— Note: If you received this blog post via a FeedBlitz email, for some reason FeedBlitz didn’t embed the YouTube videos in the blog post but left static images where there should have been videos. We didn’t realize they would do that. Sorry. —
One of the things we’re blessed with is a beautiful stream that flows year-round through the entire length of our 100-acre property. The stream winds through perfect beaver habitat — we have the right amount of water flow, the right shape and slope to the land where the stream runs, plenty of nearby beaver food (birches, aspens, willows, apple trees, and more), and a protected space where beavers can do their thing — creating dams and thus ponds — without humans interfering.
Beaver ponds create an incredibly rich habitat for all kinds of other wildlife — birds, amphibians, fish, deer, moose and many others all benefit when a beaver pond is created. That’s why beavers are considered a “keystone” species because of all the “ecological services” they provide. Just one example: We have a magnificent blue heron that swoops in low over the house before landing in one of the ponds looking for frogs. So we’re thrilled to see beavers thriving here.
As a result of these ideal conditions, we have a number of beaver ponds and lodges along the stream. They’ll make a new dam and lodge, stay there for a few years until the nearby food is gone, then move downstream or upstream to start all over again. This also involves family dynamics, for example when the juvenile beavers reach the age where they have to move out to make room for the next set of kits. Thus the beaver activity along our stream is always in flux.
Last fall, one group of beavers decided to build a new dam and lodge right below our house, literally a stone’s throw from where I write this. I can look out my office window and see the lodge in the middle of the stream. They’re so close that when we’re outside the house we can hear them gnawing on the trees down below.
Beavers are more nocturnal or “crepuscular,” meaning more active at dawn or dusk. On land they’re slow and plodding, with poor eyesight, and all this makes them very vulnerable to predators like coyotes and bobcats. As a result, they prefer to do quite a bit of their work on trees and shrubs at dark. In the water, they are fast, sleek and agile. They can dive quickly and disappear into the underwater openings to their lodges as soon as they sense a threat.
We do see them occasionally swimming around — yesterday evening we had a wonderful time watching the entire family swimming back and forth, in full view from the house — but seeing them out and about on land during the day is a rare sight. So a few weeks ago we got a game camera and set it up on one of the wild apple trees they’ve been harvesting for food.
I knew they kept coming back to this tree for more branches, but once I installed the game camera they would veer away from that tree (as you’ll see) and head off to another nearby apple tree. I suspect it was the camera. In any case, we were soon rewarded with lots of 20-second video clips of these guys coming and going, taking branches back to the lodge.
Here’s one taking a bigger branch:
A few minutes later, it’s gotten darker and he’s still ferrying branches:
Here’s a clip where you can see one of these guys from the front as he heads up the slope to the tree:
The vast majority of the video clips we have from the game camera are actually from the overnight/dusk/dawn hours, and they’re pretty dark and grainy images, as you can imagine. But here’s a nighttime clip where the beaver is easily seen:
So yes, we are kind of a “beaver sanctuary” in a way!
Okay, only for those who are really interested, here are some “bonus” beaver photos:
This is a photo I took yesterday evening of one of the adults:
Same evening, one of the juveniles:
From early in January, during a thaw, here’s their lodge in the back with one of the logs they had stripped (they eat the inner layer under the bark, the cambium, which is highly nutritious for them):
And these are a couple of their mini-dams downstream … beaver experts think some of these smaller ones may be constructed by the juveniles during their “training” phase:
The one photo I don’t have is a decent shot of their main dam. That’s because in a big windstorm in late December, a giant white pine and a fir came down right on top of the dam. The structure itself is fine, but you can’t really see the dam itself now.
Finally, to show you how close all this is to the house, the tree where I strapped the game camera is the remaining vertical trunk of that apple tree on the right. They were cruising past this and going to the remnants of the other apple tree just behind it:
That’s why we can hear them gnawing away in the evening when we’re outside!