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January 11, 2013

Beavers do world of good

The Daily Star

---- — The other day I drove along one of our rural back roads and passed a beaver pond. A deep blanket of snow covered the ice. On the other side of the impoundment, a large dome of white indicated the location of their house.

The deep snow and thick mound of mud and sticks make the beaver’s home quite pleasant as the snow falls and the winds howl out of the north. Just because their upper world is cold and frozen, the beaver’s life isn’t put on hold. This large, semi-aquatic rodent doesn’t hibernate. The beaver carries on life in an almost normal fashion.

Throughout the spring, summer and fall, beavers are busy cutting trees and dragging everything they can into the water that they have dammed up. Many of these branches are pushed into clusters or feed beds that the beaver eats on all winter under the ice.

Although beavers can cause problems, they really are wonderful animals that are vital to nature. The American Indian called beavers the “sacred center” of the land because they create such rich, watery habitats for other mammals — turtles, frogs, ducks and birds.

The beaver played a large role in the colonization of North America. The beaver pelt, which was used to make hats in Europe, was the primary trading commodity in the 1600s and 1700s. The French and Dutch set up colonies just to trade with the Indians to get furs. Jim Bridger and other mountain men found places such as Yellowstone while trapping furs in the west. Today, little thought is given to beavers unless they flood one of our roads or back up water onto our property. Then we call someone to get rid of them or we try to destroy their dam. It’s amazing to break open a large portion of their stick and mud enclosure only to return the next morning and find it already plugged.

One of my favorite spots in the Adirondacks is the West Canada Lake country. For years, one of the most beautiful places was the white, sandy beach on South Lake about 10 miles from the nearest road. But for some reason, the beavers didn’t seem to think the lake was deep enough. They decided to dam up the outlet.

Why on Earth would these ambitious little creatures want to make a lake that is nearly 2 miles long and a half-mile wide even bigger? Who knows? But they did. The rangers broke the dam many times, but the beavers just kept building it back. Finally, the beavers won. Today, that beautiful beach is under water.

I’ve taken many fish from beaver ponds and shot loads of ducks as well. As the Indians discovered, the beaver pond was a source of food and water.

It’s so much fun to sit along a beaver dam in the evening and see what’s happening out there in nature. The beavers swim by, heading off to work; deer come in to drink; ducks spread their wings as they reach land; and even brook trout rise for flies near the water’s edge.

Certainly without the beaver, this world would be a different place. Just like that pond is the center of the beaver’s world, it’s the same for many other animals as well.

What’s happening?

The Otsego County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, Otschodela Council BSA and NYSDEC are co-sponsoring a free Ice Fishing Clinic from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Jan. 26 at at Henderson Scout Reservation on Crumhorn Lake.

This event is geared toward kids and anyone new to the sport. Species available include sunfish, pickerel, crappie and perch.

A warming area, food, bait and some tackle will be provided. Learn to use jig, tip ups and more. Some tackle will be available, but bring what you have. The DEC has designated this event as a free fishing day; no license is required.

For pre-registration or questions, call Bob Pierce at 607-432-1896.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at