Beaver Tales: Audrey Tournay and the Aspen Valley Beavers


157 pages
Contains Photos
ISBN 1-55046-418-3
DDC 599.37




Reviewed by Geoff Hamilton

Geoff Hamilton, a former columnist for the Queen’s Journal, is a
Toronto-based freelance editor and writer.


Audrey Tournay is a retired teacher and still-practising animal educator
who runs the Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, located outside the
village of Rosseau at the northern end of the Muskoka Lakes. Tournay’s
special interest is in beavers, and in this book she documents her
experiences caring for these beleaguered animals and lobbying for their
protection over several decades. Colour and black-and-white photographs
of particular beavers accompany the text.

Tournay writes frankly and compassionately about her subject and her
love for animals, and first-hand knowledge of their travails is evident
on every page. Living alone in close proximity with nature, she
resembles a kind of contemporary, Canadian, female Thoreau.

The narrative is supplemented with folksy wisdom, often suggestive of
parables: “My studio is one step down from the living room, with lots
of windows. However, my neighbour’s attachment to the bottle had
evidently grown stronger with time, because the studio’s attachment to
the house had become steadily weaker. And of course it does not have the
advantage of a good fieldstone foundation. I can still plug the cracks
with pink insulation, but the various developing entrances and exits
provide an opportunity for wild creatures to make themselves at home.”

Bringing to light the impact that callous human “development” has
had on beavers and other species is a major aim of the book, and one
that it succeeds at admirably. Trappers who allow animals to suffer for
days before dying and cottage owners who dynamite inconvenient beaver
dams emerge as convincing villains. Although many of the stories Tournay
relates about injured animals are heart-rending, her triumphs in
rehabilitating them, and particularly in reintroducing beavers to the
wild—a feat that so-called experts had deemed impossible—give the
tales an inspiring, optimistic glow. This book is entertaining simply as
a story about one woman’s achievements in animal welfare, but it also
serves as a persuasive indictment of the way we have treated our
national symbol.


Tournay, Audrey., “Beaver Tales: Audrey Tournay and the Aspen Valley Beavers,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,