Castorcide: Beaver Beware

I once did battle with raccoons. Legions of raccoons. My weapons included pepper spray, coyote urine, motion sensitive sprinklers, and "have-a-heart" traps. I had boots on the ground, my own. If the technology had been available to consumers at the time, I would have employed drones. My efforts provided a few temporary truces, but the raccoon insurgency was like the tide - the waves just kept coming.

Having survived that experience (unlike the fish in my garden pond) I have a natural sympathy for others who crusade against "pests." So this morning, I found myself giggling when I read this piece about doing battle with a lone beaver.


I read about beavers. There was no webpage with a neutral view of beavers; everyone came with a decided beaver agenda. Either they were cute spirit animals, sacrosanct in North America, or they were unctuous minions of the devil who needed to be exterminated.

My family named it Mr. Busy, so I focused on how to deal with it humanely. I tried placating it. There were recently fallen maples in the woods on the other side of my property. I hauled one across the yard and threw it near the lodge. The next day it floated, untouched.

Zoos feed their beavers lettuce and apples. I tossed my beaver a head of lettuce. The next day I saw it floating untouched.

More branches, freshly and precisely ripped from the shoreline, continued to appear, lying on the pond’s bank, half eaten, or floating next to the lodge. I started waking afraid, not wanting to look.

Beavers can do only finite damage, I thought, but the size of damage they can do is an appreciable percentage of trees I have. And they have two kits a year, so it was going to be a bigger problem fast. The beaver was morphing, changing from a swimming cat into a caricature of the personalities I had left in Manhattan: Selfish, single-minded, and competent.

The beaver was screwing with me, making me worry and care about trees. Something I had never cared much about before. Trees. Just damn trees. They provide cover for mice and snakes and frogs and bugs and butterflies and, well, everything. And beavers like to eat them. I was ready to kill the damn thing...

...I found a pro-beaver chat forum composed of mostly cute beavers (avatars don’t lie) discussing natural solutions for beavers. I bought industrial size portions of vegetable oil and cayenne pepper to mix and paint on the trees. A natural solution that led me to spend a natural afternoon painting the trunks of 40 trees dark red to a height that an outstretched beaver might reach, a height determined by naturally using my outstretched cat, an outstretched cat who naturally scratched me.

Overnight the beaver chewed through one smaller red tree, and found one of many smaller trees I hadn’t been able to reach with my paintbrush. I realized that what once looked vast was really only a handful of now very fragile trees. Trees that were holding the life of the pond together.

I was done.

Read the whole piece here.