What were they thinking?

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This is an American beaver.

There I was, two days travel into the United States and I stumbled on something eerily Canadian. In fact, it was nothing short of Canada’s iconic symbol!

Still something seemed wrong with this picture. This Canadian beaver was looking right at home in this very American neighbourhood. Except of course that the water, mud and most everything else that beavers like was also exactly the same as Canada.

Then it hit me – this was an American beaver. Of course, just because a country claims an icon doesn’t mean they have a corner on that animal. Still on this Canada Day weekend, it got me thinking about the symbol again and how we could have picked so badly.

Since the United States beat us to country status they probably got first choice of animals. The eagle was a great choice and it definitely stirs my enthusiasm … and I’m not even an American!

Still by the time Canada got around to picking, there must have been some impressive animals left. I can imagine some fusty committee room in Ottawa where bureaucrats were meeting to make this decision. “On the one hand we have the greasy-looking beaver that sneaks around at night cutting down trees and on the other hand we have the majestic polar bear. Let’s go with the beaver.”

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The same American beaver.

Believe it or not, last year a Canadian senator even raised the idea of changing our icon from the beaver to the polar bear. I was shocked that people didn’t rise up as one and say, “Yes, great idea!” In fact there was genuine opposition to the change which I suspect was mostly rooted in change of any kind.

So our icon remains an industrious, agile and resilient dam builder that keeps cutting down trees amid concerns about global warming. Don’t get me wrong, I like the beaver. It’s somehow comforting to see a beaver’s nose gliding along a prairie slough then slapping its tail before effortlessly disappearing in the fading light.

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Any guesses?

Still I think an icon should be inspirational. I don’t really feel much looking at this toothy rodent. Perhaps it’s just too familiar.

There is an obvious moral to this story. Pick your icons carefully since they seem to hang around a long time!

_T6C1172 (2), beaver swimming

Definitely a Canadian beaver. Do you find it inspirational?

 

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Latest Comments

  1. nliakos says:

    I agree that the eagle is a predatory symbol (so maybe it represents us Yanks well). I am not so partial to turkeys either. We have so many wonderful animals–how to pick just one?
    I really like beavers and never thought of them as “greasy” before. I like the post about the bad hair day!

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  2. artsifrtsy says:

    I think that we yanks lucked out when Ben Franklin’s suggestion that our national symbol should be the turkey was vetoed.

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  3. Delft says:

    But he’s cute!
    And a symbol of industry!
    What more do you want?

    Like

  4. Mandy says:

    Australia’s animal icons are the kangaroo and the emu, which, legend has it, are the only two animals that cannot move backwards. We don’t have beaver but we have platypus – they both swim in the water and this is where I suspect the similarity ends!

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  5. owenslaterphotography says:

    I have to take a stand for the beaver! Not only do they represent our past (Europeans didn’t come here in droves to hunt and trade in polar bear furs!) but they also represent or future. Several studies have shown the beavers combat climate change by retaining fresh water and reducing snowmelt and run-off while also increasing biodiversity. More importantly (especially after recent events in Alberta) they are known to prevent flooding and have in fact been ‘deployed’ throughout many US states to combat flooding and restore water quality for a fraction of the cost it would be if human engineered dams were made. These little ecosystem engineers are very inspirational if you ask me! I’m proud to say beavers are my national animal and I wouldn’t have it any other way! 🙂

    Below are a few links about the value of beavers to ecosystems. Some pretty interesting and entertaining info including how Idaho was dropping beavers by parachute into drought stricken areas in the 1940s because it was too hard on the beavers to drive them along long dusty roads!

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/06/leave-it-to-beavers/308980/

    http://www.wcs.org/news-and-features-main/grand-canyon-trust-beaver-video.aspx

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    • lylekrahn says:

      You make a good case! I’ve always known the beaver was a pretty amazing creature but the information you provided was truly remarkable in all they do especially as master water conservers. I’m happy that you find inspiration in the beaver and I can see more clearly why more people wouldn’t want to change. And if I was making the choice purely on head knowledge, you would have me completely persuaded. But if I look at photos of a beaver and a polar bear, I find the polar so inspirational, intriguing and stunning – I suppose its a heart thing. Anyway, no need for you to worry about a change, it will never happen.

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  6. doriswamyganesh says:

    Dear Lyle, I do not have much knowledge on Beavers.With Indian background i like the idea of cleaner waters down stream which will improve our drinking water position. I still prefer the polar bear to the beaver ,may be because they are white and white in this country is associated with absoluteness.Regards, Ganesh.

