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Another Crazy Beaver

In 2001 I had just finished a 300+ hour restoration job on one of my wood canvas Oldtown canoes. I took it out for a first paddle on the C&O canal at Angler's Inn on the Maryland side of the Potomac River. It was a beautiful day for a paddle and I had a very relaxing trip. About 1/4 mile from the take out I saw an adult beaver swimming about ten feet off the end of my boat. The beaver was an adult and appeared to be missing one eye. I was paddling solo but saw a jogger on the towpath and called out to him as he passed: "Hay, check out the beaver." The jogger nodded a response. I had stopped paddling, and was turned around in my seat, when I saw the animal swim up five feet from my boat, dive with a loud tail slap, and disappear. Then suddenly I heard scrapping CLAWS AND TEETH being applied to my just re-done canoe!

In momentary shock, I said "what the??????" jogger who saw it happening responded "Oh, he is just playing with you!" I said: "Playing with me? - Hell, he is chewing a hole in my boat!"

I rolled the boat side to side shaking him free, but soon felt him latch onto the bottom of my boat's keel at the midsection!

I took to shaking the boat again and again. Then I tried poking him with the blade of my wood paddle. That dissuaded him briefly, but he swam along the side of the boat scratching at it. Finally I struck him very hard with the edge of my paddle directly on his head but doing little damage to the critter. When he came in reach again I struck at him over and over. Our fight .... 185 lb man vs. 45 lb demonicly possessed beaver lasted over two solid minutes. It ended when the beaver broke off the engagement by surfacing just out of my paddle reach and eyed me coldly with his one eye as if to say "and if you want any more of this just come back sometime!"

I hastily retreated towards the takeout where I pulled the boat from the water, inverted it, and checked the damage. The animal had scraped the paint all the way down to the canvas filler in ten places. He had punctured the new canvas below the waterline along the stem of the boat. He had bitten half way through the inch and a half thick ash keel. Even my paddle had suffered a significant crack that required fiberglass repairs where it had been used as a club on his head.

I was so shocked by this encounter that I reported the incident to the C&O canal park managers. Additionally, I showed my boat off at a local paddle shop with the water still dripping off the fresh damage. I even took pictures of the damage with a disposable camera.

I have since repaired the damages but if you look carefully, you can still see where the incisors were dragged along the stem in an attempt to chomp through the boat. The new brass stem band probably save the boat from extensive end damage.

Lessons learned:

  1. don't mess with beavers and don't trust them to not mess with you.
  2. a beaver has a skull almost a half inch thick and is not easily injured or dissuaded.
  3. freshly restored wood canvas canoes can be at risk even in open flat water.

Submitted by Ken Penland

For more great stories: See the Archive!


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