Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Beavers were virtually eliminated from our country by the end of the 19th Century. Since the 1700s, beaver garments had been the fashion rage in Europe. The well-dressed man couldn't be well-dressed without a top hat made from beaver pelts. Trapping was unregulated. Warner Shedd reports that the Hudson's Bay Company alone sold over three million beaver pelts in a twenty-five year period in the late 1800s. One hundred years ago beavers were considered essentially extinct in Tennessee but they have made a remarkable comeback; so much so that finding beaver sign—gnawed branches and tree trunks or tracks in the mud—even in urban settings, has become commonplace.
As a rule, beavers build dams that turn slow moving creeks into ponds where they can assemble their lodges. But some beavers live in the deep water of lakes and rivers and construct their lodges along the shore, underground.
A walk on the greenway at Holston River Park on Sunday turned up fresh beaver sign along the shoreline. And then last night, at twilight, a very large adult beaver swam under the Neyland Drive Greenway into the mouth of Third Creek on UT’s Ag Campus. It eventually came ashore and disappeared into the darkness.
Illustration by Stephen Lyn Bales