Book Review: "Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers," by Ben Goldfarb

I live in a coastal town with abundant freshwater wetlands that drain to Long Island Sound. Beavers live here, too, and given their penchant for taking down ornamental trees and flooding driveways, their presence is not without controversy.

They have never caused me trouble, but two beaver lodges on the cranberry bog inside a local state forest raised my curiosity. It was time to improve my beaver I.Q.

If you think these furry wetland engineers provide dry reading material, think again. "Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter" places a kaleidoscope on the super-sized rodents and turns the lens. We learn about their natural history and biology, their role in North American ecology, and their necessary role in the modern landscape.

Goldfarb introduces us to scientists, wildlife managers, and beaver fans (“Beaver Believers”), who offer compelling reasons to rehabilitate our attitudes towards the critters and to change the terms of our co-existence.

Hunting pushed North American beavers near extinction in the 19th and early 20th centuries. There were none in Connecticut from the late 1800s until 1914, when a pair was reintroduced in Union, CT. They are still routinely euthanized when their feats of building become too much for humans to handle. 

Goldfarb's bottom line: the planet needs beavers.

If you like works on natural history, wildlife biology, or ecological restoration, or if you have a 'difficult' relationship with the critters, this book is likely to both entertain and inform you. Winner of the EO Wilson/PEN Literary Science Writing Award. 

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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