Leave it to beavers.
Members of the Castor canadensis family were the unlikely heroes -- and sympathetic victims -- in a recent drama played out at Willard Bay State Park.
It all started when Chevron -- French for "leaks like a sieve" -- had yet another pipeline rupture. This time it was near Willard Bay, resulting in a spill of more than 20,000 gallons of diesel fuel.
The environmental impact could have been much worse, but a beaver dam in the area contained the fuel and kept it from reaching Willard Bay. Six fuel-covered beavers were rescued and are now being nursed back to health. They're also being hailed in the media as "beaver heroes" -- or, as I've taken to calling them for short, "beaveroes."
Or are they?
According to a third-hand report -- and really, is there any better way to hear something than from someone who heard it from someone else? -- the Willard Bay beavers may not have been quite so beloved before the spill.
David R. Boyce, of Harrisville, was riding FrontRunner to Salt Lake City recently when he met a man who was on his way back home to Yakima, Wash. He'd been helping with the cleanup.
"A fellow passenger thanked him for helping save the beavers," David writes in an email. "He shrugged it off saying that what the state did not tell you was that they had previously set out traps for the beavers, and that some traps had dead beavers at the time of the pipeline leak. Now, evidently the state wanted to kill the beavers because the beavers were cutting down the trees in the area to make their dams."
Wait, are you telling me the state of Utah may have put out a hit on our beaveroes?
Phil Douglass, Northern Region outreach manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said the idea that beavers had been trapped is "not out of the realm of possibility," but he stressed the state "hadn't done it as far as I know."
There had been some talk among park management about the problems the beavers were causing in the area, but Douglass knows of no decision to trap them.
I called Willard Bay State Park, but manager James Morgan said he was unaware of any beaver fatwa.
"If there were traps in the area, that's news to me," he said. "I'd have to defer to the wildlife people, but as far as I know, there were no traps out there."
But Morgan called back a bit later, after inquiring among his staff.
"They did find a trap out there," he said. "It wasn't my staff who set it, and it's probably a couple of years old. It looked like an old trap that was put out there and abandoned."
(Just out of curiosity, what do you suppose they use as bait in a beaver trap? Two-by-fours?)
So then, what's to become of the Willard Bay Six? Douglass said they'll be relocated to Rich County.
We may never know if someone in the government was out to get our beaveroes. But if they had been declared enemies of the state before the fuel leak, the irony is not lost on David Boyce.
"Thus," he writes, "people are trying to save beavers who got caught up in the spill; beavers the state had already wanted to kill because of the dams the beavers were making; dams that had stopped the spill from getting into the rest of Willard Bay ... . Amazing how the ironies pile."
Pile like the wood of a beaver lodge.
Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272 or email@example.com.