The Resilient and Beneficial Beaver

October 19, 2021

What a wonderful time of the year it is when the rains begin, and the trees are lit up with fall colors. The creeks have started to fill as the water level rises and the trees drop those brilliant leaves. As I walk along Outlet Creek, I am thrilled to see that the North American beaver family has made it through the driest summer we’ve had in many decades. The beavers have been cutting trees, eating twigs, and leaving their telltale signs of movement in and out of the creek. The stretch of Outlet Creek they have been working in had the only persistent deep pools throughout the summer. What amazing conservators of water they are! We recently captured some more fantastic video footage of the family group in that area, and I was pleased to see how healthy they are.

Watching the videos always brings a smile to my face. Their lumpy, squat, rounded and furry bodies are adorable, and they even have superpowers, according to the book Beavers: The Superpower Field Guide, by Rachel Poliquin. In past blogs I have talked about these abilities in detail but some of the ones that stand out are: chainsaw teeth that contain iron, thick fur with up to 100,000 hairs per square inch, and a flat tail like no other mammal that is used for both swimming and standing as a kickstand. The tail also acts as a loud warning sound when slapped on the water. Beavers can hold their breath for fifteen minutes and are highly adapted to life in the water. They have transparent eyelids that cover their eyeballs when they are submerged and have watertight valves in their nose. In addition, they have fur-lined lips which close behind their incisors so they can swim with branches in their teeth or even chew wood underwater!

Truly beavers are fantastic creatures that should be treated with respect and not just like giant rodents, even if that’s what they are. We are happily able to watch them as they make their home in Little Lake Valley. We have protected some of the larger shade trees along the riparian corridor from their sharp teeth by encircling the trunks with hard wire, leaving plenty of plant material for them to survive and thrive. This is the way we manage a balance between reaching our restoration goals on the project for all native plant species and wildlife. It has worked so far to the benefit of both beavers and large riparian shade trees.