Animal Symbolism Series—Beaver

One morning I walked into my office at work and found a stick leaning against my desk. It was a beauty and approximately 6 feet in length. It also had bite marks from a Beaver all over it. A friend and coworker had given it to me as a gift. I call it my Beaver Stick now, and feel a little like Gandalf, from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, walking through a mystical forest whenever I use it for my hikes.

The significance of Beaver did not escape me. In fact, it just drove home the message I needed to hear at the time. DO NOT GIVE UP YOUR DREAM.

Beaver is a great builder. Just look at all of those dams. Busy beavers, yes they are, and all you have to do is watch them work in nature to see how true this is.

I knew I had to get busy with building my dream of writing, illustrating and publishing a book. No small feat, but with Beaver around, I knew that I had a superb ally by my side. I felt assured that I would accomplish my goals no matter what difficulties lay ahead.

Below is a narrative on the Beaver, by Denise Erickson

One of the great things about canoeing here in South Jersey, or up in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, is sharing the wild waters with beavers. One of my favorite signs of their presence are sticks from which they have gnawed the bark, glowing yellow in the sun as they bob by the bank. Examine one, and you will see row after row of teeth marks, making a wonderful texture. The rodents are quite thorough, and leave not a scrap of bark.

Good beaver habitat will have many beaver lodges: low gray teepees, nearly ten feet wide and five feet high, of heaped-up sticks. These sticks, as a rule, are not chewed for a snack, except on the end, where you can see the neat chisel marks. Similar in construction to the lodge is the beaver dam. Rather than a mound, it is a barrier across the waterway. If there is a small breach, the current is strong enough, and you are heading downstream, you may be able to power through the gap, but if not, you will have to haul the canoe, its contents, and yourself, right over that twiggy impediment. Not to worry: the dam is strong enough to stand on while you get out, get your bearings, and move the whole lot over to the other side. Coming upstream, you will definitely have to once again climb aboard. It is a marvel to stand on one, and even more of a marvel when you see how much water these dams can hold back.

Signs of beaver are all around, and what is more, they are not a hard animal to see in person. We have sometimes surprised one napping on the bank of South Jersey’s Batsto or Mullica Rivers in the middle of the afternoon. Suddenly, a bump of brown fur and beady eyes, right at eye-level — the surprise is mutual! However, beaver are most active at dusk, when they begin patrolling their territories, in search of twigs to munch and dams to repair.

Canoeing silently in the early evening, you may quietly drift toward one as he makes his rounds. We never vigorously pursue or harass them, but just enjoy them. We stop paddling and watch. Sometimes silently, sometimes with a hollow thunk, he dives under, only to re-surface RIGHT NEXT TO THE CANOE! A heart-stopping slap with that flat, leathery tail, and we get the picture: he is the boss of this lake, and we’re just visiting. Better move along.

Last summer we had the most wonderful experience of all. Paddling on a July evening in the Adirondacks, the music of Hermit Thrushes and Winter Wrens echoing over the water from the surrounding mountains… one could not ask for one bit more enchantment from this Earthly life. But then, what’s that? A sound, a low humming, almost like a kazoo. A gentle splash, then a riffle of silver water rings not ten feet from the boat. Beavers! They are playing… they are BABIES! We sat motionless, paddles in mid-stroke. Two, no three! Two that were very small, accompanied by a yearling older sibling, out frolicking of a summer’s eve. They circled, spied us, dove, and approached.

They hummed their sweet kazoo songs and gazed up at us with shoe-button eyes, not two feet from the boat. They dove under with a flourish, and you could see their baby beaver tails, like small leather paddles. Up again they popped, sometimes farther, sometimes nearer, until finally the shyest small one paddled frantically away, while the other baby and Big Sister drifted away more slowly, engrossed in their play and bored by the humans who did not move a muscle.

Amazing!

We believe the small, shy baby tattled on the other two, who no doubt had been told to stay away from the humans many times. Further down the lake, Papa ambushed us with a loud splash; the following evening he nearly torpedoed the canoe, charging off the bank and diving madly into the water, straight under the boat!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Tim

    Nice story. I came across a lodge last evening, an adult came out and deliberately swam right up to about 10 feet away from me on the shore and just watched me while I stood amazed and took pics of it. After a few minutes he/she swam out further into the lake and just went back and forth every now and then giving a big splash with it’s tail. Pretty awesome.

    I don’t know, but the day before I had been at the same place and a goose family with 4 or 5 young -furry- gosslings had been swiming by out aways and had stopped on a small older beaver mound/island out about 25 feet from shore. I had been trying to get pics of them and the adults knew I was there and were watching me, when shortly they too had deliberately got in the water and swam right up to me… got up on shore about 12 feet away and as the adults stood watch the babies explored the surroundings. Again I was pretty amazed and awestruck.
    Before I left I picked up a peice of broken bottle(those are especially hazardous to our animal brothers and sisters) and a couple other peices of trash that does not belong there.
    I think the beaver maybe was saying thanks 🙂
    And I just say/think; please forgive Us, to All, for our ignorance and thoughtless disrespect. That time is coming to an end. I Know and promise.

    1. Shelley Szajner

      Hi Tim. I feel the much the same way that you do, that this ignorance is coming to an end. Soon, very soon, many wonderful things are going to happen and we can be the true caretakers of the Earth that we were meant to be and more. Thanks for sharing your wonderful story.

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