The Yukon Beaver Eater or saytoechin is a a relatively unknown cryptid from the oral traditions of Canadian First Nations peoples. It is described as "bigger than even the biggest grizzly bear" and got its name from its diet. It caught beavers by flipping up their lodges and seizing the exposed beavers. When shown a book of prehistoric animals, natives chose a giant ground sloth as the closest look-a-like to the beaver eater.
Dawn Charlie, a Canadian First Nation member, contacted the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club in 1989 with a sighting. BCSCC co-founder Paul LeBlond interviewed her, and in 1990 this account was published in issue #4 of the BCSCC's magazine:
"The latest report was from Violet Johny, my husband’s sister, who was fishing with her husband and her mother at the head of Tatchun Lake 4 or 5 years ago. An animal came out of the woods, 8 or 9 feet high, bigger than a grizzly bear. It was a “saytoechin” and it was coming towards them. They panicked, fired a few shots over its head and finally managed to get the motor going and took off. There are other reports. There is also a report that a white man shot one in a small lake in that area. Beaver eaters are supposed to live in the mountainous area east of Frenchman Lake."
Explanations and TheoriesAs said before, natives identified a picture of a giant ground sloth as the beaver eater. However, giant ground sloths were herbivores and all 5 genera that are currently known to have lived in North America went extinct. Could a giant ground sloth survive there by adapting into a beaver eater? Other explanations are an unusually large grizzly bear, a surviving short faced bear, Arctodus Simus, or, strangely enough, a giant beaver of the Castoroides genus.
There was, interestingly, a species of giant ground sloth - Megaloynx jeffersonii - that was native to the Yukon area in particular (though it is believed to have been a herbivore, and is thought to have gone extinct along with the rest of the North American megafauna).
A paper published in 1996 by the Universidad de la República in Montevideo, Uruguay, suggests that at least some giant ground sloths may have been omnivores. Dr. Richard Fariña and Dr. Ernesto Blanco propose that Megatherium could have scavenged meat, taken kills made by large carnivores, or even been an active hunter, using its long front claws and great strength to overturn glyptodonts (giant, extinct armadillos). This theory has not gained much traction in the wider scientific community, however. It may be worth noting, though, that a meat-eating ground sloth would not be the first instance of a member of an herbivorous family evolving to exploit resources or fill an ecological niche, and they may have simply gone extinct before evolving to the point of developing specialized meat-eating features that would be obvious from fossils. Modern herbivores - for example, hippos and deer - have been shown to sometimes eat carrion or bones to obtain necessary nutrients, and under the right circumstances this occasional behavior may become necessary or beneficial enough to encourage the evolution of a more omnivorous species.
Modern two-toed tree sloths are known to sometimes feed on carrion and small animals, and isotopic analysis of a specimen of Megalonyx from Virginia showed that, although it was primarily a herbivore, it might have consumed a small amount of meat. On the other hand, cryptozoologist Ben S. Roesch suggests that the saytoechin really feeds on beaver lodges, which are composed of branches, bark, and other vegetation, not on the beavers themselves.
Another possible explanation, the giant beaver, were native to North America and could grow to more than 7' long and nearly 300lbs. The most recent fossil dates to around 60,000 years ago, but the genus is thought to have survived to perhaps as recently as 10,000 years ago, meaning they likely coexisted with early humans. One might theorize from this possibility that the saytoechin is an example of oral history preserving the memory of a creature that, long ago, humans saw and interacted with - much like the instances where Australian Aboriginal oral tradition mirrors what is represented in the fossil record. Giant beavers have also been reported in modern times in the United States.
- Mapinguari, a cryptid which also bears resemblance to ground sloth
- Karl Shuker's article on the saytoechin, which provides additional sources and discussion of possible explanations