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Lost in Suburbia classic: The mysterious case of the beaver in the ’burbs

Tracy Beckerman
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Plaquemine Post South

After 10 years in the suburbs, it seems logical that I would be familiar with most of the local wildlife by now. But when I saw something huge and furry that wasn’t my dog scurry across my backyard, I was pretty sure that I had witnessed something new to the ’burbs.

“There is a beaver in our backyard,” I informed my husband. “I think it may be here because of our brook. It’s going to build a dam,” I said with unquestionable authority.

“First of all, there are no beavers in the suburbs,” he told me. “Second of all, it’s not a brook, it’s a drainage canal. Lastly, it would need a variance for a dam.”

“I’m serious,” I protested. “I saw a beaver.”

“Did it have a flat tail?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“Then it’s not a beaver. It was probably a groundhog.”

I thought about the fact that Groundhog Day was approaching, and realized my husband might be right. I was wildlife-savvy enough to know that it was certainly the right time of year to be seeing drowsy groundhogs fresh from hibernation stumbling about as they looked for their shadows. But since I wasn’t 100% sure and the groundhog/fake beaver looked to be bigger than my dog and could probably clobber him if cornered, I figured it might be in our best interest to see if this was actually what we had skulking around the backyard.

So I looked on the internet and decided that the picture of the groundhog on the web was a pretty good likeness of the animal in my backyard. Then I read something that shocked me.

“Did you know that the groundhog doesn’t come out of his burrow in February to see his shadow? He’s actually just looking for a mate! And then when he finds one, they will BOTH probably go back to his burrow and hibernate again until spring.”

“No way!” exclaimed my husband in mock horror. “Next you’re going to tell me there’s no such thing as Santa Claus!”

“You don’t understand,” I said. “This isn’t a joke. That big, furry thing living in our backyard is out there looking for another big, furry thing to live in our backyard with it.”

“And that’s a problem because …”

“They could have rabies! They could have babies! They could have babies with rabies!”

“I’m glad you’re thinking rationally about this,” said my husband.

I ignored him and started thumbing through the yellow pages to find a wildlife control person who possibly had a sub-specialty in sleepy, mating groundhogs disguised as beavers. Then it occurred to me that I might not actually have to deal with this issue right away.

“You know, if the groundhog sees his shadow while he’s out looking for his mate, they’ll hibernate again and we won’t have to worry about them for at least six more weeks,” I rationalized.

“What if he doesn’t see his shadow?” asked my husband.

I thought for a minute. “Maybe we can put a spotlight in the backyard.”

This is a repeated Lost in Suburbia column, which has appeared in GateHouse Media newspapers since 2008. As Tracy Beckerman’s main column is shifting focus - her kids are grown and she has moved back to the city - we are rerunning her earlier work for readers who may have missed these the first time around. You can follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LostinSuburbiaFanPage/ and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/tracybeckerman.