By Mark Fike
Busy as a beaver. We have all heard that saying and there is good reason for the analogy. Beavers are incredibly efficient workers. They can fell a number of trees in one day, dam up a creek and create a wetland in a few days and rebuild any of their hard work that gets destroyed by nature or man in short order.
People either love them or hate them. These creatures are amazingly big when you see them out of water. Weighing up to 60 pounds with a main body 2-3 feet in length NOT counting their tail which can add another 10 inches of thick slab used to help swim, they are tough creatures.
Outdoorsmen and women generally like beavers because they create wetlands, swamps and ponds which means more ducks, fish and other wildlife. Their tails are scaly in appearance and they have webbed feet.
Beavers are classified as rodents and have huge teeth which they use to gnaw on trees and fell them. Their teeth continue to grow, so gnawing helps keep them trimmed so they can continue to open their mouths wide enough to eat.
Some unique adaptations that beavers possess include eyes that have a transparent membrane to protect them while underwater. Their ears and nostrils can be closed too while submerged. I once timed a beaver that appeared to stay submerged for just over 10 minutes before coming back up for air.
The kits or babies can swim in 24-48 hours. Beavers typically breed in late winter and 3 ½ months later give birth. Once the beavers are at 2 years of age, they start wandering off to start their own family. This is when you might see them hit in the roadway or find them farther from water than you might suspect.
The whole family lives in the lodge which looks like a huge pile of sticks that is located along the bank of the river, pond or swamp. The beavers enter by a submerged tunnel. The sticks are woven very tightly together and have mud and dirt covering them. If you ever try to take apart a lodge you will find it very time consuming and difficult.
The same thing can be said of dams. The engineering feat of beavers is amazing. Their dams can span hundreds of yards or mere yards. They can withstand all but the worst floods too. When beavers dam up creeks or streams, the ponds or swamps that are created actually filter the water and clean it.
However, sometimes damming up a stream or creek can cause damage to nearby property. Waterfront lot owners hate the beavers because they fell their trees in their yard or the flood waters threaten their property.
A professional trapper is then called in to remove them. These creatures are nocturnal for the most part, but as our writer, Josh Boyd, pointed out, they are not really difficult to catch. You do need sufficient equipment to handle them as they are powerful.
Beavers are one of the few animals that can easily break down cellulose. The bark on many species of trees makes up their diet. Maple is just one favorite species. If you startle a beaver you will know it because it will slap its big, heavy tail on the water to warn other beavers and hopefully send you packing.
Generally, beavers are docile creatures and although they are not aggressive to humans for the most part, people should not approach too closely. Observe from a distance and enjoy the waterways they create for us to hunt and fish in!