Sunday 28 March 2010

Beavers and Grey Owl

I have been reading Grey Owl's books again; and through reading a blog about paddles I found these Canadian films about Grey Owl. It is wonderful to put a picture to a name and to see that person, now since long dead, who wrote the book that so moved me and many thousands of other people. Grey Owl was one of the very few people who brought awareness of Canadian environmental issues to a world wide audience.
Pilgrims of the Wild is Grey Owl's autobiography. As a trapper of beaver and other animals, he was devastated by the ways of the-get-rich quick trappers. He then adopted a couple of beaver kittens and he and his wife raised them, vowing never to trap animals for money again. A sticky situation - as he owed a lot of money to the trading post.

His descriptions of beaver are wonderful; he shows them as very hard working beings, felling trees and moving them around to build their dams and lodges. They are also very social and playful creatures.

Grey Owl is worth reading and will inspire; a one-time Englishman who, at the age of 17, went to Canada and fell in love with the vast forests, wilderness and the first nation peoples.


  1. Brilliant, excellent post. Well done. I have read Grey Owle's books. Note though that Grey Owl like me was actually white, but we were given Indian Names.
    This is a great story and well worth reading if you can get hold of the book.
    Regards, Le Loup.

  2. Nice Sean,

    I am a fan too and was devastated at first to learn he was English but the more I found out the more remarkable a life it appeared.

  3. Very nice. I will have to see what I can find by Grey Owl; I assume it is out of print but you never know. I love beavers. We had a family of beavers on Vera lake, about half a K from my home. Alas, they vanished. The lodge is still there, but has apparently been abandoned. I have some pictures -- I must post them on my blog. Another beaver family established itself on a pond about 5Km away. I am waiting for the ice to melt to see if they survived.

  4. JRC, I would love to see any pictures you have. Grey Owls books can be bought second hand on the web, over the years there have been various editions of the Pilgrims books, the more recent ones are cheaper.

    Robin, I know what you mean, but in his case it does not matter to me. I had a similar experience, when a friend and I read all the Tom Brown Jr books. We went on a Ray Mears workshop and mentioned Tom to Ray who said he was a fake. We were gutted, our world turned upside down, but Grey Owl has great heart, Tom Brown was rather fanciful and some of his stories are rather tall to say the least. I have the up most respect for Ray especially after doing other workshops with him. He has done great things for the awraeness of our natural environment.
    Le Loup, I am glad you enjoyed the post.

  5. Delightful films, thanks for posting them. There is a cold brook that runs through part of our land in upstate NY. One year beavers re-created a huge pond that had existed as an ice pond for a dairy in the 1920s. It was an amazing bit of work, berming up one end, then making a huge house. We could canoe the new pond and ice skate on it that winter. As it was very near a road, however, the town (of Northumberland)had trappers remove them because it was a potential hazard to the road, should it ever break. As much as I enjoyed their creation, they devastated a project I had been working on, the opening up and pruning of a grove of wild apple trees that was near the brook. They killed every last one in a few days!

  6. If anynone is interested, there was a film made about Grey Owl back in 2001. It's one of those Hollywood style things, with Pierce Brosnan as Grey Owl. Many have complained that the film wasn't a good one, but as a portrayal of Grey Owl and his life and what he stood for, it's not all that bad. It was produced and directed by Richard Attenborough if that helps to find it. Or, here's the link to


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