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To Save a Beaver Pond

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Sunday morning, June 14, 2020, as I rested in a chaise longue with a song sparrow on my shoulder and a fine cur-dog by my side, I got a call from the county wildlife officer, with whom I've been working to try to head off any more beaver killing or dam destruction. Through conversations with my area contacts, I had sleuthed the perpetrator's address and phone number, even gotten directions to his house. Wildlife Officer Donnelly used this information, stopping by the house and finding no one home, then following up with a call that morning. He told this man that he had taken a few calls concerning the beaver dam and his destruction of it. The gaswell tender admitted to hiring a backhoe contractor to take the dam out. This man claims to have a right of way to lay a gas pipeline through private property. He said that the first couple of times he destroyed the beaver dam (and the beavers, too), he failed to "get it dry enough" to lay the pipe. So he killed the beavers and ruined the habitat for nothing, but that didn't keep him from doing it twice.

                             

His first assault in September 2014 reduced the proud beautiful pond to a stagnant mud puddle. I would see an enormous snapping turtle rising to breathe, then settling back down to the bottom. It was such a sickening, sad remnant of the glorious pond that once was there, and it broke my heart. Through that fall and winter I was disconsolate, and I didn't go down Dean's Fork as much as usual, because her crown jewel had been drained and the beavers shot, for no good reason I could understand. For nothing.

The next fall, beavers came back in and rebuilt. Here it is, gloriously refilling, in November 2015.


Then, by my contact's reports, the well operator used dynamite to blow up their work. In the fall of 2017, back this magnificent habitat went to a sad puddle. I can't express the dismay and anguish of coming upon such destruction, where once there was such beauty.

All of this was done against the landowner's express wishes. She wanted the beavers left in peace.  I was mad enough to spit bullets, on her behalf, on the behalf of all the creatures who depended on this lovely body of water in a place where water is precious. 


So you see why, when I found the pond refilled in the spring of 2020, in my view it was not if the beavers would be killed again, and their dam destroyed. It was merely a question of when. I was putting my money on September of 2020 for another attack, as much as I hated the thought. I'd seen and photographed this man's patterns.  I'd labeled and saved the photos, calling them up again for this post, in a bit of guerilla environmental journalism that I'm proud to be able to write. Documentation is important! Without these dates and photos, these destructive acts never happened.  

Over the years, I had raged and wept over this person's rampant disregard for the law and the landowner's rights. He was taking advantage of a person who couldn't police her own land.  But I'd never gotten anywhere trying to enlist the help of the county wildlife officer who preceded Ryan Donnelly.  Each time I broached the subject with him, I got the stock answer: "If I don't see him do it, I can't do anything about it."  This is the perennial law enforcement dodge for any crime that might happen in the future.  And for doing nothing at all to prevent it. You say this to make the complainant go away, to relieve you of the burden of having to bestir yourself. You say this, knowing that you'll never catch the person at it. He's free to do whatever he wants, and nobody can walk up to you and  make it your problem.

It was thoroughly frustrating. I would go away from those conversations feeling like some dumb bunny hugger who just loves beavers. I may love large wet rodents, but I am thoroughly invested not just in beavers, but in the habitat they create. Because it was never glaciated, the southeastern part of Ohio where I live has no natural bodies of water. Every lake or pond around here is man-made. Appalachian Ohio shares topography with West Virginia and Maryland, and neither of those have any natural lakes at all. In fact, in all of Ohio, there are but 100 natural lakes, and all of them are in the glaciated areas, mostly Summit, Portage and Geauga Counties.  Those of you from the Dakotas and Minnesota and upstate New York just stop and think about that for a moment. No natural ponds. No lakes without a cement dam. The artificial lakes we do have are ringed with houses and used up by recreation.  So we have very few places to go and see creatures like herons,  ducks, dragonflies, muskrats, turtles, or any of the myriad beautiful life forms that inhabit quiet ponds and lakes. Ours is a rich but aquatically impoverished biome. 

In Officer Donnelly, I had finally found an ally.  Here was someone who was willing to stick his neck out to try to protect this habitat. He listened to me, and made the pre-emptive strike that the beavers so desperately needed him to execute. My pounding on the well-tender's door would get me nowhere fast. Who am I? Some beaver-lovin' crackpot. Well. This beaver-hugger finally had the ear of someone with law enforcement authority.

In their conversation, Officer Donnelly reminded the well operator of something he surely knew but had chosen to ignore: that any activity conducted on someone else's land has to have express permission from the landowner. Having a pipeline right of way does not grant him tacit permission to  shoot or trap animals, much less destroy an entire wetland habitat. In a face-to-face conversation with the landowner, also facilitated by this beaver-lover, Officer Donnelly had established that the well operator never obtained permission to destroy the habitat in the two previous incidents. Now, it has become clear to the welltender that multiple people are watching and reporting his activity; law enforcement is watching; the landowner is upset, and the beavers are not to be killed nor their dam destroyed again. All that should make it a bit harder for him to just go ahead and do his thing come fall. He'll get a knock on his door if he does. He'd better hope it's not me. 

