The Beaver Defenders
Editorial by Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, reprinted from Good News, April 1970
There is never a perfect time to start something, but that this is the time to organize the Beaver Defenders was brought home to Unexpected on January 31, when a trapper appeared a few feet upstream from the Refuge, in a pickup truck, complete with hip boots, canoe, traps and fresh poplar twigs. He was all set to trap beavers, legally.
That stream has had no beavers on it for years, except for the one family protected within the Unexpected borders. During the summer of 1965, when a severe drought threatened the water supply of Whiskers and Greenbrier and their family, we walked this stream for miles almost dry-shod. We found ancient beaver works crumbling into ruin, letting water rush through in flood time, with no defense against drought.
As regular readers of GOOD NEWS recall, during the summer of 1965 a state of disaster was declared in parts of New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and ways were sought not only to alleviate the drought but to prevent recurrence in future.
R.W. Howard, a Pennsylvania lumberman, suggested that Federal protection be given to all beavers left in this country, and if necessary mated pairs of beavers should be imported from Canada to carry on the work of natural flood-and-drought control. Others joined Howard in his appeal, but the powers-that-were, like Namaan of old scorned such a humble solution.
At Unexpected, Greenbrier, the father beaver, took advantage of what was left of his stream, maintaining ten dams below the main pond, and building one new dam, a masterpiece situated at a neck below a small spring. Result: Though no water came from the ravaged stream above, the trickle from the spring gradually created a generous pool. The beaver family took up residence in makeshift tunnels along this pool, and we supplemented the meager water supply by pumping when the drought was at its height. The beavers survived.
Invaluable as beavers can be to us, motto of The Beaver Defenders is not based primarily on our need of them. Their need of us is the base. The soul of any campaign to protect animals is love. Stan Wayman, declares, “it is impossible to teach conservation without teaching a love for animals.” People are beginning to realize this, but not enough people know the facts on which to act. “Beaver Bill” Hoisington of New Hampshire, after studying beavers for years, says, “Beavers are to befriend.” We hereby add a corollary: “Beavers are to defend.” When a so-called state conservation department can send out men to trap beavers in streams which have suffered for years from lack of drought-and-flood control which beavers would assure; when trappers are allowed — even urged — to scour the countryside and kill any beaver who may be making a comeback; when a governmental agency supposedly speaking for the people of a state in the interests of wildlife can completely disregard a resolution by an organization representing 5,000 families in that state, plus written pleas by other residents and by authorities on wildlife across the country, and refuse to cancel an open season on beavers, then something is wrong. This happened in 1968.
When the season was re-opened two years later (February 1970) over the protests of eleven persons, representing several thousand residents, who attended an open hearing, then something must be done.
Motto of The Beaver Defenders is: “They shall never be trapped any more.” We firmly believe there can be no reason whatsoever for trapping a beaver, except live trapping on rare occasions when relocation is necessary. We know by actual observation that beavers create a healthful stream, are wonderful neighbors and are able to furnish delight and education to those who are fortunate enough to know them.
We do not count on economic benefits alone to win beavers a place in human regard. Like children, they are worthwhile in themselves. And like children, their delicate hands need protection from the cruel jaws of traps, and their lives from being sacrificed by deliberate drowning. We need new ideas, and cooperation in putting ideas across. Donations are welcome, and will be put to the best use we can devise to help beavers, but moral support and active participation are the main things.
Our work will be educational. Posters will be prepared, news releases sent out, photos distributed, books written. In fact, a book about beavers, “Beavertime” [Hour of the Beaver], is already finished and will be published soon.
Whiskers and Greenbrier and their offspring — who as things stand now must go downstream to their doom — join us in inviting you to help our dream come true: “They shall never be trapped any more.” This motto is not only a dream, but a goal to work for. You may join the Beaver Defenders by writing to The Beaver Defenders, PO Box 765, Newfield, NJ 08344. Save the Beaver!