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Backpacker Magazine – September 2008

See More Beavers

America's largest rodent may be clumsy on land, but in water, it's a marvel of design.

by: Cameron Walker

PAGE 1 2
(Photo by Josh Miller)
(Photo by Josh Miller)
(Illustration by Bryon Thompson)
(Illustration by Bryon Thompson)

Home Sweet Lodge
Inside a beaver's custom-built shelter

Beavers eat water plants and a tree's bark, twigs, and a soft inner layer of cells (called the cambium), gnawing on sticks the way people eat corn on the cob. As winter nears, beavers begin building a food cache, storing their favorite aspen and willow branches in underwater piles next to the lodge. When ice covers the pond, a fresh meal is only a few feet away.

On land, slow-moving beavers are easy prey. But in the pond, underwater tunnel entrances keep predators like wolves, bears, and coyotes at bay.

Some beavers burrow lodges into the banks of streams and lakes; others build their own islands in the center of a pond. These lodges, made from sticks and vegetation woven together with mud, can be eight feet across and three feet high. Beavers pad the inner chambers with wood chips and even poke holes through the roof for ventilation.

Families consisting of a monagamous pair, their yearling offspring, and newborn kits all share one lodge. Babies are born April through June and can swim within a few days, venturing out of the lodge with their parents in midsummer.

PAGE 1 2

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Oct 23, 2008

I had the pleasant surprise of sighting a group of 5-7 beavers while paddling on a canoe trail in Lousiana's Lake Fausse Pointe State Park. As soon as they spotted me, half continued swimming across the waterway while the other half bolted back in the direction they came from. Lake Fausse Pointe State Park is located in the Atchafalaya Basin, and it--as well as several nearby U.S. Army Corps of Engineer water trails--provide convenient "back country" entre to some of the South's most distinct flora and fauna.


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