Large Rodent Tackles Climate Change: Hoelterhoff

A Colorado hairdresser with a fondness for large rodents is doing her bit for climate change, and so can you.

Sherri Tippie is the nation’s champion beaver relocation specialist and the sight of her wrestling them into carriers adds to the fascination of “Leave it to Beavers,” which airs tonight at 8 p.m. EST (check local listings) on PBS’s Nature series.

Having nearly died out as hats in more formal times, the beaver seems determined to survive. I trust the encounter of a pathetic moose and an angry beaver will go viral.

The show’s timing is pretty great: Last week, the National Climate Assessment report affirmed that climate change is a fact that can’t be blustered away by simple radio hosts, grandiose columnists and the Washington servitors of the coal industry.

Beavers deploy every cell in their equally tiny brains keeping America fertile and driving developers crazy.

In the Rocky Mountains, their structures filter billions of tons of water. When a drought dried out big stretches of Nevada, the beaver-managed areas remained nice and green.

Water Hazards

As beavers gnaw away to keep the rivers flowing and the landscape green, we work just as diligently paving it over with malls, housing and golf courses.

The Colorado stylist started her second career plucking the rodents from water hazards, whose importance the beavers didn’t grasp. Tippie’s latest rescues -- a mother and daughter beaver - - are no doubt thrilled to be moved from a drain in Boulder to the scenic home of an 84-year-old rancher, who remembers when Beaver Creek still had beavers.

“Look at those teeth!” the handsome oldster exclaims, peering happily into the cage.

Their incisors can take down a maple in a few hours. Or a Belarusian! I just read about a beaver killing a guy in the ex-Soviet state of Belarus as he tried to take its picture. He severed a major artery.

But back to the program, which takes us inside Canada’s Gatineau Park outside Ottawa to meet a “beaver whisperer.” The clever human figured out a way to deflect the animals from culverts and drains where their ceaseless constructions were unwelcome. Lured to another location by a buried boom box gurgling out running water sounds, the enchanted critters went right to work carrying sizable stones in their creepy little paws and long branches in their jaws.

Lodge Life

Their equally impressive lodges feature living and sleeping chambers, plus eco-friendly toilets.

A hidden camera shows a beaver family in winter, sharing their underwater home with a muskrat couple, frogs and insects. But there are limits to this generosity of spirit.

When the freeloading moose sloshed into view in search of a nice weed bouquet, the landlord begins swimming furious circles around the hulking beast, splashing it with its flat tail, again and again until it turns around.

I expect these furry swimmers will still be around when Washington’s climate comedians and the eastern seaboard have sunk into the sea.

(Manuela Hoelterhoff is an executive editor for the arts at Bloomberg news. All opinions are her own.)

(An earlier version of this story corrected the name of the series.)

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