Engineers of the Wetlands

Article and images by Jen Howard

Read time: 3 minutes

The beaver is Canada’s most iconic animal. Some symbolism suggests beavers represent the builders of mind, body, and soul, as well as creativity and harmony. They are cooperative and very persistent; always finishing what they start – if humans let them.  And if we let them, they teach us the value of teamwork. 

In over 30 years doing wildlife photography, I have watched many beavers.  In fact, just last summer I saw a beautiful huge beaver working on the side of a backroad, out of sight. I was watching the river searching for a moose out in the wetland, when out he walked within 5 feet of me, awkwardly dragging branches as I stood silently watching. Beavers are awkward on land but once he got to the water he was gone in a flash. He knew I was there.  He also knew I posed no threat standing still and quiet. 

In the 1600’s, the days of the fur trade, beavers were trapped nearly to the point of extinction to make hats from their pelts. No wonder the Hudson Bay Company’s emblem holds four beavers. 

Beavers are Canada’s largest rodent, weighing around 1 lb at birth. By a year they weigh 10 to 15 lbs, and as adults upwards of 35 lbs. An adult beaver can be 1.3 m long head to tail. Beavers take a mate for life, but if the male is lost the female will take on another mate. Beavers mate in late winter and  after a 100 day-gestation period the kits are born. They don’t leave the lodge for about a month and stay very close to mom, feeding for 6 weeks. The beaver lodge consists of a feeding area and sleeping area, small swimming area, a fresh air area, and two tunnels leading in and out in case they need to get away from a predator like a river otter.  Kits are at least 2 before they venture out on their own and make their own families. 

In October the adults work hard on dam and lodge building, and make sure they have enough food cached. The dam needs to be deep enough for them to overwinter. There is so much to say about beavers I can’t possibly say it all. However, if you have beavers, consider yourself lucky, they make a wetland very healthy, not just for themselves but for deer, frogs, birds and all woodsy creatures, even fish. They provide buffer zones to filter run off from human activities. Development provides more retaining ponds, sometimes attracting beavers. Removing them does not solve the problem, it just makes room for more to move in. Beaver baffles, also called deceivers can be inserted into the dam making the water quiet. Beavers don’t like running water; the dam controls the water level making it deep enough for beavers to overwinter.

So, contact your townships and/or conservation authorities and inquire about working with, instead of trapping, those beavers. COEXIST. They are so very important to our ecosystem, environment and to us, period. If you trap them more will come. Treat Canada’s national icon with respect. 

Jen Howard

Engineers of the Wetlands
error: Content is protected !!