Tue 30 Jun, 2009 08:19 am
No, no, no . . . get your mind above the waist . . . i'm talking rodents here.
Other than humans, no other animal has had a greater impact on the environment. Beavers will set up in what is basically a naturally occurring water meadow, and turn it into dry land in a few years. Gnawing the bark off trees, they effectively turn a sodden wood lot into a dry, open meadow--which benefits boreal grazers such as deer and elk after the beaver have moved on.
But beaver have had the greatest impact on humans, not on other animals. For more than 300 years, the height of fashion for European men's headgear was the "beaver hat," meaning a hat made from beaver felt. When an Amerindian traded a beaver pelt, it was a "made beaver pelt." The beaver's pelt has a thick, downy undercoat which repels water, and keeps them warm in the water and in the winter. Over that are heavy "guard hairs" which repel water and give the beaver it's sleek appearance. When a beaver would be skinned, the Amerindians would use if for a couple of years as a carpet, or stitched together as a blanket. When the guard hairs were worn off, they would take it to the trading post where they traded for European goods.
The Dutch were the first to get rich quick off the beaver. The English came here to settle, and Samuel de Champlain had visions of a French wilderness empire--and neither of them gave much thought to the lowly rodent. But Champlain's New France colony simply imported the aristocratic seigneurial system which was actually dying out in France, and so young sons of the tenant farmers who had few prospects took to the woods, literally. They became the coureurs de bois (literally, "runners in the woods") who travelled inland to trade for furs with the Amerindians, and the greatest profit was made from beaver pelts. The Amerindians didn't particularly like the French, but they had no problem with the coureurs de bois, many of whom took Amerindian wives, and eventually created a unique ethnic group, the Métis. The French royal government put its colonies under the control of the Minister of Marine (i.e., the "Secretary of the Navy"), and the younger sons of poor aristocratic families quickly learned that they could make a modest fortune by taking service in the Canadian army (the Ministry of Marine maintained a "native" army in New France) and following a quickly established and sacred tradition of robbing the King. It worked so well, it cost France her North American colony. The governors and intendants (the latter being a sort of royal accountant and inspector general) quickly realized how much money was to be made in robbing the King, and they had little interest in or trust for French military officers sent out defend New France from the perfidious English--the last governor was prosecuted for the loss of the colony and peculation (stealing public funds), but for rather obvious reasons, evidence was lacking, and he was exonerated. But his fortune was ruined, and he sold off his Canadian estates (he was born in New France), and lived out his remaining years in France. François Bigot, the last intendant of New France, robbed the King with rash abandon, and the cost of the New France colony quintupled in the four years he was in his post. After the loss of New France, Bigot and his associates were obliged to repay the money they were charged with stealing, which ruined him. Easy come, easy go--he was from one of the poor aristocratic families, and began life as a clerk in the Navy department.
But long before that, the humble beaver had been making a select group of Englishmen and -women very, very rich. Parliament rose in a civil war against King Charles I in 1640, and in January, 1649, they cut off his head. His son, Charles, became an exile in Europe for the next 11 years. When he was restored to the throne in 1660, he owed a lot of people money, and had no way to repay them with cash, so he started handing out land and favors. Admiral William Penn loaned 15,000 pounds to Charles and his brother James to pay their debts on the continent and return to England in style, and although the Admiral died before he could be repaid, Charles made good the debt by giving Pennsylvania ("Penn's woods") to his son, William Penn. The Carolina colonies were a package deal to pay off other creditors who were owed lesser sums.
But the corker was what he did for his closest supporters and those of his father. In May, 1670, Charles gave a charter to the Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson's Bay. The original shareholders in the charter included Prince Rupert, Charles' cousin who had been a principle officer in his father's royalist armies in the civil war; George Monck who had put Charles back on his father's throne was a major holder in the Carolina colonies, and although he died before the Hudson's Bay Company was formally chartered, his son took his place as a shareholder; John Churchill, whose father Winston had been a staunch supporter of Charles I and who had given nearly every penny he owned to the King, became a shareholder--he later became famous in his own right as the first Duke of Marlborough, the great English Captain-General in the War of the Spanish Succession. This select group of investors were given unbelievable powers. They could treat independently with foreign potentates, they could levy taxes and they could levy war. They were granted all the land draining into Hudson's Bay, which was more than one and half million square miles.
The New France colony had never expanded from Champlain's original effort, because people who wanted the Amerindians to provide them fur were not only not interested in colonization, they were opposed to it. The Hudson's Bay Company was no different, and they wanted no colonists interfering with and alienating their work force--the Amerindian. The HBC traded for all types of fur, just as the Dutch and French had, and just as the Americans later would, but it was the beaver pelt which made them rich. The Amerindians preferred the French manufactured goods and the French brandy (English and Dutch rum was a horrible adulterated affair, containing among many other bizarre ingredients, gunpowder and iron filings)--but they liked the English (actually, mostly Scots) traders better, and after 1760, they really had no choice. The Northwest Company out of Montréal gave the HBC a run for its money, but it was really no contest.
For whatever changes the lowly beaver effected in the woods of North America, it was nothing compared the rise and fall of European colonial empires and the rise and fall of great personal wealth which their hides produced.
Then, in about 1850, Prince Albert, the Prince Consort and husband to Queen Victoria, started a fashion of wearing a silk top hat. The beaver was saved ! ! !
