cover image Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter

Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter

Ben Goldfarb. Chelsea Green, $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-60358-739-6

In this diverting volume, environmental journalist Goldfarb sings the praises of beavers, who, though “targets of a multicentury massacre” and besieged by urban sprawl, still manage to “flourish... not only in Walmart parking lots, but in stormwater ponds and golf course water hazards.” He sheds light on beaver habits and habitats in the United States, England, and Scotland, focusing on the roles they play within ecosystems and likening them to “ecological and hydrological Swiss Army knives, capable, in the right circumstances, of tackling just about any landscape-scale problem.” Chapters deal, for instance, with how beavers approach infrastructure and build dams by laying foundations with “mud, stones and sticks set perpendicular to the stream’s flow.” Goldfarb also acknowledges the mischief beavers can create, recounting the tale of a beaver who gnawed through fiber-optic cable and knocked out cell phone service in Taos, N.Mex., and a beaver “barging into a Maryland department store and rifling through its plastic-wrapped Christmas trees.” Goldfarb also calls attention to the work done by dedicated wildlife biologists, scientists, land managers, and other self-proclaimed “beaver believers” like Heidi Perryman, founder of the nonprofit Worth a Dam, a “comprehensive clearinghouse for beaver science and coexistence techniques.” These folks lend personality to an affectionate portrait of these “hardy rodents.” Illus. (July)