Beavers!

By | March 25, 2012

I’d like to think at this point in my life, that I’m some sort of amateur naturalist. After all, I started reading Ranger Rick magazine when I was about 7 years old, and have been aware of animals ever since.

Add to that all the hours I’ve spent watching deer with my mother (“Be QUIET!! And don’t move. In another hour or so, the deer will come out…”) and surely I’m some sort of authority.

All joking aside, I just thought in today’s post we could talk about what a fascinating animal the beaver is. I know of two places here in MA that we have active beaver lodges. I can’t say for sure if you have beavers near you. But there’s a good chance.

I also can’t guarantee you’ll see any if you go and visit the pile of sticks they live in. As you might imagine from my comment about my mom above, I’m not the type to sit still and hope nature comes to me. I’d rather simply appreciate what I happen to see. With that in mind, I’ve seen a beaver once. One time.

Nevertheless, today I stood near a lodge for awhile after a bike ride, and took this picture of their home. As you may be aware, they enter it from under the water. It’s made of sticks and mud and is a pretty safe and predator proof structure.

But did you know that beavers build their dams and therefore lakes so that they’re surrounded by the element they’re most comfortable in? So that they’re safe? That is roughly equal to a gazelle chopping down trees and digging up rocks because it’s best at running in a straight line.

Or, did you know that beavers are instinctually drawn to the sound of running water? That they HAVE to stop it? This explains why no matter how many times people tear down their dams, they don’t go away or give up. This becomes in issue if beavers move into the small stream that runs through your condominium complex. ‘Aaargh! Why don’t they give up?!’ You say as you tear your hair out. But they simply can’t. It’s part of their DNA. As I read on one website, to the beaver, a culvert under a road is simply a big hole in a perfectly good dam.

That’s where devices like the beaver deceiver come in. Put simply, this is a device built with angled sides and a small hold in front, like a triangle with the wide part touching the road/culvert/drainage and the narrow part stretching out into the water. The angled sides are unnatural to the beaver and prevent it from damming those. The narrow inlet is too small for most of the sticks a beaver would use to fit through. This device is often combined with a fence that surrounds the drainage pipe, thus confusing the beavers into damming the fence, rather than the actual drainage. It must drive them crazy.

The flooding beavers do may be inconvenient for us humans, but like so many other animal behaviors, it benefits us in the longer run to leave them to their work. The wetlands created by beavers provide a safe home for many animals, not just beavers. It is said that these wetlands rival rainforests for the amount of life they support. They also help to filter groundwater and prevent erosion.

Beavers weigh up to 40 lbs. That’s about the weight of a six-year old child. And according to the sources I consulted, they are known for adaptive learning and practical jokes. (no kidding!)

Finally, when you’re watching them with your children you might mention these final two facts: in their third year, beavers mate for life. And both parents take care of the beaver kits. Those jokers.

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