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BJF: 'Almost Encounter' with Giant Beavers of Grand Tetons

A story from writer's forest firefighting days in a deployment in the Northern Rockies in the 1980s, when he and most of his colleagues were supposed to be worried about encounters of a Grizzly Bear or Moose.
Inspired upon reading: Comments re article 80323 Dave Rosenbaum The story of the Wyoming bear bells

By Billy Joe Fudge, Retired District Forester
Kentucky Division of Forestry

Well, I certainly cannot top that true story but I will share with CM Readers about my "almost encounter" with the Giant Beavers of the Grand Tetons.


During one of my Wildland Fire Deployments in the Northern Rockies during the early 80's, I was assigned to the Teton Fire located, yes you guessed it, on the Grand Teton National Park. Our camp was in an open area between Leigh and Bearpaw Lakes at the base of the Eastern Slope.

Each morning the crews would hike several miles across lush wetlands and between fingers of lakes to begin the treacherous ascent through Evergreen woodlands on ever increasingly steep slopes. The forested lower slopes would eventually give way to brushy, sparse vegetation for several hundred feet which would eventually succumb to rocky, barren landscapes.

Each morning prior to beginning our daily hike, we would be admonished to be vigilant concerning Grizzly Bear and Moose. We would often see sign that bear were around but thankfully I never saw one. Well, at least I'm happy that I was never threatened by one. We would often see Moose traversing those grassy wetlands as we climbed well worn trails across the marshes and then upward and away from Moose territory.

It was on those trips through the marshes that I became increasingly suspicious that there was some previously undiscovered species of Giant Beaver lurking beneath the dark waters of the Eastern Slope of the Grand Tetons. As I was walking I began to notice the unmistakable gnawing of Beaver but the gnawing on the trunks of trees was over 10 feet above ground level.

Well, my imagination began to get the best of me. I was about half expecting to see one of those Moose disappear beneath the waters of the marsh. Even though they are vegetarian, I figured a Beaver that would stand tall enough to gnaw a tree 10, 12 or maybe even 15 feet above the ground could certainly drag a Bull Moose to it's untimely demise just for sport.

I began to envision foot-long incisors which could fell a fair sized Lodge pole pine with a single yawn and snip. I had about decided that an encounter with a Momma Grizzly protecting her young might be preferable to running upon a Grand Teton, Giant Beaver.

Finally, my natural curiosity and my desire for self-preservation got the best of me. I decided to risk asking a local who I was convinced would not laugh at my skittishness and who I was sure I would not see on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson recounting how my East of the Mississippi, Red Neck education had failed me in the vastness of Lakota Country.

Well, I believe I detected a bit of a upturn of the corner of his mouth as he turned his back on me and apparently suffered some sort of "spell" for a few seconds. Finally, after some breathing exercises which somewhat reminded me of a prolonged and repeated snicker, he was able to control his spasm and in sniffs and coughs and belches, all caused by his medical condition I'm sure, uttered the words, "snow, lots and lots of snow."

I, I, I, never did see that poor soul again. I'm sure he had to seek treatment for his condition. I hope he recovered. - Billy Joe Fudge


This story was posted on 2016-01-22 03:03:50
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