Fairy tales and urban legends choke our countless media outlets today, emanating from heaven knows where, for heaven knows what purpose. Joining the list, I thought, were fish-eating beavers.
Tain’t so, according to writer Ileana Alescio of Argentina’s Epoch Times.
Alescio exposed these beavers in an article dated January 26, 2006. “The animals,” she wrote, “which are normally herbivores, have also taken to eating fish in South America, giving rise to a new generation of super-sized beavers building dams up to 100 meters long.”
They’re Canadian beavers who “immigrated” to South America in 1946, with help from some South American fur industry entrepreneurs. Just 25 pairs were allowed into the Argentinean province of Terra del Fuego in hopes of spawning a fur industry in the area.
Current estimates suggest there are now 200,000 of these furry Canadian immigrants. Their dams and dykes have destroyed, or converted, hundreds of square miles of native habitat as they beaver away, even gnawing down old-growth forests where trees are 250 years old.
Many South Americans are beavering away with the beavers. The tourism industry is capitalizing on them, offering excursions to the beaver colonies; craftsmen are producing personal products, clothing and bags made with their fur; while other people use the meat for new and exotic dishes. Environmentalists are naturally upset with the havoc they’re wreaking on the ecosystem and some locals have adopted the beaver as a part of their regional identity.
Surely we’re not at risk of losing another national icon? We’ve already lost one Beaver; a classic national aviation icon. Probably the best bush plane in the world, the de Havilland Beaver, given away, along with countless inventions, businesses, and such when our leaders were obviously asleep at the switch.
We did, for a long time, put down our rodent beaver as a national icon. After all, how does a rodent compare with lions, bears, eagles and bulldogs as a national emblem?
But our First Nation people got it right. They knew the beaver as the “sacred centre” of the land. Beavers create habitats for other mammals, fish, turtles, frogs, birds and ducks. Much of the flooded area becomes wetlands. Many endangered and threatened animals rely on the wetlands for survival. They help other species, which is not a bad image reputation, is it?
The beaver also gets “historical credit” for “opening Canada” a couple of centuries ago. Europeans came over in droves, to “harvest” them. Their “harvesting” came a whisker away from decimation, for, of all things, fashion—to make top hats. (Estimates of the current Canadian beaver population are as low as five per cent of those present prior to European settlement.)
Now the top-hatters’ descendants, led by rich, sycophantic celebrities, stand on their soap boxes hollering loudly to the world that they’re about to take food off the table of those people’s ancestors who welcomed their top-hatters with open arms, sharing their bounty and their land.
The seals Newfoundlanders harvest annually are increasing quickly, threatening severe consequences on their own, just like us. Since
Mother Nature bats last, I guess we’ll find out, sooner or later. Perhaps it’s time we took another lesson from our furry national emblem, who proves, unequivocally, that working together works.
A tip of the hat to castor Canadensis, the Canadian beaver, our national emblem, worthy of our care and attention … and even a helping hand. A bigger tip of the hat—and not a top hat—to Newfoundlanders hit by this latest bout of European righteousness. By the way, you know that Newfoundlanders and Yukoners are the bookends of the country. As such, if either, or both of us left, the rest would fall asunder into the middle in a muddle, which is where they seem to be most of the time anyway.
Nuff said. The sun is shining, the Frantic Follies are here, the grayling are running, the robins are back. Enjoy the wonder of the Yukon’s solitude. And the beavers too!