Ted Lightfoot was explaining the unique function of a beaver’s claw to a visitor at the historic CN Station in Fort Langley.
“They’ve got a double toenail, it’s like a comb for their fur,” said Lightfoot, a Langley man who took a mobile exhibition devoted to Canada’s national symbol across the country.
If he sounds like a fan of Canada’s national symbol, it could be because the energetic Lightfoot, who spent more than three decades in the construction industry, likes to build things, just like the hard-working animal he admires.
Or it could have something to do with a previous career as a teacher.
Whatever the reason, his knowledge of and appreciation for the species is impressive.
While some view beavers as a nuisance because they can cause flooding by building dams, Lightfoot is one of those who see them as a “keystone species” that creates wetland habitat that other animals benefit from.
For Canada’s 150th birthday, at his own expense, the Langley resident towed a custom-built trailer with a “Beep For Beaver” message on the back across the country, a 25-day, 6,300-kilometre “Sesquicentennial Beaver Appreciation Tour.”
Thousands of cars and trucks honked their horns, he said.
When he would pull over for a stop, curious people would want to know what was going on.
Lightfoot would open up his trailer and that would lead to “interesting discussions” with “naturalists, farmers, canoeists, trappers, photographers, historians tourists and travelers.”
Lightfoot made his trailer by modifying an antique rail carriage cart he happened to own to make his trailer, altering the sturdy structure by removing the metal wheels and replacing them with regular tires and a trailer hitch.
The trailer opens up to reveal a display that includes three carved wooden beavers and a replica of a Hudson’s Bay Company fur bundle.
Lightfoot said the bales weighed about 90 pounds, with the fur of “40-odd” beavers compressed into a tight package.
A wooden canoe was lashed to the trailer roof in tribute to the fur trade.
His tour ended at Signal Hill in St John’s, Newfoundland with Lightfoot raising the Fort Langley flag.
The trip was actually his second centennial-themed cross-Canada journey; in 1967, in his twenties, Lightfoot and a friend made a coast-to-coast trip honour the country’s 100th birthday.
Starting Monday, the Beaver Appreciation Tour trailer will be on display with other items during Heritage Week (February 19 – February 25), inside the baggage room at the CN Station in Fort Langley at 23245 Mavis Street.
The exhibit will be open, with Lightfoot present, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day to answer questions about his 6,300 kilometre adventure.
There is no charge for admission.