We have bad beavers. Not only bad—we have mason beavers. When Tom and I first purchased our land in Ellsworth, Maine, a beaver dam was partially flooding the big main field that had once been a cattle pasture in the early 1900s. The field where we wanted to build our house. Now the east side of the field was under about two feet of water, complete with beautiful Blue Flag Irises. Tom said straight away that this was not acceptable; the beavers would have to go.
One of our rare marital spats ensued. I think I won, having drawn the line at mammalian violence. I said Tom would simply have to outsmart them…how hard could this be? I felt confident that Tom could outwit the world’s second largest rodent.
The first time Tom destroyed the dam, he only partially broke it down with his hands and feet, to make a sluice way to lower the water level. The water began gushing over the breach and the beaver pond/ex-little stream was lowered by about a foot and a half.
What we didn’t know at the time is that the sound of gushing water drives beavers mad.
When we returned to the field the next day, we saw enormous “swales” dug through the field. Overnight, the angry beavers had dug trenches about two feet deep and three feet wide so they could float WHOLE TREES to repair their dam. Now the front of the dam resembled a log fortress, complete with a sentry beaver. I thought to myself, “Uh-oh, I think this means war.”
Tom, not to be out-done by this engineering marvel and not having rodent incisor teeth, resorted to his trusty Husqvarna. He got busy with his chainsaw and removed a whole front section of the dam. Now the water was rushing out at a tremendous rate. We could tell by the damp rings on the skeletal dead trees in the pond that the water was lower by around two feet.
“That should fix the little bastards,” said Tom.
When we returned a few days later, our mouths dropped open in absolute shock. The beavers had repaired the dam with ROCKS! They swam on their backs carrying rocks the size of melons on their chests…then they mortared the rocks in with clay. The whole dam resembled the Tower of London. We had Mason Beavers!
Now we had to resort to some serious ingenuity…so we Googled “beaver removal”. First Tom got the plans for a “Beaver Deceiver” which he installed immediately. This was a wooden sluice-like contraption he made that had thick wire mesh on the underside, the theory being that the beavers can’t figure out how to dam something upside down. Right-O. This did deceive them for about two whole weeks (which, actually, is the longest time anything has worked.)
Next came the “Beaver Baffler” which was some kind of elbowed-PVC gizmo with holes drilled along the sides. We can’t even find that anymore, we have no idea what the beavers did with it.
So the contest between wonderful man and intelligent rodent continues to this day. I did notice this spring that it looks like the beaver lodge has a second story addition…and a couple of new flower boxes out front.
Love from Giardia Acres,
Carol Leonard is a midwife and the author of Lady’s Hands, Lion’s Heart: A Midwife’s Saga, Bad Beaver Publishing, 2008. Her husband, Tom Lajoie, is a phenomenal “economy of motion” builder.