Leave it to Beavers: Re-evaluating an Unlikely Eco-Savior

May 07, 2014 at 11:05 am

A new PBS Nature documentary, Leave it to Beavers, tells the story of beavers in North America – their history, their near extinction and their current comeback as modern day eco-heroes.

The industrious hydro-engineers are experts at excavating, logging and reshaping landscapes, but have long been hunted for their pelts and generally regarded as pests. Today, a growing number of scientists and conservationists are beginning to see beavers in a new light.

“This little humble creature…he’s like a little friend with benefits. He is hardworking, he’s modest, he accomplishes so much with the skills that he has. And what he creates, which are these incredibly rich wetlands, it’s admirable,” said filmmaker Jari Osborne, who joined MetroFocus’ Rafael Pi Roman to share stories from behind the scenes.

In order to capture the semi-nocturnal creatures in their element, Osborne said her team had to employ “star scope technology” and time their shoots by the phases of the moon. They stashed underwater cameras in beaver lodges and once waited 12 hours without seeing a single beaver.

“These creatures are nocturnal, they live in fortresses surrounded by water. They access them through hidden underwater entrances. They can hold their breath up to 15 minutes,” Osborne told Pi Roman.

The film also features a number of dedicated “beaver whisperers” who are helping restore beaver populations in North America.  

“The people that I’ve come across in this journey of making this film, have found ways to not only live with beavers but to kind of recruit them, to co-opt them, to use them as flood control,” said Osborne.

Leave it to Beavers premieres Wednesday, May 14 at 8 p.m. (ET) on PBS.