When I returned to Wolf Ridge ELC this fall for a second year I quickly returned to my old hobby of tracking and photographing the resident campus wildlife. Within the first few weeks I was tipped-off by a summer naturalist that a family of busy beavers had constructed a fresh lodge; very close to one of the boardwalks that classes take to get to the Stream Study Site. “You can’t miss it”, said Danielle.
I went down to see for myself. One of the first things I noticed was that the trail was quite a bit wetter than I had remembered the previous spring. When beavers choose a spot for their lodge, they first construct a dam. By raising the water level of the stream above the dam, they can effectively create a deep pool that does not freeze all the way through; keeping their food pantry of sticks fresh and accessible under the ice all winter long; AMAZING! In some spots there was even standing water among the thick groves of Speckled Alder surrounding that part of Sawmill Creek. I must be getting close, I thought…
Well, after some searching I found the dam; a very well engineered wall of mud, grasses and chewed sticks, many of which still had leaves on their branches. However, there was no lodge to be seen. I was quite baffled. I went home excited about seeing the new dam, but discouraged that I had missed the seemingly obvious lodge.
The next time I went to explore the area with a few buddies and magically there it was! Clear as day! The lodge: an impressively thick, but hollow mound of sticks, mud, and grasses. It must be 3-4 feet tall from the water and about 10 feet or more in diameter, impressive to say the least. There are sticks protruding from the lodge that almost come within inches of the boardwalk. Needless to say I felt rather silly for not spotting it the first time! It is a funny thing to have been humbled by some beavers.
Since the Wolf Ridge Beavers classes started up this fall, the naturalists and our students have had quite the experience watching these incredible animal architects up close. At first they would slap their tails, but now they seem to welcome classes by swimming in large figure eights and going about their beaver business without giving us a second thought. Oh and I forgot; there is a trail camera on the lodge so the beavers can take a few “selfies”.