Beaver Behavior

I went for a walk around one of the lakes early this morning, along a trail that follows the top of a steep bank at the lake’s edge. At one point I stopped to watch the Hairy Woodpeckers working the dead snags above me, and while I was standing there I realized there were soft bubbling and splashing noises in the water below. Glancing down, I saw a pile of large sticks on the shore I was sure hadn’t been there a couple weeks ago… and a beaver, swimming slowly back and forth.

I’ve seen beavers a number of times before, but usually when I do they’re swimming away at top speed or slapping their tails on the water to express their irritation at being disturbed. This was the first time I’d had a good vantage point to watch one without scaring it off, so I crouched down at the side of the trail and spent about twenty minutes observing its behavior.

After completing several lazy figure eights, it wound up next to a fallen birch tree that was partially submerged in the water. As I watched, it dove repeatedly, for about ten seconds at a time. Each time its head would disappear, its tail and butt would waggle around on the surface (it’s hard to get a sense of what a big animal a beaver is when you just see its face sticking out of the water, but its big butt gives you a better idea), and I would hear a deep gnawing sound. Then it would pop its head up to scan the surface before going under again.

Eventually it came up towing one end of a large birch limb in its mouth. Maybe it saw me at that point, but if so, it wasn’t overly concerned – it placed the stick near the edge of the pile that was already there and then took off at a sedate speed for another part of the lake.

If you’re looking for the beaver in the photo above, it isn’t there, I took that picture of the spot after it swam away – I didn’t get a good one of the beaver itself. But it was a good way to start my Wednesday.