitude toward my previously unknown neighbors.

My problems became apparent just hours ago, when I was returning home from an appointment. There's a bridge over a brook that forms the boundary of our lot, and I often look to the side to enjoy the view as I cross that bridge.

I was shocked to see that one of two large birch trees between that brook and our house was no longer there. Instead, it was lying in an awkward heap.

My first thought: Had it been that windy this week? Had the ground been too soggy and led to the tree's demise?

I headed for the backyard to find out. And, boy, were my first assumptions wrong.

A beaver's handiwork was evident, as the critter had gnawed through a tree that was more than a foot in diameter, and left it lying on the ground. The tree provided shade on that side of the house, and will surely be missed. More alarming: Bucky was apparently binge-chewing, as he'd also begun attacking that tree's twin, an equally large birch.

The entire assault on my trees had taken place just 30 feet from my bedroom window, which we've left open for the past three months. I never heard any nighttime gnawing. Never saw any signs of a beaver. And worst of all, when the tree fell (admittedly not in a forest), I apparently wasn't around to hear it. Not that it made a sound, of course.

Remember, now, that I have backup, in the form of amateur watchdogs. Genny, a pooch of unknown origin that we thought was a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, but turns out (according to the dog version of Ancestors.com) to be mostly pit bull, barks at the UPS man every day. And the FedEx man. And the mail carrier. So, too, does little dog Teddy, an English cocker spaniel.

But do you think either of them let out even a token "Woof!" when Bucky was busily gnawing away at our trees?

Of course they didn't.

Genny hasn't actually explained her lack of inattention in subsequent chats with my wife and I. And Teddy? I'm not particularly fluent in spaniel, but I think his excuse comes down to this: "I'm a bird dog. Not a beaver dog."

On the bright side of things, the tree Bucky has gnawed down thus far fell toward the brook, rather than on our house. Here's hoping his handiwork on the second tree is just as trouble-free.

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