There are plenty of folks whounderstand the importance of beavers at both ends of the United States. And not nearly enough in the middle. Flyover country, as its called, doesn’t take kindly to beavers. So you can imagine how pleased I am about these two entries. The first is from Ohio and the second from just across the great lakes in Milwakee.
When I was a young fella and still living in Maine, one of the greatest things you could run across in the wild was a beaver dam. Most of the streams and brooks in my area held populations of wild brook trout. A beaver dam on a trout brook meant one thing to me. Bigger trout!
The dam usually backed up enough water to form at least a small pond, or in some cases, a very large pond or backwater. After a couple of years, these ponds let the brook trout population grow to larger sizes than in the shallow, narrower brooks. Their still waters let large populations of insects flourish and provide the trout with more than an adequate diet.
I have seen ancient beaver dams that were over a quarter of a mile in length and higher than 10 feet in places. However, a beaver dam of any size on a trout brook was a welcome sight. Normally, in most Maine trout brooks, the trout average about seven or eight inches in length with occasional ones over 10 inches.
Brook trout have to be one of the tastiest fish ever to have swum in an icy cold brook regardless of its size. In fact, after attaining a length of a foot or more, they don’t seem to taste as good. Don’t get me wrong — they are still at the top of my list of food fish no matter their length. There are no wild brook trout out here in Ohio, at least, not to my knowledge. If there were, I guarantee that Ohio’s attitude toward the beaver and its dams would change in a hurry!
My experience out here with beavers is limited. All I know is that there is a population of them at Lake Logan. However, from what I have been able to ascertain with my own eyes, any laws and regulations pertaining to beaver here in the hills are totally ignored and/or not enforced. Every time I have seen a beaver dam in this area, in very short order, it disappears. I have seen, and photographed, several beavers that had been shot and killed at the lake.
Foxholes make strange bedfellows. There are precious few folks in Ohio that care about beavers. So I’m going to be happy about this columnist who appreciates them because the trout get bigger in their ponds. (And everything else, too, by the way). Of course he doesn’t realize that beavers don’t dam large rivers because they don’t need to. And since there’s no dam there’s nothing to draw attention to their presence and get them killed.
They aren’t different beavers. They are the beavers that happen to survive.
Obviously the distinction between beavers that build dams and beavers that don’t build dams is a mysterious one for lots of people. The truth is there isn’t much mystery at all. Beavers build dams when they need to create deep water to protect their offspring. If there is ALREADY deep water there is no need to do it. That is all. Researchers have plucked beavers from deep streams (where they maintained zero dams) and swooped them upstream to little streams where dams were necessary. Then sat back to observe them BUILDING DAMS 0stemsibly for the first time.
It’s instinct, baby.
(Although instinct that is honed with practice I’ll say. Because we saw our beavers get better at building over time, and we saw that there were skilled beavers and stupid beavers in our 10 years of field research here in Martinez. Dad and Reed were the best dam builders of all 30 beavers. But everyone tried.) Even beavers in rehab ‘try’, With newspapers or towels or whatever they have on hand – er tooth;<You will see this confusion pops up in this nice film from Milwakee as well, when the woman from the urban ecology center remarks that ‘they don’t have the dam-building beavers’ there. They’re the same dam beavers! We will cut her slack. It’s a nice film and an easy mistake when you’ve haven’t had local beavers in 120 years.
I’m also very fond of the landowner whose so happy to have them back on his property.
This nice image comes from the Getty museum. I love everything about it but I can’t figure out why it’s shown cut in cubes. Can you?