International Beaver Day
By Karolyn Preiss, Three Rivers 3 Field Crew Member / AmeriCorps Member
April 7th is International Beaver Day! This suits because April 4th through the 9th is National Wildlife Week. Perfect timing!
As you may know, Minnesota is home to a number of beavers. According to the state’s DNR website, there are beaver in every one of Minnesota’s counties. They live for up to 12 years and will often live two per lodge plus babies. They can grow up to 5 feet long and up to 90 pounds, but 3 feet and 40 to 50 pounds is average.
Beavers are beautiful creatures, but they can be a little bit pesky, as the DNR suggests with a quote on their website, “A beaver in the wrong place is a nuisance. In the right place, he is an ideal conservationist.”
I have seen some of their efforts firsthand.
My family has some land up north, on a lake that plays host to two beaver lodges that were seemingly deserted. For. Years. (Though a beaver was seen every once in a while.)
This past fall, though, I was lucky enough to spend a few months on the lake, and who do you reckon I became acquainted with? The beaver family!
They had taken down a few trees along the water.
Since a sighting was pretty scarce, I didn’t think anything of it.
Until more trees kept disappearing.
Trails of trodden grass and pointed stumps lay as evidence of the beavers’ deeds as one by one the trees started to vanish. Our speckled alder were toast!
One night, just after a post-dinner kayak ride, I caught them in the act!
I was minding my own business, leaving the dock when I just happened to look down and saw the entirety of a cute beaver belly floating away from me before it disappeared under the dock.
I was in shock! I had seen the beaver! Less than three feet away!!
It slipped under the dock, then under the nearby pontoon where little paw-and-nose silhouettes swam circles in the almost-twilight.
The beaver and I, of course, immediately became friends (despite the damage to the shoreline ecosystem), though that may have just been me falling in love. The beavers still liked to slap their tails as a loud distraction when we approached, so my affection was probably one-sided.
That being said, the destruction caused by the beavers sure was something.
Kayaking by the beaver lodge (at a safe distance), one could see full trees underwater(!). Splashes of color–bright red leaves of someone’s maple, green from [potentially] one of our alders. A whole nother world below the water’s sparkling surface lying in wait for the beavers during the ravages of winter. An Atlantis within reach. In Minnesota!
Love it was, everybody. Sorry, speckled alders! The beavers can come back anytime as far as I am concerned.
We got off easy though. Beavers can also set up intricate dam systems that can cause irrigation concerns for the community in the immediate environs. Diverted water can flood roadways, farmland, anything!
But, beavers are beautiful creatures and definitely worth a shoutout on International Beaver Day, and during National Wildlife Week.
Have you ever seen a beaver?