EAGLE’S NEST/BRANTFORD – The majestic beaver was plentiful in the Grand River Valley when Joseph Brant brought his Mohawks and others of the Six Nations, along with representatives from the Tutelo, Delaware and Nanticoke Nations, to the area in 1784.
Due to the high demand in Europe for men’s beaver skin top hats, over-trapping made beaver skins a much sought after commodity, nearly wiping out the animal, as was the case with the buffalo in the West. Their natural wetland habitat has also been greatly reduced as more and more wetlands have been drained.
Once prolific, by the 1900’s the beaver population was reduced to about 100,000 across Canada. Today there are believed to be between ten and 15 million of the animals in North America.
Even today, beaver sightings within the Brantford area are rare, but there is evidence that beavers are beginning to return to the Mohawk Village and the Glebe lands, both areas still belonging to Six Nations today.
Residential School survivor Geronimo Henry happened to be driving along Greenwich Street by the canal when he spotted a gnawed up tree, obviously the target of an enterprising beaver wishing to build a lodge along the old canal. Soon he spotted the critter on the Glebe side of the canal and took a few pictures before the camera-shy rodent disappeared.
Beaver sightings have also been reported in the Delhi, Waterford and Norwich area.
Beavers are amazing creatures, but if allowed to proliferate near populous areas, they can create a great deal of problems as dams and beaver lodges back up rivers and streams to overflow their banks and spill into residential areas, creating havoc with storm sewers and septic systems.
Still, some Onkwehonwe see the return of the beaver as a positive sign that points back to the time when trappers could make a good living as nature’s creatures regain a foothold in southwestern Ontario.