Sunday, February 11, 2007

Big Angry Beaver

All the recent rain and melted snow raised the water level in my pond. The ducks love it, the geese love it, and so does our arch enemy - the Big Angry Beaver. Now he's back ... and angrier than ever.

Originally my pond was built to for flood control. A series of ditches and canals lead through the neighborhood to the pond, and then out to the South Canadian River. Big Angry Beaver lives by the river - a river he can't dam. That makes Big Angry Beaver very ANGRY. Why? This is Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain ... because there aren't enough trees to stop it. That was, of course, until we created this suburban wetland with its strange combination of natural and aesthetic diversity, wide open spaces, cookie cutter houses*, ultra-green lawns, and acres of fruitless Bradford pear trees, cottonwoods, oaks, and maples. Suddenly, even magically, there is enough wood to (almost) dam the mighty river, but the big angry Beaver has to swim up the canal to my beautiful pond, bite down a tree, then carry it all the way back to his dam on the river - all the time swimming AGAINST the current and the wind that comes sweepin' down the plain and that *REALLY* pisses him off.

Mr. Big Angry Beaver came last Spring and converted our freshly planted oaks and maples into toothpick shaped monuments to futility. We took it gracefully and replanted. Mr. Big Angry Beaver and bit down the picnic benches. We grinned and rebuilt them. Mr. Big Angry Beaver crossed the fence into my neighbor's yard and chewed down his Chinese Elm (actually Golden Lacebark Elm). The tree was big. It was beautiful even in the harshest drought. It was the center piece of his landscape, and its golden yellow leaves drew the eye up to my neighbors' house. In Winter, it's multicolored “jigsaw puzzle piece” bark was something to see. It was just a little too big to get through the cast iron rail fence, so the beaver left it there - sideways, stuck halfway through the fence. Since my neighbor is on the Homeowner's Association Board of Directors, we took action!

We are inside the City Limits, so our first call was to our local animal control person. He laughed and hung up. Someone in the Homeowner's Association found a toothless Bubba in the phone book, and set a contract with him to come and "control" the Big Angry Beaver. I voiced my concerns in a note to the President of the Homeowner's Association. I wanted to know what "control" really meant. After all, Oklahoma allows beavers (and other furbearing animals) to be "controlled" in only two ways: catching in a body gripping trap of a specified jaw-spread width, or "night shooting" the nuisance beaver by using shotgun only with BB-size shot or smaller.

The thought of someone blasting away at the Big Angry Beaver in the middle of the night terrified me. This isn't Dodge City, Kansas, for crying out loud! On the other hand, what would a body gripping trap do to Big Angry Beaver? Would it pinch off a leg? Would it break his bones? Would it kill him? Would it merely detain him so the toothless hillbilly trapper could relocate him to another town (preferably in Texas)?

I had to do some research on this before we chunked down the money. For a state that historically had almost no beaver, Oklahoma would appear to be a very beaver friendly state. We have a county named Beaver. It's small, in the Panhandle, and its largest town is named ... Beaver. In 1952, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) relocated 29 beavers from 5 western counties to Department lands in 4 eastern counties. Now beaver is plentiful. Half the state is considered home to the beaver. One may hunt beaver in Oklahoma all year long. The season never closes. Given the birthrates, it seems that beaver is on everyone's mind. The population is so large that beaver pelts now may be purchased on the street for only $10. Because of that low amount, skuny smell and the apparently revolting flavor of beaver, we were going to have to pay a toothless hillbilly trapper to come and "control" our four legged miscreant.

In the meantime, the Homeowner's Association President (obviously an understudy of George.W. Bush) began to practice the politics of Fear. He sent around a note saying that the beaver problem is about out of control. He said "The beavers have lost their fear of Man and it is showing." Notice how he transformed the Big Angry Beaver into satanic multiples. All animals must fear the capitalized Man! He went on to say that "the beavers were going across the street and attacking the big cottonwood trees that provide shade to the playground equipment." Oh, I give up, why did the Big Angry Beaver cross the road? Could it be that there were no trees left for Big Angry Beaver to eat where he came from - the pond side of the road? The President encouraged all 436 members to "start throwing sticks and stones at these critters whenever they are close to us." Apparently people were merely stepping off the goose poo slickened sidewalks and giving the right of way to the Big Angry Beaver with his snapping big orange teeth. Dogs did. God knows I did. I mean if he could bite down an oak, I was pretty sure he could bite off my feet without too much trouble. But for the Homeowner's Association President to think that sticks and stones would "force ... (the beavers) ... back to their normal habitat away from us and our trees", well, he was just full of it!

So, $350 (US) later, we terminated the Big Angry Beaver control contract - because we had no more trees left for him to bite down.

Now we do, Big Angry Beaver is back, and I weep for the trees.

- - -

* That is, naturally, every house but mine ;-)


Katie said...

Big. Angry. Beaver.

Well Don I hadn't laughed at work all day until I read your post. I'm sorry that your trees are afraid for their lives but it makes for wonderful reading.

I can't believe that it chewed down that tree and couldn't get it through the fence! It must be a pretty big animal to do that.

Ron Simpson said...

I started hunting beaver at 16. But I cannot help you with that one.

Katie said...

I feel sorry for it!