Have you spotted a satellite dish on a beaver lodge? Here's why it's happening
Beaver lodges equipped with satellite dishes dot the Canadian landscape
Brian Edwards was driving to work along Onion Lake Road in Thunder Bay, Ont., one morning in May when he saw something that made him question if he'd had enough coffee before leaving the house.
"It's a beaver pond," he explained, "so kind of a swampy area, [a] beaver house, so mud, sticks — and a grey satellite dish sitting on top."
After a moment's thought, Edwards decided it made perfect sense: The NHL was planning its comeback after a lengthy pause brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Clearly this beaver was a hockey fan. It needed a solid sports TV package to see all the games, Edwards said.
"I'm just expecting to see that beaver adjusting the dish one morning to see if he can get better reception or something," he added, laughing.
The well-appointed beaver lodge that Edwards saw is on the outskirts of Thunder Bay, but the internet is awash in photos of similar installations in southern Saskatchewan, coastal Newfoundland, Montreal, Snow Lake, Man., Timmins, Bancroft and Kaladar, Ont., among other places.
Beaver Lodge, complete with satellite dish in southern Saskatchewan. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MeanwhileinCanada?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MeanwhileinCanada</a> <a href="http://t.co/6SbTsgwSzs">pic.twitter.com/6SbTsgwSzs</a>—@MeanwhileinCana
In northwestern Ontario, satellite dishes have been spotted atop beaver lodges near Red Lake and Rainy River First Nation.
The question is: how, and why?
"I could not locate this beaver lodge in our customer database — but sometimes satellite TV customers will move their service between their homes and vacation properties," a Bell Canada spokesperson told CBC in an email.
The beavers, the spokesperson added, might wish to contact the company about an upgrade, as their dish is more than 12 years old. Coincidentally, the company said, it was around 12 years ago that Bell's beaver mascots, Frank and Gordon, retired.
Beavers are technically capable of installing their own satellite dishes, said Glynnis Hood, a professor of environmental science at the University of Alberta who has been studying beavers for more than 20 years. They will build a lodge with just about anything, she said.
But while they have the construction skills, the animals are lacking in the technical department.
"I'm not sure if they could directionally install it in a way that they'd get a good shot of Downton Abbey," she said. "But otherwise, they could install it, but it would probably be covered in mud."
Spotted in Bancroft, Ont. Yup, that’s a flag and a satellite dish on a beaver dam. <a href="https://t.co/DoQIZvSgiT">pic.twitter.com/DoQIZvSgiT</a>—@alistairsteele
So what's really going on here?
It seems, Hood said, that in places like Thunder Bay, along the outskirts of the Canadian wilderness, placing items such as satellite dishes and Canadian flags on beaver lodges has become a quintessential Canadian prank.
"I think that Canadians have this profound connection to beavers," she said.
"It's our national symbol. And beaver lodges are just such a great obvious structure on the landscape that installing satellite dishes on the top or Canada flags on the top just seems to go well with the Canadian identity."
CBC attempted to locate the alleged pranksters responsible for the Thunder Bay installation on social media.
For two days, people responded with little more than jokes.
"Dam! Those beavers have better TV than me," one said.
"I bet they're watching Leave it to Beaver," said another.
"They got their building materials at Beaver Lumber," yet another chimed in.
But then there was a breakthrough in the search.
Grant Carlson, a resident of Onion Lake Dam Road reported that, on May 25, he took a kayak and chest waders out into the pond and screwed the satellite dish onto the beaver lodge.
"I run a wedding centre, and you know, I was getting pretty depressed with all my weddings being cancelled," Carlson explained.
"I just thought that maybe I could help somebody else out, and we decided to help the beavers. You know self-isolation isn't so bad with Netflix."
Carlson said the beaver nodded his head at him as he finished up the job and turned to leave.
Edwards said he wanted to thank Carlson and his fellow pranksters for their service.
"It put a smile on my face. I think that's kind of what's missing in our world these days … I quite frankly think it's wonderful," he said. "And I think we need more of that, especially with the global pandemic and everything that's going on right now."