Monday, January 30, 2012

Workaholics Strike Again

By: Judi Stuart
Port Discover - Visitor Services Manager

Workaholics Strike Again

Bucky Beaver of the fifties Ipana toothpaste commercial fame used to be my only reference for the largest rodent in the animal kingdom. The cute, little, big-toothed beaver with the gigantic toothbrush who sang “brusha, brusha, brusha” was charming and innocent, unlike the crew that visits my backyard.

When we built our house on the banks of a canal, our vision was to leave the backyard forested and natural. I wanted a few more trees taken out, but my husband stood firm that every viable tree would remain in place. Little did we know that we were not totally in control of the situation.

It was not long before we noticed significant chewing on several of the gum trees in the yard. Hoping that it was a temporary problem, we kept watch. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before there was a tree completely down. The next day it was chewed into neat three-foot lengths and in a couple more days, the pieces started to disappear.

All of this activity happened in the dark of night. It was not long before Hubby declared war on the enemy. By then, the count was beaver 5, people zero. Heavy-duty fencing and tree wound dressing were soon applied to the assaulted trees and the yard began to look like a strange fortress.

Hubby would go and sit on the pier in the dark waiting for signs of each night attack. He reported that the varmints were bold and made noises with their large, flat tails slapping the water. They didn’t seem at all afraid of humans.

With the goal of know your enemy, we did our research. North Carolina State University had excellent information on-line. There are several ways to fight these workaholics of the animal world. They can be trapped, killed, or relocated.

Beavers can be a real problem for farmers and landowners. Their dam making can cause flooding, or even create wetlands, which act as habitat for other animals. Mating for life, they can weigh up to 80 pounds and be two to three feet long. These nocturnal, semi-aquatic rodents engineer amazing constructions for lodging and storing the small trees that they will eat in the winter.

Nature’s lumberjack can move approximately ten times its weight per day or 500 pounds. Powerful chainsaw like teeth, which grow continuously, enable the creature to feast on an estimated 200 trees per year.

Once beavers numbered an estimated 60 million in America, but unregulated trapping reduced the population to 6 to 12 million. Eventually they were almost non-existent east of the Mississippi River, and in the 1930’s a successful effort was made to reintroduce them.

Now, with ever increasing human land development, their presence is more evident. Man’s interference continues to adjust the balance in nature. The phrase “busy as a beaver” is certainly an accurate description of these unique architects of the natural world.

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