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Saving the DammedWhy We Need Beaver-Modified Ecosystems$
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Ellen Wohl

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190943523

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190943523.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 17 May 2021

February: About Beavers

February: About Beavers

Chapter:
February: About Beavers
Source:
Saving the Dammed
Author(s):

Ellen Wohl

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190943523.003.0005

February: when I first notice the days begin to stretch out after the tight curl of December and January. February: the month for creating new beavers. Somewhere sheltered from the cold light of sun reflecting off snow, in a bank den or a lodge, perhaps even in the water, the beavers are mating. The North St. Vrain beaver meadow is good habitat, and the adult pair will create another litter of two to four kits, allowing the current kits to become yearlings, and pushing the current yearlings out of the colony to find new homes and their own mates. I enter the meadow from the northern side on a mild day when a steady breeze seems to keep pace with the scattered clouds moving overhead. Just as I start to descend the slope into the meadow, I flush a moose resting beneath a big spruce. I am close enough to see the coarse, thick fur along the moose’s spine bristle with alarm and to note the scars where the animal dropped its antlers after the autumn rut. The alarm is only momentary. The moose ambles down the slope and into the meadow, steadily browsing willow stems as it moves. The stems have a hue of burnt yellow, and each bud is clearly visible, although not yet swollen. The past few days have been mild, and patches of bare ground show along the south-facing slopes and under the big conifers that border the beaver meadow. In the meadow itself the snow remains sufficiently deep to keep navigation easier by filling the pitfalls of the meadow—the winding canals, one beaver wide, and the steep-sided holes that the beavers dig to create air exchange near their dens. The snow bears abundant witness to the activity of the meadow. The widely spaced leaps of snowshoe hare tracks create diagonals between the creek and the conifer forests adjacent to the meadow. The single, precise line left by a fox has melted in the warmth of midday and refrozen into ice casts.

Keywords:   Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber), Lily Pond, Tierra del Fuego, beaver behavior, beaver evolution, beaver physiology, elk (Cervus elaphus), keystone species, moose (Alces alces), pleistocene

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