It wouldn’t be half so horrible if they’d learned what we two-legged mammals teach our young’ns: “Finish the one you have before you take another.”
They are eating the living part of the tree. And they are only eating birch trees. I get it that beaver think birch is especially tasty. The Girl Scout Mint Cookie of the tree world, apparently. But this is so so disturbing.
That’s me near the entrance to Ghost Bay, inspecting the damage.
I do not find this even one bit of engineering clever.
We lost count of the number of birch trees toppled and munched all around the perimeter of Ghost Bay. And, as you can see by the lodge, the beaver aren’t even using much of the downed timber to reinforce their home.
These critters have made a royal mess of a place that means a lot to all of us on the lake. In the past, when I caught a glimpse of them swimming, I’d feel quite privileged to share the lake with them. For now, I’m just overcome by the wastefulness of their feeding habits.
These are the biggest of the beaver lodges on Long Lake. They are located about midway through the narrows, on the east side. Quite the engineering feat. This Spring we saw a beaver swim into the first lodge. Last Spring my peaceful kayaking thoughts were disturbed by the loud slap of a beaver sounding the intruder (me) alarm.
Beavers, a/k/a Castor Canadensis, are the largest rodents in North America. They live in family groups of about eight, and will typically include a sibling group of 2 year olds, as well as the new litter of kits.
These critters are said to be able to topple a tree in a matter of hours or flood an area overnight. What they are up to with all this lumberjack stuff is creating a pond environment that will support their semi-aquatic lifestyle. The shape of their lodges changes to adjust to the flow of the water. In faster water, beavers build a curved lodge to encourage stability. But in slow water they build the lodge more straight.
In addition to felling trees to build their lodges, beavers eat the underbark of trees. I’m thinking that’s why that rather large beaver-gnawed branch in the photo is looking so naked. With all this gnawing going on, the fact that their teeth grow continuously throughout their lives is useful. According to Wikipedia, beavers also love to eat water-lilies. We have quite a few of those in some sections of the lake. In the first bay beyond the narrows in the north part of the lake, where the peninsula juts out, there is a nice crop of water-lilies every year. We often watch a beaver swimming away from there headed back to the narrows just as night falls. With a full tummy, I’m guessing.
I am hoping, however, never to come out to our front lawn in the morning and find one of our trees looking like this last photo. And when I paddle past the big lodge now, I keep alert near this tall tree.