Yesterday, I was skiing in front of two dog teams. I skied up over a bump. The dog teams followed, up and over. The bump was a beaver dam. In the winter we travel through many areas where beavers live. We see plenty of evidence of the beavers. We see their dams, blocking streams to form ponds. We also see their lodges. A beaver lodge is a beaver’s home.
Beavers can make big changes to places they live. Beavers change the landscape with the dams they build. A dam is a barrier that stops the flow of water and forms a pond or lake. These new ponds make it easier for beavers to access trees found along the shoreline. They collect logs and branches in a pile to create the dam and then use grass and mud to fill in the spaces between the branches. Eventually the water will pool up on one side of the dam to form a pond. These dams are very strong. They are even strong enough for us to dogsled over the top of them.
Beavers live in shelters called lodges. Beavers start working on their lodges in the fall. The lodges must be ready by winter to shelter the beavers away from hungry predators such as wolves, foxes, and otters. Lodges are usually cone shaped with underwater entrances. The beavers build from the inside out using mud, grass, and branches. Most predators find it too difficult to break through the complex network of branches and mud so the beavers stay protected.
We don’t ever see the beavers in the winter. They spend the entire winter inside their lodges. In the fall, before their ponds freeze, the beavers store food (fresh branches) in the water around their lodges. Remember, the entrance to a beaver lodge is under the water. In the winter, a beaver will swim out of the lodge to get food under the ice.
We can tell if beavers are inside a beaver lodge by looking at the very top of the lodge. In the winter, their breath and body heat will rise. This melts the snow at the top of the lodge. Sometimes if we listen carefully at the top of the lodge, we can hear the beavers inside. We can also smell them.
Even though we don’t get to see the beavers, the winter gives us a chance to see their homes and their dams up close. I enjoy dogsledding past so many beaver lodges and dams.
Food for Thought
Follow these links to learn more about beavers: