Beavers: Love 'em or Hate 'em. I happen to Love 'em. Incredible creatures! At my cottage a family of
five have taken over part of my creek. The mess they have made there is awful; trees hung up all over
the place for no apparent reason. Maybe. But, they ARE "Canada's National Emblem" and the largest rodent
in North America.
If you have beavers near your cottage, you might have a slightly more tolerant attitude toward these creatures after reading this. I hope so.
It is dangerous to walk where beavers are working. They do leave me some nice sculptures!
Note how much water they are holding back.
They have NO respect for natural beauty! If I made a mess like this, I'd go to jail! The red spot on
the other side is my ARGO A.T.V.
Maybe the mess they make of leaving trees all over the creek banks, many of them hung up so that they will never get the benefits of reaching those juicy (??) branches near the top has a reason. Maybe their idea is that the more mess, the more difficult it is for predators such as bears, wolves and coyotes to ambush them. Maybe. And maybe the reason for leaving a lot of wood floating in the water is to help reduce the risk of ice roaring down the creek in spring runoff and taking their dam away. Maybe. Maybe not.
Spring runoff is a "time for telling" for beavers. This is a critical time for them. If they did not do a proper job of engineering and building their dam then the ice and junk roaring down the creek in the spring could take their dam with it. This would leave the entrances to their lodge exposed, and also drain their pond, leaving them, literally, "high and dry" for predators to exploit. "My" beavers did a very good job. Textbooks like to tell us that beavers build their dams in an "arch - shape" with the peak of the arch pointing upstream for greatest strength. This is not always true. "My" beavers made their dam quite straight but left some very large poplar trees in and near the dam to anchor it quite solidly. The spring runoff in April 2003 proved them right. A lot of water went over the dam but the dam held. This picture shows the water running over the dam in great force. But the beavers were safe and snug.
This shows the water running over their dam on April 19, 2003:
They really had me captivated this time. There was little game to see so I spent some time watching
them. Last year there were 3; this year (2002) there are 5.
One day I stood on the road watching them. One climbed out and came way up to about 12 feet from me, in the tall grass and weeds to check me out. Then he (she?) when back down into the water, swam a short distance to my left and climbed out again over there. He went some 30 feet up toward the road and soon after went down into the water again with a bunch of grass in his mouth; I don't know where he took it.
Several times I watched them climb out across the water from where I was sitting, later on, some distance from the road and about 5 feet from the water's edge. The two biggest ones would go some 20 feet up the bank to where they had chewed down a tree and remove a branch, drag it into the water and eat it there. Several times a small one would make a "whining" sound, obviously asking its parent for something, and the parent, really fed up, would suddenly turn on the little one with a great splash and the little one would swim off, feelings hurt. Sometimes the big ones would let the little ones bite a twig off his/her branch and swim away from the big one to eat the twig.
They are VERY curious. I did not use the wooden "wall" with a hole in it as I had done on previous occasions. They frequently swam to within 8 feet of me to check me out. When I stood up to leave, of course, they got scared, made the usual great FLAP/SPLASH of the tail and dive.
I had wanted to get a pic of one bringing home a branch which he would fasten at the bottom of the water, for winter food supply.
They have a large "lodge" but right beside where I was sitting I noticed some mud. After a bit, a couple swam to that part of the bank and dove in. Then I could hear that they were IN/Under the bank. Maybe that is a secondary home for emergency sake, just as they have smaller dams above and below the main big dam. Maybe there are other "caves" under the bank as well.
How they can navigate under that muddy water is beyond me.
The large beavers are about 1 meter from nose to tip of tail, I think, and the smaller ones maybe 65 cm. Out of the water they look extremely fat.
Dad is bringing home the bacon while junior follows to learn how Dad will bury this branch deep under
the surface of the water where it will provide food during the winter, safely under 2 or 3 feet of ice.
While Mom and Junior watch from the water, Dad drags another branch down as the next course of their supper.
Here is one just dragging a green stick in to fill a hole in his dam:
The dam they have built is holding back close to 2 meters of water. The lodge in which they live must be at least 2 meters above water level. Incredible workmanship and engineering! The beaver family living in my creek have their lodge attached to the creek-bank. Likely their living space extends under and into the bank. Nearby they have three other spaces dug into the creek-bank; maybe these are for emergency purposes. A different beaver family a few kilometers away lives in a wet area on fairly level land. They have built their lodge a good distance from dry land so that in summer they are protected by the water from predators such as bears. In winter, of course the bears are asleep and even if they were not, it would be very difficult to dig out the beavers due to the lodge being frozen.
A bit of work needed on the roof before winter sets in; have to make sure every stick is in place on the dam.
I'm sure I could hear him calling "Hey Martha, Gimme a hand here!!!"
They are very curious animals. At first I made large wooden "walls" to sit behind with my camera, with a hole in the middle to stick the lens through. Now I find that if I simply sit still, even at the very edge of the water, and wearing a red hat and blaze-orange hunting jacket, they still come right up to me. One young fellow kept slowly cruising around, about 3 meters away, and periodically slapping his broad, flat tail in the universal beaver "warning" signal; he did it so frequently that I'm sure he was simply showing off because he did not take fright and leave nor did any of the others take note. Guess they were used to his showing off.
