I admit, I am more than a little enthralled by these epic engineers that transform the world through their earth-moving activities: building lodges, dams, territorial scent mounds, canals, underwater channels and plunge holes. Heading out to see their progress on a chill and very overcast morning, it was obvious that their world had radically changed since last fall when we had first explored the area.
The water was high from recent rain and snow, evidenced by chewed trees well above the beavers’ normal reach. The canals they had painstakingly calved out with front paws and long claws were a conduit for this flood water. These watery highways led to a grove of black willow trees ensuring safe access and easy passage of food and building materials to the lakeside lodge. Each willow tree having been foraged the year before had defiantly sprouted multiple stems 5 to 6 feet in height ready for the new season.
Last fall, the domed lodge was a fixer upper in need of repair. Now it is prime real estate with mudded holes and new sticks added to its construction. Not to mention some outdoor storage with a cache of submerged branches that no doubt supported the owners through the hungry winter months.
We did not see her right away, but a thundery splash of the large flat tail caught our attention. There she was swimming in ever-increasing circles, nose, eyes and ears perfectly positioned to be just above the lake’s surface. Perhaps she had been standing on the water’s edge pulling buds from a red maple tree, a new diet that only spring could afford her. In silence we watched, wondering how many colonies of beavers could occupy the many miles of critical shore line along the 175-acre Winton Lake.
With luck, the lodge will soon be a nursery, with fully furred, bright-eyed, foot-long kits. The yearlings will need to find new territory, taking with them the survival skills of the past two years. They will change the landscape in a way no other wild creature can, unwittingly promoting plant and animal biodiversity around lakes, ponds, rivers and streams.
Nature Interpreter, Farbach-Werner Nature Preserve