Now, he told Officer Donnelly,  he "doesn't have time to monkey with it"  and intends to leave it be. 


I cannot express how happy I was to hear this. I could hear the smile in Officer Donnelly's voice as he related their conversation. I was so happy I'd done the legwork, helped the wildlife officer do a pre-emptive strike, and finally had a county wildlife officer who cared enough to step in and do something about it. Finally, after agonizing over the fate of this habitat since 2014, I had some reassurance that, the next time I walk down Dean's Fork, there will be water, and wood ducks whistling, maybe a green heron or a kingfisher or two. And two beavers gliding back and forth across a big, deep pond of their own making. Perhaps it might have stayed that way without my asking, sleuthing, and making a pest of myself. But then again, perhaps not.  


Perhaps wasn't good enough for me. 

Opossum tracks in blessed water.

           



32 comments:

You inspire me to keep speaking up! Good on you Julie!

What a peaceful spot in this world of turmoil. Congrats !!

You put sails on my spirit! Aaah! Finally some good news in this sorry world. The little I've read about beavers has astonished me: how, given a mere lack of harassment, they come back on their own. It seems so odd that a small pond operated by two working beavers can keep reappearing even though the beavers have been killed. It's as though beavers are capable of spontaneous generation in the presence of a trickle of water and good will.

May all the gods and goddesses and especially you, Julie, be praised.

I am glad you took the time and made the effort. Looks like a wonderful spot.

So beautiful! Heaps of good karma for your effort here, Julie!

I certainly hope that pig doesn't harm them again. What a giant beautiful pond! Thank you for being the sentinel!

What a great story with a wonderful outcome! Hooray!

Thanks for your hard work! We had beavers move in behind our house in Yellow Springs and create a glorious pond and wetland area. Luckily, we were able to get the area saved as a nature preserve protected by the Tecumseh Land Trust. We had some amazing local engineers help, so we could avoid flooding local houses. I'm so proud of our pond!

You're a hero! Thanks for not being afraid to speak out.

I just read this on Beaver Management Forum page, and it filled my heart. We had a bulldozer come on our property and destroy a dam, and the sense of violation was gut- wrenching. The beavers never returned.
Thank you for standing up and protecting nature. You are a kindred spirit.

Thank you ❤️

And she will be known by her works. You are a jewel among women. The swimming beaver looks very happy. It is a good thing you did.

Hallelujah and thank you!

Best news I've heard all week! Thank you for caring and having the courage and tenacity to see it through. We have lots of beavers around our house in Canada on Lake Huron's North Channel and in the surrounding woods and wetlands. Always love seeing them swim by our dock. Occasionally, they will come into the harbor to check it out, but have never tried to stay and build a home.

This is excellent news and I'm so good you found an ally! Now lets sit back and watch the successful beaver pond make many more!

Thanks for telling us about all you have done to save the beavers and all the other creatures who live around the pond. You give me strength to fight for my own little victories over those who would desecrate nature.

Absolutely fantastic! We have them down at the ponds and they come up off the river and build dams in the three ponds. The county pays the DNR and they trap them underwater. It makes me so angry, but they put up signs that says it is a federal law to mess with the traps. I asked the guy if they catch the otters in their traps and he said they could. He had two beautiful but dead beavers on the back of his truck--and two flat tires! Karma!

This is wonderful!! Congratulations and thank you!! <3

Thank you, thank you - I could imagine you weeping in blessed relief. Thankful for the new officer, too. I come from northeast Ohio, northwest PA, where we have lakes and ponds in abundance - had no clue about the different resources. That beaver dam is so precious.

That dam has your name on it, dearie.

Hooray! Hooray! Hooray! Thank you for doing your part to save this little piece of paradise. And thank you for the peaceful video, it says it all.


I am so thrilled that you finally found/have a wildlife officer who took your info and followed through! Good for you for having the forethought to take pictures and notes so you could present proof of what that jerk had done previously. So happy!

Take care,
Lucy

You have a place in wet rodent heaven too. (satisfied sigh)

Fantastic--You, the officer, the pond, the outcome!

You are a champion! What a wonderful outcome!

Hooray, Julie! And all of my prayers for the beavers to prosper and thrive.

Thank you for your persistence, Julie. Speaking on behalf of all the wildlife and wetlands, you are THE BEST human friend they could ever have.

God bless you, Julie. Thank you!

Though she be little, she be fierce.

Oh a happy ending!! I love it when the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Awesome sleuthing and follow up. Renée xo

Oh, thank [Julie]! Well done!!!

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