Nature’s landscape designer at work

There’s a landscape designer at work in and around  ponds located near my home.  Castor canadensis, better known as the common beaver, moved in last autumn. Since then he’s built a home, cleared out non-native, invasive trees and brush, and set out to insure he has a nice deep pond in which to spend the winter.

Sir Beaver’s lodge is nicely situated at the edge of a spring-fed pond.

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As shown in my very rudimentary diagram below, this pond sits slightly downhill and off to the side of another pond that primarily feeds into a stream.

Beaver diagram

Sir Beaver has done a wonderful job of clearing all the Autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata Thunb.) and/or Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia L.) trees – non-natives listed on the Connecticut Invasive Plant List –  that once grew around the lower pond.

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He pulled these and other small trees and shrubs toward his lodge to use either as additional building materials or to store as winter food for when ice covers the pond. You can see Sir Beaver’s stash in the water just to the upper left of his lodge in the photo below.

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Other brush and logs he cut went into his dams. Here’s his upper pond dam as it looked in December 2012.

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Here’s Sir Beaver’s smaller dam in the lower pond.

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This one helps to keep the water level high enough to protect the entrance to his lodge.

He started a third dam (not shown) in the stream, but perhaps he got distracted … he has not done much work on it lately.

Once the pond froze, Sir Beaver must have begun to use the stores of brush he had stacked outside his lodge. They were not as evident at the start of January after the pond froze.

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But Sir Beaver is still active. This is the path he follows from the lower pond to the stream.

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According to the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, male beavers build lodges and dams to attract a mate. Beavers mate for life and breed during mid-winter.

I cannot tell yet if Sir Beaver has attracted Lady Beaver. If he has, their kits will be born in spring. They will live with Mom and Dad until they are two.

Beavers are frequently looked at with disdain because they can drastically alter the environment to suit their needs … landscaping does not always match humans’ ideas of beauty. But by creating wetlands, beavers provide habitat for turtles, salamanders, frogs, fish, and wetland birds. Wetlands also help trap sediments and filter water.

Should beavers decide a piece of your landscape is attractive, there are steps you can take to protect mature trees and insure beaver dams don’t totally flood  an area. These are outlined in the CT DEEP beaver fact sheet.

Winters with little snow, such as this one in Connecticut, provide great opportunities for exploring outdoors; for observing the travels and habits of creatures, such as Sir Beaver, living nearby.

Have you observed beaver, or other creatures in your landscape?

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2013 Joene Hendry

6 comments for “Nature’s landscape designer at work

  1. January 28, 2013 at 8:47 am

    I have not seen beavers on my property but then there is no pond here for them. I do know of several others who have had problems with beavers building in shared spaces. These people do not like to share and work to evict any new tenants.

    • January 29, 2013 at 8:03 am

      Layanee, I know beavers are not often looked upon favorably. There are many locations where they can cause distinct problems for landowners. But, like deer, we must learn to share our environments with them.

  2. January 28, 2013 at 9:51 am

    How fascinating that you get to see and monitor this creature’s habits, and learn something about him too. It is amazing that a small animal like that can have such a dramatic impact on the ecology of a large place. I hope Sir B finds a mate!

    • January 29, 2013 at 8:09 am

      Laurrie, a group of my neighbors to these ponds have been fighting the invasives around the pond for years. The beaver moved in and took care of the problem, at least for now. It will be interesting to watch what happens in the spring. If Sir Beaver stays and clears more, more of the mature trees will need encircling with welded wire cages. We had begun this years ago when a different beaver moved into the upper pond. If Sir has found a Lady, their kits should arrive this spring.

  3. Sue
    January 30, 2013 at 10:31 am

    How interesting! Beavers are not a creature I have around my parts but I last year my town had one removed from a pond in a residential area which caused a bit of controversy. So far I have not observed them but for the first time ever I have winter deer damage to my garden. Last week I sprayed but not before at least one if not all three of a trio of Thuja occidentalis were destroyed.

    • January 30, 2013 at 9:35 pm

      Sue, I wouldn’t even try to plant Thuja occidentalis in my yard … it would be like throwing money away. Deer herds of 10 to 15 regularly visit our yard during winter months. You may have to join the seasonal fencing crowd to protect any deer candy plants you have planted. It’s the only way to prevent winter deer damage. Once they find your yard they will return.

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