Last night was one of the best beaver nights I ever filmed. My fingers are literally aching to make a movie, but there is too much to finish before Saturday. Humor me and play the soundtrack while you watch the clips. Its practically required.
Last night we came to the secondary dam and saw a fairly large breech from the tide, the entire secondary pond was down by a few inches. The beavers were sleeping above the primary dam upstream 150 feet away from the break. I’ve seen their wake up routine a million times but I’ve never seen this.
As soon as they got up a yearling came straight down to see what the problem was, noticed a new snag exposed by water loss on the way, swam to the dam and started putting mud on the hole.
Don’t believe that beavers can remember what their pond looks like both on top of and under the water? Check out this double take.
Now Heidi, maybe you’re saying, don’t anthropomorphize this. Maybe he thought it was food. Maybe he was checking to see if was another beaver’s dam. Maybe it was a fluke.
Fluke? Here’s Dad with kit 5 minutes later.
And another double take.
(It’s funny because we have particular sticks we watch to see if the water is higher or lower, and now it really seemed like they did too! “Oh that’s exposed? We’ve really got a problem”Then Mom Dad and new kit came out of the lodge and made a bee line for the damage. Remember, in winter when all kinds of debris float downstream, we get to see beavers swim past new branches that were never there before. They are sometimes idly curious about them, or snuffle to see what’s good to eat. That’s not what was happening.They were seeing a log above water that used to be submerged.
It was never so clear to me that it’s not just running water that triggers beavers working, they obviously have some other cues, like maybe the opening to the lodge being uncovered, or the drop down from one pond to the next – they know how deep the pond should be and what and what snags belong where.
The extremely hard work paid off and the whole was quickly patched. Mom and Dad did several applications, a yearling pitched in and even our newest kits sat in the middle and pretended to help.
All of which reminded us, as if we needed to be reminded at all, that
BEAVERS ARE COOL.
During a long career with the Bureau of Land Management, Sage Sorenson saw firsthand how beavers created rich green habitat out of overgrazed and burned-over land. Now retired, he calls himself a “beaver believer” and devotes his days to monitoring and protecting scattered “remnant” beaver colonies in our region. Quietly but persistently, he advocates for their reintroduction onto stressed landscapes that need their services.
Beavers are the original geo-engineers. It’s no exaggeration to credit them for their major role in building the North American landscape. In pre-colonial times, there were as many as 400 million of them. They used their big buckteeth and tough paddle-tails to build dams across every stream imaginable, spreading water to a Noah’s Ark-worth of creatures that thrive in the wet habitats they create. Now, of course, they are mostly long gone from the land, and conservationists want them back.
Go read the entire article. It’s awesome, and share with everyone you can possibly think of. Then comment so that everyone knows beavers generate attention and let’s hope Chip Ward writes me back and supports the beaver festival.
Oh, and always remember whatever happens, we loved beavers LONG before they were ‘trendy’. (Sheesh.)
Will introducing beavers onto wounded watersheds save the world? The answer is: yes. That and all the other acts of restoration, protection, and restraint, small and large, individual and collective, taken together over time. Sure, it’s not the same as the US taxing carbon or China abandoning coal. Restoring a watershed doesn’t curb the corporations that reduce communities to commodities. But in addition to the global goals we support, our responses to ecological crisis must be grounded in the places where we live, especially in the watersheds that nourish our bodies.
Rewilding tattered land is holistic because it sees and honors connectivity. It trades hubris for humility by acknowledging complexity and limitations. Its ultimate goal is landscape health and resilience, not the well-being of a small handful of stakeholders.
If we want to construct a healthy and resilient world for ourselves and our fellow creatures, we could do worse than look to the lowly beavers for hints on how it can be done. They build a vibrant world for themselves and so many others by weaving one small limb into another, stick by stick by stick.