Having lived an outdoor lifestyle for most of my life, I have come across a wide assortment of animals in distress. I once saved a baby pronghorn that misjudged the height of a barbwire fence, and a similar situation with a doe mule deer that had both hind legs tangles in the wire.
There was the time I freed up two bucks that were fighting and had locked their antlers in a manner that would have meant death to the both of them. During my years on the waters around the keys, I saved countless seabirds from fishhooks and entanglements with improperly discarded monofilament line. Once, I got into the water to untangle a 300-pound sea turtle that was hopelessly twisted up in an improperly disposed fisherman’s net.
In all of those rescue missions, I might point out that I never received so much as a thank-you from any of the animals I saved. Without exception, every animal attempted to bite, stab, gore, kick, thrash, charge, or otherwise attempt to inflict great bodily harm to my person as a gesture of goodwill for my attempts to assist them.
I just read a story of a man who found two bull elk locked in mortal combat. The scenario had played on so long, that one of the participants had already died, the other locked hopelessly with the dead one’s antlers.
This nature-loving chap decided to try and saw off the antler of the dead elk, in an attempt to free the still alive one. It worked, sort of. He did manage to free the still living elk, but the bull came back and attacked the man, goring him in the neck for his troubles. The man lived and was somewhat wiser. I am adding this guy to my Christmas card list because his story is one, I can relate to.
As a general rule, I have found wild animals to be nonaggressive, for the most part. Unless you have a flair for challenging kismet, if you leave them alone, they generally will go hence without day and grant you the same professional courtesy.
Sure, you occasionally read about the idiot tourist who tried to feed a marshmallow to a 1,200-pound bison in a National Park and got stamped, cancelled and rolled into a fair resemblance of a shaggy tollhouse cookie mix. There is also the occasional camper who gets into a losing argument with a bear and gets fully subdivided for his troubles.
Lately, I have been seeing some very disturbing reports about beavers. My relationship with the beaver goes way back to my childhood and ranch days with my grandparents.
We had several creeks that flowed through our little ground. The water was very important to us, but for different reasons. My grandfather wanted the water to flow, free of obstructions, and irrigate his hay fields, so he could make money to keep us in daily gruel. I wanted the creeks for fishing.
The beavers dammed up the creeks, making wonderful ponds that held many trout. I would wade these ponds amongst the many beavers, and they basically ignored me. They never attacked me or threatened me for that matter. We maintained a very equitable relationship. They made ponds for me to fish in, and I kept the information from my grandfather, lest he blow the ponds, much to the dismay of the beavers and me.
Science tells us that beavers can be very aggressive when defending their territory against interlopers. They might also attack humans when infected with rabies, although it is rare for a beaver to become rabid. There is also some thinking that beavers can become disoriented during the daylight hours and attack out of fear.
I have never found a beaver to be aggressive. I have walked up next to them, fished alongside of them, and watched them work on a pond for hours, never having one display any type of aggressiveness towards me. Perhaps that is about to change.
A 60-year-old fisherman in Belarus (a landlocked country in Europe) died when he was attacked by a beaver. The beaver tore open an artery and the man bled to death.
The media described the incident as “the latest in a series of beaver attacks on humans in the country.” Authorities claim the beaver was rabid, while others stated the man grabbed the beaver in an attempt to take a picture with it, hence the marshmallow and bison outcome.
There was the recent attack of a snorkeler off the coast of Nova Scotia by a beaver. This was an interesting event because beavers don’t go near saltwater. Closer to home, an elderly woman in Virginia was severely mauled by a beaver, reported to be rabid.
A man named Dan Wherley and his 7-year-old daughter were kayaking on a Pennsylvania river when a beaver came out and attacked their kayak. Wherley beat back the beaver with his paddle, only to have the beaver attack his daughter’s kayak. The battle carried onto the shore where hand-to-hand combat ensued until the beaver finally was killed. The beaver later tested positive for rabies.
Another kayaker, Michael Cavanaugh, was brutally attacked and knocked out of his vessel by a very angry beaver. The man managed to beat the beaver away with his paddle, but not before sustaining severe lacerations from the angry animal.
Recently, a rabid beaver attacked 2 girls. Both girls were severely mauled and were hospitalized and treated for rabies. These reports seem to be more common in the last few years, with attacks on the upswing.
I am not sure if the beavers are seeking reparations for the years of trapping, they endured or if they hate kayaks. In either event, I am going to start keeping a closer eye on them when I am fishing a beaver pond. They may still be angry about the way my grandfather used to blow their ponds with dynamite.
Mark Rackay is a columnist for the Montrose Daily Press and avid hunter who travels across North and South America in search of adventure and serves as a Director for the Montrose County Sheriff’s Posse. For information about the Posse call 970-252-4033 (leave a message) or email email@example.com
For outdoors or survival related questions or comments, feel free to contact him directly at his email firstname.lastname@example.org