Thanks, Boss . . . i was thinking about beaver this morning . . . rodents, of course . . .
I'm a beaver. You're a beaver. We are beavers all.
And when we get together, we do the beaver call!
E to the u du dx,
E to the x, dx.
Cosine, secant, tangent, sine,
3 point 1 4 1 5 9.
Integral, radical, mu, dv
Slipstick, sliderule, MIT!
Land of the silver birch, home of the beaver
Land where the mighty moose wanders at will......
Beaver have been introduced back into Scotland (last year, I think) as an experiment.
Once native here, they were exterminated 150 + years ago.
Some sports fishermen think they will bugger up the fishing, but I think they'll do more good than harm in that regard.
You have to remember that, despite the beavers ability to create a huge sediment trap and , by a temprary damming of the natural flow of water, the water isnt going anywhere except to flood adjacent properties. ARound here we have a saying that recognizes their effects on anecosystem and should be thus rewarded with high velocity metal shards.
Weve had an invasion of beavers from the SUsquehanna basin into the streams of Pa. They will first dam up a stream, causeing the adjacent fields to become swammps and mosquito havens. Them, as the sediment trap kiscks in, the fields further upstream become sodden . In an area like Maine, where we have natural wet meadows, they will gift one landowner of new dry land and punish another by inundating it. In Pa, where we have deeply incised streams (84000 miles of em which makes PA the most stream intensive state in the lower 48), we have a real problem with beavers turning stream side usable pastures into useless swamps.
We have Otters and Fishers returning , but they love the deeply incised streams.
There was a beaver lodge in the heart of Toronto for a few years, in the Don Valley Brickworks (abandoned). But it has become an "in spot" with the yuppies and especially the vegans, so, showing extraordinary good taste and social discrimination, the beavers moved out.
Loved it Set - can't wait to read it to my husband. He loves this stuff.
Once as down that foaming river,
Down the rapids of Pauwating,
Kwasind sailed with his companions,
In the stream he saw a beaver,
Saw Ahmeek, the King of Beavers,
Struggling with the rushing currents,
Rising, sinking in the water.
Without speaking, without pausing,
Kwasind leaped into the river,
Plunged beneath the bubbling surface,
Through the whirlpools chased the beaver,
Followed him among the islands,
Stayed so long beneath the water,
That his terrified companions
Cried, "Alas! good-by to Kwasind!
We shall never more see Kwasind!"
But he reappeared triumphant,
And upon his shining shoulders
Brought the beaver, dead and dripping,
Brought the King of all the Beavers.
And these two, as I have told you,
Were the friends of Hiawatha,
Chibiabos, the musician,
And the very strong man, Kwasind.
Long they lived in peace together,
Spake with naked hearts together,
Pondering much and much contriving
How the tribes of men might prosper.
We have lots of beaver here in New Hampshire, their numbers are on the rise. Some people love em and some hate em, it all depends on how much water you've got in your basement.
We've got a few beaver in the Willett Ditch. They live in dens in the banks. They don't give a dam for tradition. I'm told they are the same breed as those that dam streams.
There was a proposal a few years ago to reintroduce river otters. The fishermen objected, but since I'm not a fisherman, I kind of like the idea.
Right, Ros. When I lived in your neck of the woods (and I mean the house was in the woods
), beavers were a constant problem. It wasn't that they were turning a wetland into a dry meadow -- quite the opposite. They were flooding out the garden my father was cultivating on the edge of the pond and generally raising the pond's water level by several inches. They were also destroying some very nice trees and shrubbery. Once actually chewed down and carted away a rose bush. I know that's hard to believe; roses have thorns. But there you are.
It was constant open warfare. They'd dam up the stream which drained the pond and raise the water level; we'd go tear it down. Two nights later the damn' dam would be up again.
And you can't shoot the bastards. They're at least partly protected. There's a certain number of beaver trapping licenses issued each year to select professional trappers. We found an old Norwegian living in the next town over, Jaffery, and gave him the green light to come in and set some traps.
That took care of the problem for maybe a year. A year later a new family of beavers had moved in.
Hate the buggers.
Still, they've been used in the prairies of Wyoming, or maybe Montana to hold water. Not having any aspens to work with, the water districts dumped a bunch of old tires by the streams. Beavers will work with tires if there's nothing else around.
Oddly, a decade later, a farmer was severly fined by EPA for using tires to control erosion. Seems he was messing with a wetland.
Lots of the sand pits in maine use the beaver strategy to make their "wash ponds".They will dig a dry hole near their sand pit and dam up the nearest stream. this raise the water table and the new wash pond suddenly fills with water.
They call em beaver holes in the quarry industry
I dont get it, why not just lure the beaver and grab it in the carpet?
A long time ago, i read that the intensive swidden farming of the Amerindians had produced sylvan parkland in the eastern part of what is now the United States. The author claimed that the extensive prairies that settlers found in the late 18th century when they first arrived had been created by centuries of dense Amerindian populations (which were leaving, had left or died from disease by 1800)--leaving gallery forests by the watercourses, and meadows where bison and elk grazed, where there otherwise would have been continuous forest. So i wonder which animal had the greater effect on its immediate environment, stone age man or the beaver?
That's the Boilermakers Call----Goooooo PU
aven't seen that in more years than I want to remember..