|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Backpacker Magazine – September 2008
America's largest rodent may be clumsy on land, but in water, it's a marvel of design.
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.