The note on the Natural Events Calendar for Dec. 23 was “beavers feed on sapling reserves.” Well, they must not have put enough aside where I live because it looks like a river birch massacre around the shallow ponds we call “the swamp.” Although beavers do store some food to eat later, they’re active in Missouri throughout the year, which is painfully obvious.
In the 1970s my father-in-law wanted to attract woods ducks to nest, so he created seven shallow pools of water. The woods ducks came and nested, a patch of corkwood he planted thrived and river birches grew along the water’s edge. For several years a goose nested on a small patch of raised earth that formed a small island. Muskrats periodically messed the dams up though not seriously. A prothonotary warbler nested a year or two.
But only with the arrival this year of beavers did things really get disturbed. First they took over the island and created a lodge. Then they dug a hole through a dam that caused a steady leak of one pool. Then they created muddy “canals” through the lotus pond for easier access through it. And now…goodbye birches.
Someone called a few weeks ago who wanted to do some fur trapping, which we were happy to oblige. Unfortunately, it looks like they didn’t get to these pools yet. The trapping season is in full swing, so at least the beaver harvested will be of value for their prime winter fur. I’m just thankful that some people are still trapping. It’s an important tool to keep some wildlife populations in balance with what people will tolerate. In Missouri, the beaver trapping season in 2009 runs two months longer than the general furbearer season which ends Jan. 31. That’s an indication of the serious challenge of keeping their numbers at a tolerable level. (There aren’t many predators left in Missouri besides people that can bother an adult beaver.)
Living in a place rich with diverse wildlife is a wonderful thing. But at this point, with the dam in jeopardy and the trees falling right and left, I’d rather only see beaver down on the creek nearby. At least then the lotus pools and trees would have a chance to thrive.