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A Short Course on Beavers Part Two

Generally they can't move the trees that they cut without first segmenting them. Here is the work some beavers did on a poplar in a matter of a few days:

They were able to move the logs over a fifteen foot high ridge and then eat the bark at their leisure as the logs floated in the pond.

The most amusing part about seeing a beaver chop down a tree, is that when the huge tree is down, the beaver goes over to the crown of the tree and bites off a small twig, and can spend the next fifteen minutes contentedly gnawing on that. In the early evening when you are most likely to see them, they can spend much time nibbling twigs after they first come out of the lodge.

Of course, they soon get around to taking branches off the tree. They can eat the bark on the branches, and they use the branches and saplings that they cut and move through the pond with ease to build dams

to create the ponds which provide water access to more and more trees.The most characteristic signs of a beaver's presence are a pond backed up by an earthen and tree-branch dam, and a lodge made of the same materials.

Beaver ponds can be rather large

and beavers do not neglect any portion of the expanse, especially the bottom. To begin with they often live in the middle of ponds in lodges which they build with sticks and mud. They can dive and emerge with an armful of mud,

that they use to firm up their dams and lodges, especially in the fall after one or two hard freezes. Frozen mud makes good lodge armor and insulation when it is worked into the intricate lattice work of the lodge.

The lodge in the photos above on which the beavers were putting mud was right in the middle of the beaver dam. Beavers commonly build lodges on the shore of a pond.

Often coming out of higher pond banks in which they can dig deep burrows.

And beavers frequently dispense with the lodge altogether and live in bank burrows. One year in March two beavers began digging and living in burrows in the bank of a pond just under the ice. When I walked around the pond, they would shoot out of their burrows like two torpedoes.

However, a mound in the middle of the pond is the most beautiful sign that beavers are around.

Beavers turn the world upside down. We humans admire tall trees, and the tree can be the symbol of what we are and to what we aspire. We have "family trees" and the "tree of knowledge" tickling the heavens. Beavers prefer to have trees in the bottom of their pond. They bring the heavens down to earth. In the fall, as they prepare for winter, beavers will sink branches into the pond in front of one of the entrances to the lodge. In the photo below an adult beaver is still putting a branch down in the cache, in mid December, while a smaller beaver gnaws away on a twig.

Their storing sticks can make a plain looking lodge suddenly seem quite beautiful

The lodge pictured above is in a shallow pond. It's better for the beavers if they sink their branches as deep as they can so they'll remain below the ice during winter. But if they can't sink branches, they pile them up as high as they can, as the video below shows

Of animal homes, the beaver lodge is the easiest to find and watch.

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(fights with otters! and beaver babies)

by Bob Arnebeck