The other day I drove along one of our rural back roads and passed a beaver pond. A deep blanket of snow covered the ice. On the other side of the impoundment, a large dome of white indicated the location of their house.
The deep snow and thick mound of mud and sticks make the beaver’s home quite pleasant as the snow falls and the winds howl out of the north. Just because their upper world is cold and frozen, the beaver’s life isn’t put on hold. This large, semi-aquatic rodent doesn’t hibernate. The beaver carries on life in an almost normal fashion.
Throughout the spring, summer and fall, beavers are busy cutting trees and dragging everything they can into the water that they have dammed up. Many of these branches are pushed into clusters or feed beds that the beaver eats on all winter under the ice.
Although beavers can cause problems, they really are wonderful animals that are vital to nature. The American Indian called beavers the “sacred center” of the land because they create such rich, watery habitats for other mammals — turtles, frogs, ducks and birds.
The beaver played a large role in the colonization of North America. The beaver pelt, which was used to make hats in Europe, was the primary trading commodity in the 1600s and 1700s. The French and Dutch set up colonies just to trade with the Indians to get furs. Jim Bridger and other mountain men found places such as Yellowstone while trapping furs in the west. Today, little thought is given to beavers unless they flood one of our roads or back up water onto our property. Then we call someone to get rid of them or we try to destroy their dam. It’s amazing to break open a large portion of their stick and mud enclosure only to return the next morning and find it already plugged.