Our Window on Nature

. . . exploring the world around us

Eager Beaver

Filed under: Mammals — Lowell Christie -- February 11, 2007 @ 3:59 pm

BeaverSometimes instincts win out over logic. Many creatures have actions that just come naturally and they can’t help themselves. Ducks swim, frogs hop, birds fly. And beavers chop down trees.

In each case they are displaying their adaptation to a habitat, and if a beaver didn’t use its big teeth to imitate a lumberjack it couldn’t use the resulting lumber to build a lodge, make a dam, or store the tastier bits of wood for a winter meal.

Recently while exploring the banks of a local pond I found the distinctive marks of a beaver — chips of wood chiseled from the base of a tree, the clean cuts made by teeth designed for a specific job. And not just one tree, but on over a dozen, large and small. But the reason it’s happening right now is a bit of a mystery.

The pond is at its lowest level in the last ten seasons, and unless we get a deluge it’s unlikely that any water will overflow the banks this year. The only time I’ve seen beavers work hard at a dam is when there was running water to control, and there is no indication of dam-building at the only potential outlet. And it seems a bit late in the year to stock up the pantry, especially with such hefty pieces of timber.

But there might be another reason. The beaver isn’t the only forester working around the fringes of this pond. After years of neglect a local resident has taken on the job of clearing away much of the brush and brambles, cattails and small trees that have been encroaching on the fishermen’s access trails.

I think the beaver perceives these changes to it’s home turf as either a threat or a challenge. You can sense the competition when the base of some trees are half chewed through, and six inches higher there is the clean cut of a chain saw. Whatever the cause, this is one busy beaver. Perhaps he’s just trying to stock up on building materials before they all disappear.

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