Wednesday, November 16, 2011

STOP...It's Beaver Time!

Pond dipping is absolutely one of my favorite things to do with students while they are staying at the CVEEC for our residential program. When the experience doesn't turn into a "I can catch more tadpoles than you!" competition, kids can find all kinds of amazing creepy crawlies including hellgrammites, damselfly nymphs, predaceous diving beetles, water scorpions, dragonfly nymphs, backswimmers, leeches and so much more! My favorite pond on campus is called Meadowedge Pond. It happens to be my favorite because a beaver recently dammed the drainage pipe and allowed water to raise past the cattails, allowing easier access to critters. I always take my time to explain to the children the story of the handy beaver when we are pond dipping because it is great example of how amazing wildlife is.

The beaver that now lives at Meadowedge Pond actually moved from Redwing Pond a few months ago and a few very intelligent Rangers here at the CVEEC think that the old pond was too shallow for its liking. After moving down to the very spacious Meadowedge Pond, the beaver began an epic battle with the man in charge of maintenance here at the center. The sound of running water that ran into the drainage pipe used to maintain the pond's shallow level, triggered the beaver's instinct to build a dam. Every time the pipe got dammed, our maintenance man would unclog it so the trail at one end of the pond wouldn't flood. This battle continued for a few weeks until the beaver finally won! The maintenance guy stopped undamming the drainage pipe which led to water overflowing one side of the pond. The new sound of running water triggered something amazing to happen on campus: A BEAVER DAM!

As you can imagine, this excited all of us interns because we had proof to the kids that there was actually a beaver in the pond! From this moment on, there was a secret competition between all CVEEC employees to catch an actual glimpse of the elusive beaver. One day during a class a few weeks ago, I had just gotten done telling the beaver story to my students when one said "Hey, is that the beaver?". I definitely had my doubts before I looked because beavers are rarely out during the day as they are crepuscular, or active during dawn and dusk. Believe it or not, the student was right and I still claim the first daytime beaver sighting to this day!

During the next week, after daylight savings time allowed dawn to come a little earlier, particularly during intern break time, Ranger Phil was bragging to some of the us that he had seen the beaver during one of his classes just minutes before. Two of my fellow interns and I, Julia and Julia, decided we would one up him and not only see the beaver, but see it closer than Ranger Phil did. And thus, our adventure began.

When we first got to the pond, there was absolutely no action. We waited for a few minutes until one of the Julia's noticed something moving across the was the beaver!! As soon as she noticed the beaver, it began swimming around the edge of the pond directly towards us. I creeped along the the side close to where it was swimming and snapped this picture:

Just as I thought it was as close as it would get, the beaver continued to swim around the pond even closer to where we had been sitting originally. When the beaver was only two feet in front of us, it noticed we were there and hid in the cattails along the edge of the pond. In that location it actually had a two minute staring contest with one of the Julias! After finally getting the nerve to turn and swim away, it swam entirely out of site. With little hope of seeing the beaver again, we turned our sites to finding its lodge.

Within just five minutes we found its beautifully constructed home. The only problem was that it was back in the woods along a deer trail bordered with prickly multiflora rose. Without hesitation, I took off into the briars with little fear of getting scratched apart because I had my eye on the prize. At the lodge, I was to capture some great pictures! This great beaver story is another one of the fun examples of how amazing it is to be able to work in the great outdoors!

The beaver lodge in all its glory.

A beaver tree AKA a tree that a beaver chewed!

My favorite find; a beaver footprint!

Does anyone know what this might be?
It was in the mud at the beaver lodge, but I haven't been able to identify it!
Please, please help me out!

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