Nothing like TEAMWORK............ and a leisurely swim along the fallen leaves, crossing the reflection
of a tree.
In case you wonder if the beavers were really that unafraid of me, the answer is "YES, they are afraid." I used a wood "wall" with peephole until I realized that I could sit very still right at the water's edge, right out in the open, and after a short while they would come to inspect me. They are very curious. Then I made a small hole in the dam and waited for them to come fix it, so I could take pics. Note that I made a *small* hole. And I repaid them for their reluctant cooperation; I went in with a chainsaw and sawed the tops off a lot of trees which they had knocked partly down; tops they could not reach. Then I threw all those tops into the water for them. Next day all had been moved to where they need them. Saved them more time than what I made them waste by repairing the dam damage. Yes, I could very easily get rid of them but they are not flooding any cultivated land or causing any other problems. They are right beside the road and very vulnerable to idiots with guns who have to shoot anything that walks, crawls, or rides a bicycle.
This young fellow just had to check me out; he was only 10 feet away from me as I sat, out in the open,
one meter from the water edge. One terrific slap of that broad tail on the water and you can hear it a
long ways off; a warning to the other beavers that there is danger.
While Daddy Beaver is working on the roof, Mother Beaver is getting the winter food supply in order. Each of these two beavers probably weighs as much as a large German Shepherd dog. The food supply is anchored at the bottom of the pond so that when the pond has 2 or 3 feet of ice on it, they can still get at it under the ice.
One evening it was very interesting to watch the adults climb out of the muddy waters, go up the opposite bank and drag some small branches down into the water and then proceed to their supper at the edge. A young one kept pushing his nose into Mom's (or was it Dad's?) supper and making "mewing" noises like a kitten, begging for food or attention. Finally the parent had quite enough of this and "laid a licking on him/her." There was a great splash and the youngster swam away, no doubt with the beaver's version of a "hurt" look on his furry little face.
Once in awhile I make a wee hole in their dam so that we can take pictures of them at work fixing the
hole; you saw those pictures at the top of this page. To repay them for the inconvenience, I often bring
them a load of tree tops and branches from trees which I cut to make my "park" larger. Here is a typical
load; yes, even on the hood of the truck! No problem, had to move it only 200 yards. Within 24 hours the
whole pile was processed by them. Maybe they thought they had won a lottery!
Over the years we have shot them and trapped them either because the fur was worth something or because they were flooding farmland. Now I've learned that they are fascinating animals and have every right to a small "homeland" of their own. There are plenty of trees so it seems only right to allow them to take their share. Now I only hope that trigger-happy hunters driving by don't shoot them for "fun."
Last year there were three; this year five. In a few years when they have destroyed all the trees near enough to their home, they will move to another place and spring runoff will shortly after that take out much of the dam and lodge.
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Beavers which live in a creek valley as "mine" do, have no need nor opportunity to dig canals but the ones which live in a flat area will dig long, winding canals. These canals make it possible for them to tow large pieces of wood to the main body of water, to the lodge, the dam and to their winter food supply. The use of these canals also provides them with a great deal of safety. A beaver on dry land would be easy prey for a carnivore but a beaver which is 95% under water would be much more difficult to catch.
Here is an examples of some of these beaver canals in wintertime and the view, looking down, when you
are standing on the top of the lodge; note the spaces between the sticks, allowing moist air to escape.
Long ago, before these beavers moved into that part of my creek, I sometimes disposed of old boards with nails in them by throwing them into the creek. The idea was that the boards would eventually rot and the nails drop into the muddy bottom and gradually rust away. Now I realize that if a beaver bit into a nail, it would do serious damage to his teeth and could chip or break a tooth, making it impossible for him to chew the wood. The broken tooth might well grow uncontrollably and cause his death by starvation. Of course I no longer dispose of waste lumber that way!
The damage caused by beavers in flooding lands and roads is very costly. For this reason it is a benefit when trappers keep their numbers from exploding. Beavers, as a fur-bearing animal, are protected by law. Trappers need a license to kill them.
As I write this in November, the ice is about 20 cm thick on the creek and there are no holes anywhere. Thus, the beavers are safe and snug for the season. They must be swimming to the underwater food supply to chew off twigs and bringing them into the lodge to eat and then they must drag them out and dispose of them again. No rest for the beavers. They do not hibernate.
Those teeth just keep growing. It would appear that they sharpen these four front teeth by chewing. This must mean that these teeth in themselves are works of art. It would appear to me that the only way this would work is if the front edges of the teeth were a very hard enamel and they would be softer toward the inside of those teeth. Then, by chewing wood, the inside would wear faster, leaving a sharp edge. Truly a miracle of nature when you stop to think about it.
I am accumulating quite a few digital photos of these beavers, mostly 1600x1200 pixels. If there is interest, I might burn them on to CDs and sell them as a self-starting slideshow.
The pictures on this website are very small and MUCH lower quality than the originals; that is necessary so the website does not take forever to download. On the CD they will be MUCH larger and MUCH higher resolution!
Can any desk afford to be without one? Actually chewed by a beaver in the wild.
I have quite a collection; all sizes/shapes etc. Big ones might make interesting book-ends.
Here is another idea....... cut it like this, hollow out the bottom part, add a hinge and you have a jewelry box!