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    • lylekrahn says:

      Beavers are absolutely remarkable creatures and perform many good functions. Still the polar bear seems like such remarkable creature and worthy of loftier status. It’s interesting that white is associated with absoluteness in your country.

      Like

  7. Buzzwordz says:

    Funny, I just saw one swimming across the lake last night (Canadian lake), and yes there is something very special about seeing a beaver on Canada Day, in Canada!

    Like

  8. mflahertyphoto says:

    Well Lyle you might know my home state claims the same animal, so there y’go. Great close-up on that last one! Funny but I’ve seen WAY more beaver in other states (Alaska, Wyoming, even Connecticut when I spent a few months there). I am not surprised at all that there was opposition to a change of the national animal. It was, after all, the very reason so many white people spread across the countryside in those golden days of yore.

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    • lylekrahn says:

      Yes, there is a strong history with the beaver that ties many people to it. There are a lot of beaver around here and where they stop, the muskrats take over.

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  9. Phil Lanoue says:

    Of course I still will continue to photograph them any chance I get.

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  10. Ad-libb3d says:

    Great shots as always, with a hilarious commentary. Happy Canada Day!

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      When a really funny guy says it hilarious, I’ll take that as a huge compliment. Thanks. So apparently wishing you a happy US day doesn’t quite work so I hope you have a great fourth of July.

      Like

  11. 23thorns says:

    I think your guys must have popped over to help our guys choose once they were done with the beaver. We get lions, leopards, cheetahs, elephants, rhinos, buffalo, eland, and martial eagles. So when it came time to choose a national animal, they went for the obvious choice. The springbok.

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      That’s funny. You have an impressive lists of wild creatures that got ignored. I had no idea what a springbok was so I guess I got out of bed for a reason today!

      Like

  12. Mind Margins/Run Nature says:

    I honestly had no idea that Canada’s national symbol was the beaver. I can understand your points about it not being as inspirational as a bald eagle, but I think it’s a fitting national animal. Industrious, social, hard-working, intelligent–there’s something very cool about the beaver. Happy Canada Day!

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      Thanks. I think you summed it up exactly right. I also hope you enjoy your fourth of July. We were in the US once on that date in a relatively small town and figured out pretty quickly that was pretty special. Great time.

      Like

  13. Mike Powell says:

    As another blogger pointed out, Benjamin Franklin suggested that the turkey was a better national symbol than the bald eagle. Why? In a letter to his daughter he said the following,”For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.”

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    • lylekrahn says:

      That’s a great quote. I had no idea the eagle had caused dissension in American ranks! The assumptions that people start with always have a huge impact on where they land on an issue. I absolutely love wildlife but I’m not sure I would read too much moral character into their actions especially considering they are predators. But if you do, that makes a lot of sense.

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  14. dda53 says:

    Beavers mate for life, now that is a good lesson. Water downstream of beaver damns is cleaner…..we would like to have some more beavers.

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  15. Deb W. Trotter says:

    Maybe not inspirational, but definitely very cute, in a fresh-out-of-the-water (bad hair?) kind of way! Nice photos Lyle.

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      That’s funny and a great point. I should have carried over some of the bad hair commentary to this one. Great description you put together. Glad you liked the photos.

      Like

  16. Gunta says:

    I totally agree with Phil about the eagle. Benjamin Franklin wrote about preferring the Turkey over the Eagle. As for the Beaver…. it’s Oregon is known as the Beaver State http://tinyurl.com/lvwpvdn and it’s the mascot for Oregon State University. I believe it’s their supposedly industrious nature that folks admire.

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    • lylekrahn says:

      I guess I’m learning about eagle behaviour – and preferring the turkey is pretty funny actually. Industrious is good but polar bears take incredibly long swims:)

      Like

  17. Phil Lanoue says:

    Terrific views of this cool beaver along with excellent commentary!
    Don’t be too excited with the United States in their choice of the eagle though. The bald eagle is a pirate and is often more then happy to let another bird such as an osprey of GBH do all the work and catch the fish, only to swoop in and take it.
    This behavior mirrors the entitlement mentality that so many US residents currently have where they are quite content to have others work while they sit back and take and expect benefits.

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    • lylekrahn says:

      Thanks. I have seen so few eagles I wasn’t aware of the pirate behaviour (what a great description). Perhaps the entitlement people you refer to like the symbolism:) So all those photos of eagles swooping in to grab fish out of the water don’t tell the whole story! Still it is an impressive looking bird.

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      • Phil Lanoue says:

        I believe it could be argued that with the direction the United States is currently heading with it becoming an entitlement society, the bald eagle could very well be the perfect symbol for the country.

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