It is man’s interference with nature and animal’s will to survive that brought the American Beaver to my own neighborhood several years ago.
One fall, the channel to the lake had been dredged. Sediment was unwisely dumped on the bank near the neighborhood boat launch. Using this dumped sediment, the beavers built their lodge into the bank of the channel. Not being a part of the human land-development plan, people wanted the beavers removed. This involved the setting of traps. The traps would break the back of the beaver as they swam into it. The beaver, only able to remain submerged for 15 minutes at the most, would drown. Though this was considered (by humans) to be “humane”, intervention from local residents (lead by us) halted the trapping. As soon as spring weather thawed the water of the channel, the beavers moved into the marsh and adjacent lake. Having no reason to trust, they obviously did not want to live that close to humans.
American Beavers are among the largest of the rodent family. They can be up to 4 feet in length, and weigh up to 90 pounds. Beavers, now considered a “nuisance”, were nearly obliterated by early fur trading in this country. Through protection they have steadily increased in number and are again found throughout most of the United States.
To each beaver lodge there is one family: a set of parents and one litter. A male and female beaver mate for life. A litter most commonly consists of 1-8 kits. The kits are born after a four month gestation, usually in May or June, each weighing about one pound. The kits will stay with the parents for about two years. By this time they have learned all of the essentials to survive. The parents will drive them away to make room for a new litter of kits.
During the summer months beavers stay busy building their dams and lodges. Trees harvested by beavers are usually those not used in the lumber trade. They are most often native trees such as poplar, aspen, willow and birch. By fall, the beaver family will have a cache of food and a secure lodge to protect them during the harsh winter months. The lodge is above ground with tunnels underneath, leading to open water. They are able to swim out into the water, while still underneath the frozen surface of the lake. They can take wood or bark from their cache back to their lodge this way, sustaining them throughout the winter.
The summer following the beaver’s departure from my neighborhood, I saw a beaver lodge in a remote area of the marsh. The area had looked so desolate until the beaver brought it back to life. They built a small dam and opened up the surrounding waterways. Both frogs and turtles were again seen sharing the water. Mink were occasionally spotted in the surrounding marshland. Suddenly, various fish were plentiful again.
In addition to the usual Blue Heron and geese, I began to see many species of birds that I hadn’t seen before. Swans, egret, kingfisher, green heron, meadow lark, wood ducks, merganser, and blue-winged teal all were attracted to the area. I was amazed at the now lush marshland surrounding the beaver lodge. With their activity came a resurgence of native wildlife.
The wildlife had overcome hardships, and found a way to survive together. I felt privileged to be able to see them and experience the wonders of their world. It was so peaceful compared to the surrounding destruction of human land-development.