During a recent outing in the Coves, stumps and felled trees with familiar gnaw marks were spotted – the calling card of a beaver!
Beavers are the largest rodents in North America, weighing between 16 and 32 kg, and growing to a length of 1.3m, which includes a 30-cm tail. On land, beavers use their muscular, flat tail to prop themselves upright and to help keep balance. In the water, their tail can be used as a four-way rudder. Other physical features that allow beavers to excel as underwater creatures (and workers!) include webbed hind feet, the ability to close their nostrils and ears, a transparent membrane that can be drawn over the eyes, a dense pelt that is kept waterproof by the constant grooming and application of oil from two glands, and lips that can close behind their front teeth, allowing them to cut and chew wood below the water’s surface.
And what about those teeth! The very long and sharp incisors have hard enamel on the front that is orange in colour. The continuous growth of these incisors is kept in check by gnawing on wood.
Beavers are vegetarians, feeding on herbaceous plants during the spring and summer and woody plants in fall and winter. During the winter, beavers eat the bark from sticks that they have stored in an underwater cache near their lodge.
Though neither a dam nor beaver lodge was seen during this particular outing, beavers spend most of their time building these structures. A lodge provides a place for resting, eating and raising young. The underwater entry provides protection from predators. Instead of building a lodge, some beavers may dig a den into the side of a pond bank.
So, next time you are out walking around the Coves, keep your eyes peeled for signs that beavers are busy in our area!