The Beaver: Unsung Hero of the Rocky Mountains

20 April, 2014


A nations animal is the embodiment of their culture, a symbol of their people, and a representative of their land. So a lot of Canadians look at the beaver and ask themselves, what went wrong? In fact, so few Canadians know nothing about what makes the beaver such a BAMF. In 2011, Senator Nicole Eaton called for a Canadian makeover, replacing the beaver (a “dentally defective rat”) with something a little more suiting: a polar bear. It fell through (obviously) but I can’t even believe she had the nerve to propose something like that!


As much as I love bears and think making our national animal the polar bear would bring much needed attention to their plight, let me make my case in defense of that “toothy tyrant”, Senator. They are cute as heck (even with that second eyelid), and have done way more to shape this nation than your cuddly (carnivorous) polar bears.


The beaver was chosen to be Canada’s national animal because they symbolize trade and economic development. Yup, economic development and beavers have gone hand in hand for as long as we’ve been trading their pelts (which brought them to the brink of extinction). That relationship started petering off in the 1830’s when the earliest hipsters started to adopt silk hats.


So, beavers really haven’t had anything to do with economic development since constitution. However, beavers have had their noble little paws tied up in structural development for as long as there have been trees to build dams. Beaver dams often clog up rivers, and can even change the course of a whole waterway (it’s happened). Plus, while a beaver dam can be an annoyance to a lot of people, it has huge benefits to ecosystems.


Beaver dams might flood a lot of human infrastructure, but they play a key part in establishing species in the wild. They shape the way our rivers flow, our lakes form, and our marshes… marsh. A beaver dam in an ecosystem can increase the presence of open water by up to 9 times. What can this do? For migratory birds open water, like a beaver pond, is crucial. They can also be an oasis for moose, deer, bear, or any Canadian wildlife.


What really makes the beaver a CRUCIAL species is their ability to help ecosystems withstand drought. In the paragraph up there I mentioned that a beaver dam can increase the presence of open water. Ecosystems will keep 60% more open water during times of drought if a beaver is present. This is essential in maintaining habitats for wildlife.


For the sake of not boring you senseless, I’m not even going to get into talking about things like the beaver’s multi-tool of a tail, 2nd eyelids, or contractible nostrils. Lets stick too what they can do for Canada. With climate change sending our world down the path it is, beavers are going to play an essential role in protecting our forests and our planet. I don’t think a lot of people realize it, but while the bear is cool, the beaver is the real hero of Canada’s woodlands.


Bonus: I had a friend share this with me the other day, check out this happy otter having a bit of a confrontation with one ticked off beaver.


This post is a part of a hidden collection about a charity centred business I launched in 2013/14. The home post is here.