Environment: I'll Be Dammed!

Once nearly extinct, beavers are making a comeback--sometimes a little too close to home

Put yourself in William Patrick's soggy shoes for a moment. When the Texas-born writer bought a 1677 farmhouse in Ipswich, Mass., two years ago, the neighborhood's thriving beaver colony seemed part of its charm. Since then the beavers have been busy damming everything that flows. Now two of Patrick's four acres--farmland for three centuries--are underwater, and towering pines next to the house have begun crashing to earth. "The beavers are turning our whole yard into a swamp," fumes Patrick, 52. "They're not smart. They're obsessive-compulsive. They hear water, and they have to dam it."

Once driven nearly to extinction by...