A beaver odyssey: I went looking for beavers and failed five times

Nicholas Tillinghast/The Miscellany News.

What’s up with the beavers? Where are they? Maybe an easier question to start with is where are they not? There are a few locations that I have pinned down. They do not live in Sanders Classroom. They do not live in practice rooms 212 or 218. They do not live in my closet. I checked. Where they have been spotted, though, is by the TA bridge, as documented in multiple PB emails. 

President Bradley claims that the first beaver has been named Justice, which is a solid name. I have no qualms with crime-fighting beavers. I have decided the second beaver’s name is Winston Churchill, a figure who has always had sort of a beaver-like quality. How will I differentiate Justice and Winston Churchill when I see them? I will know. 

What initially got me interested in these wood fanatics was seeing the beavers firsthand at the TA bridge one fateful September night. I wasn’t the one who spotted them, but I happened to be walking by, so I joined in on the beaver watch. Justice and Winston Churchill seemed to not care that people were a mere five feet away from them and were great models for photos. They bit sticks regardless of our presence. I can only assume these are city beavers, as they exhibited the blase attitude towards people common with New Yorkers. I would share the pictures I took that night, but they are quite poor and nondescript. My goal this week was to skillfully document the beaver. Here’s how that went: 

Attempt one (Sept. 17): This was an initial survey of the area on a late summer evening. It was both a walk and a beaver-searching experience. If this had been a success, then the rest of the journeys would have been superfluous. I wish it had been that simple. I started out by the bridge on the edge of Sunset Lake and then moved downstream towards the TA bridge. Signs of tree-eating were further down, so I continued walking to the bridge by Kenyon—no beavers, just a bunch of berries that I apparently shouldn’t eat.  

Attempt two (Sept. 30): Two weeks later, I tried again. This time I put on my beaver goggles (this is a metaphor, as beaver goggles are not real) and took a very similar route as last time, as this was the only area they have been documented. During this walk, I realized that I have no idea what Justice or Winston Churchill sound like if I were to hear them. I can make out the call of a catbird (a terrible sound) from half a mile away, but I wouldn’t know a beaver if it called me on my cell phone. What I found on YouTube I cannot describe better than a comment on the video, “What Sound Does a Beaver Make? Animal Sounds (Beaver Sounds),” that said “it sounds like mc Donald’s straws [sic].” I kept my ears peeled for the sound of a straw, but there were so many catbirds calling that I couldn’t make out anything. 

Attempt three (Sept. 30): I started to realize that it might help to change up my timing—so, I went back that night. It was very dark. All of the catbirds were asleep, though, so it was also very quiet. I kept my ears peeled for the sound of red- and yellow-striped straws sliding through McDonald’s cups. This was my least fruitful attempt. It was very dark. 

Attempt four (Oct. 1): Fatigue started to set in. I should have been looking at over 300 original Haitian paintings and hundreds of handcrafts but here I was, walking through catbird alley. My plan this time was to outsmart Justice and Winston Churchill by going upstream instead of downstream. I think I outsmarted everybody but the beavers, as I saw more squirrels, chipmunks and birds scurrying through one place than I have ever seen in my entire life. It was like Families’ Weekend but for the animals too. I even saw a rare turtle swimming through beaver turf, but still no sign of the creature I sought.

Attempt five (Oct. 1): In my research, I read somewhere that beavers are most active in the morning and at dusk, so I pulled up on Sunset Stream at duskish. I walked upstream from the Kenyon bridge without blinking. I arrived at the TA bridge and just leaned against the rail for 15 minutes, intently staring at the water. This is the hardest my eyes have ever worked in my life. Still no Justice or Winston Churchill.  

I have not failed this hard at something in a very long time. A lot of people say you can learn a lot from your failures. I have learned nothing. And I don’t think I’ll keep trying.  “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill. Dude’s just mocking me. 

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