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Leave it to Beaver

November 16, 2017

Categories: Nature Notes

By Wolf Ridge Naturalist

As the saying goes, beavers were and are busy as usual this year preparing for and living through winter.

They spent the spring and summer working on their dams and lodges, making sure they remained in tip-top shape. As the weather cools down, beavers need to look ahead to the even colder winter months and make sure they have enough food stored.

Separate from their lodges and their dams, beavers build food caches of branches stuck in the mud at the bottom of their ponds. In the winter, they don’t come out from under the ice, and they swim from the lodge to their food cache when hungry. They bite off a piece of the branch about a foot long, bring it back to the lodge, and eat it in much the same way we eat corn on the cob.

This fall, as we explored Wolf Ridge, we investigated a beaver dam at the Wolf Ridge Organic Farm. From that exploration, we became interested in the beavers’ food cache for this winter. According to past phenology notes, the beavers started building their food caches a day late this fall. Winter also arrived a little early, with Wolf Lake freezing over nine days earlier than average.

Smaller water bodies had frozen over even sooner. As we continue to monitor how the changes in climate impact species’ phenology, we remain interested in how these dynamics will affect the beavers’ winter lifestyle. We guess we’ll just have to leave it to the beavers.