Because the beaver isn't just an animal; it's an ecosystem!

The Martinez Beavers

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Anatomy of an Urban Beaver Pond - Crow's Path

This will be the first in a series of three or four postings on the beavers that are inhabitant the detention pond under the powerlines in Centennial Woods. I’ve got some videos from a game cam as well as other information on how they prepare for and deal with the transition into winter.

This lovely post comes to us from Burlington, VT from the website Wild Burlington, run by the good folks at Crow’s path. The author is keeping a close watch on the freezing beaver pond there and noting how they are breaking up the ice to keep access open. Apparently the beavers are slated for trapping at the moment, and the author wonders how to help.

The “dam” is really just an outlet flow structure for the detention pond. You can see the open water channel running on the upper left corner where the beavers move back and forth from their lodge to the dam to do maintenance work. They maintain holes throughout the winter, or at least try to. I’m not sure the exact reason, but I would assume it has something to do with keeping an escape route in a dire emergence and also having access to land if their food cache runs low mid-winter. It might also allow them to access early spring vegetation even if their pond hasn’t frozen over.

There are lots of reasons for leaving holes in the ice. Here are a few:

  1. Beavers breathe air like us and need oxygen!
  2. Once the pond freezes solid it gets thicker and harder to break.
  3. Food caches only last so long and they will try to eat reachable food as long as possible.
  4. Beavers do not hibernate. The family needs to feed all winter long.
  5. Depending on the depth of the pond it could freeze solid and they could be trapped.
  6. They may need to make repairs to their dam if something happens to it during the freeze.

There is nothing that delights me more than observant folks watching local beaver behavior and thinking about what’s going on. Being outdoors encourages awareness of Nature and our place in it. Watching beavers near her home during her illness distracted and strengthened the famous Dorothy Richards. Enos Mills said wondering about beavers made children think. I seem to remember a lot of folk in Martinez that used to do that regularly. Including one woman I dimly remember who saw her life completely transformed by it.

All I can say to the author is “Watch out!” It could be you next slipping down the steep slope of curiosity into the dark forest of research and through the golden halls of fascination straight onto the brutal plains of advocacy! Because we are expecting The Hobbit any day now I am reminded of the warnings of a certain Mr. Baggins .

“Remember what Bilbo used to say: It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

Oh here’s some light entertainment from this mornings Huffington Post. I think it may happen soon to this child.