Friday, March 22, 2013

Beaver Whisperers A Delight

I've just finished reviewing a CBC documentary about dogs.
Now I'm being asked to review one on beavers?
I was skeptical but after plopping in the DVD I couldn't stop watching.
The Beaver Whisperers makes the startling premise that beavers may be the saviors of Canada. In this challenging new age where water is becoming just as expensive as oil beavers can help us turn bone dry landscapes back into lush paradises.
The Beaver Whisperers premieres on The Nature Of Things Thursday March 28  at 8 p.m. and is highly recommended.
The director Jari Osborne isn't the first name I'd associate with a Nature Of Things documentary --she made the wonderful factual film Unwanted Soldiers (1999).
But Osborne told me the more she researched the story the more she was convinced beavers were being overlooked for their environmental contributions.
And she's provided some wonderful (and true) stories about how beavers can positively change the landscape.
"They have a reputation as pests which is undeserved.  Some Canadian provinces still have bounties on them."
The most wonderful scenes are in Nevada where Osborne looks at a parched valley where cattle have eaten most of the vegetation and the water supply is typical of streams in that area.
Ecologists fenced out cattle from the area and began rebuilding the fragile ecosystem.
"And two beavers suddenly appeared and began dam constructions --there were no trees so they used mostly mud dams where vegetation has since sprouted. Now there is available water all year around and we see cranes now nesting and in the ponds. And it's quite a story."
Another great story Osborne came upon is the experience of former trapper Michel Leclair who operates out of Quebec's Gatineau Park. For years he'd been battling the beavers as they built dams in the wrong places. Leclair would trap them, blow up the dams.
And a day later the dams would reappear.
He discovered beavers respond to the sound of running water --the sound determines where they'll build dams. Now Leclair uses a playback machine to get the beavers building dams where they are needed.
"He has the beavers working for him," says one colleague in amazement.
Another true incident looks at a little beaver kit adopted by an ecologist who is training him to be re-introduced to the wild.
Many transfers fail but in this case "Timber" does meet up with a beaver family who make room for him (beavers are usually territorial).
The lady recently fell through the ice near her pond and reports "Timber" showed up to make sure she was OK before heading home to his beaver pond.
To her credit Osborne seeks out the experts who argue beavers can bring back long neglected wetlands. They may be one part of our ecological survival --miniature animal flood control engineers.
And the amount of U.S. footage guarantees Osborne's fine production should get an American TV sale sooner than later.

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