Hungry, hungry beaver

I didn’t see any beavers in person, but I got a good look at what they have been up to on my walk at Tamarack Nature Center today.

beaver damage

A rather large tree felled by the industrious beaver(s).

A rather large tree felled by the industrious beaver(s).  Hacked off stump on the right shows typical beaver gnaw pattern.

The trunk was probably about 12 inches in diameter, too large to cart off to the lodge, so they harvested the bark and some of the smaller branches.

The trunk of this moderate-sized tree was probably about 12 inches in diameter, too large to cart off to the lodge, so they harvested the bark and some of the smaller branches.

Munched bark along the trunk of this moderate sized tree attests to recent (this fall?) beaver activity.

Munched bark along the trunk of this moderate sized tree attests to recent (this fall?) beaver activity.

They even went after the bark of this Tamarack Pine, which is not listed as one of their preferred menu items.  I wonder if the damage around the base of the tree is enough to kill it.

They even went after the bark of this Tamarack Pine, which is not listed as one of their preferred menu items. I wonder if the damage around the base of the tree is enough to kill it.

This beaver activity occurred in an area with a lot of Speckled Alder shrubs.  Perhaps those were the bare stumps sticking up in the snow in the first photo.  Speckled Alder sends up multiple stems per plant and has a shrub-like growth form, rather than tree-like, so in high density it can form a dense thicket on the shore of a wetland (which this area was).  Alder is one of the beaver’s favorite foods, and there was a lot of it here.

The male (elongate) and female (miniature pine cone-shaped

Their flower structures make the alder stand out in this landscape of bare stems.

Elongate male catkins hang down mostly from the upper parts of the alder; female cone-like flower structures arise from the lower third of the  shrub.

Elongate male catkins hang down mostly from the upper parts of the alder; female cone-like flower structures arise from the lower third of the shrub.

More on the role of the beaver in wetland ecology in a later post.

5 thoughts on “Hungry, hungry beaver

  1. I don’t know much about beavers, but I know that their activities can be both destructive and beneficial in creating and preserving wetlands. I do admire their engineering skills, though.

  2. If a tree isn’t completely girdled it can live, but with only that little strip of bark joining the parts above and below the beaver damage, its chances aren’t great. If they gnaw down to the wood all the way around the tree, it’s finished.

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