My First Conversation with a Beaver

During my early September absence from the cottage on Lake Temiskaming, just north of Haileybury, the local beaver family had cut every poplar tree in sight on the property’s several acres. I surveyed the damage. It was too late to save the poplars, but still I wondered, “if only I could confront the beavers!”

At dusk I had a sudden whim, that they might be coming again in search of just one more tree. There wasn’t another to cut down, but beavers are optimists. So I silently slipped down to the northernmost of the beaches on the property, which I felt was their likely landing place. This beach is quite small, and is bounded by high rocks north and south. To my great delight, as I was still climbing down the rocks, I saw the whole beaver family swimming around the point of land north of the beach. By the time I had reached the water’s edge the leader had already reached a position straight out from the shore. He flapped a special signal telling the others to go home. They all turned tail at once, leaving him to face this monster on the shore all alone.

By then I had picked up a stout stick and was standing, my feet apart, right arm outstretched to the top of my staff, its lower end being close to my right foot. It was the closest in appearance to Neptune as I could manage with only seconds to prepare. The beaver — I take it he was the patriarch — then began his survey. He swam slowly in a giant circle, of radius about twenty yards, at the near point coming within ten yards of my position and at the far point fifty yards. Not once but twice he circled, taking many minutes to complete this whole movement. I never moved a muscle. Then he stopped at the far point and turned to face me.

“Krrriiickk,” he uttered. Then again “Krrriickk.” Beaver language is a little beyond my ken. “Krrxrxriickk” I answered ungrammatically. “Krrriickk” he replied. “Krxrxrriickck” I responded incompetently. This time he didn’t answer, so I repeated my krxrxrriick so as to improve upon the previous one. It must have been good enough to make him curious. He started to swim again, but now in a straight line toward me, and even slower than before. Still I never moved a muscle. He just went on coming, until at last his belly struck the gravel six feet away from me, whereupon he gazed for some minutes on this monster that never moved, but which seemed to be defending his territory. Then slowly he retreated backwards, never taking his eyes off me. At twenty yards he turned for home, but I stayed on, motionless, praising the Creator.