The urban beavers of the Conners Creek colony become diehard nocturnalists during the spring/summer season. They spend the daylight hours loafing within the dark confines of their lodge and only venture outside when darkness covers their activities. Any human attempt to observe them at that time of year will be basically beaverless.
Urged on by the preparation needs of the impending winter, however, the beavers will linger about for a few hours after sunrise and before sunset. At this time of year they add material to the top of their lodge and stock their underwater stores of cottonwood and willow twigs. After several beaverless springtime efforts, I chose to concentrate on the fall season in order to catch a few daytime glimpses of the creatures. I was successful for the most part.
The only reason I qualify my success is due to the fact that I can only attest to the presence of one beaver this time. That particular beast, however, was the familiar notch-tailed adult that I recorded last season. All of the beavers at this lodge look pretty much alike apart from the smaller young. “Notch”, with a huge divot in her tail, is the exception and one glimpse of that damaged appendage is enough to individualize her. Admittedly, this her could be a him, but because it is easier to say beavher than beavehe I will stick to the feminine designation (wow that was stupid wasn’t it!).
Although I was familiar with her, she was much less tolerant of me this time. It was raining and I was wearing a bright yellow raincoat upon my second visit of the season. This caused her to immediately drop what she was doing (de-barking a dogwood twig) and swim over for a closer look. Once satisfied at my identity, rather than return to her routine, she sounded the alarm and dove with a loud tail splash. She bobbed to the surface about ten minutes later but still retained that “creeped-out” look on her face and ultimately opted to end her day long before the 9:00 hour.
Over the course of subsequent visits, actual sightings have been few and far between, but it is apparent that the beavers have been hard at work on the lodge. Mounds of fresh mud, water plants, and gnawed sticks have been heaped upon their shelter. A comparison of the photos- taken one week apart -reveal just how much work has been accomplished (see below). Yes, the Conners Creek beavers have been as busy as….o.k., I won’t say it.
Oct. 31, 2013 Nov. 5, 2013
Apart from natural material, a few items of urban “junk” are pile atop the lodge. What looks to be a boat hoist strap of some kind was soon buried by mud. A rake, complete with handle and times, was added to the lower portion of the structure (see below at center). This time has not been yet been covered up. I secretly wonder if Notch has been employing the tool to dress the surface of the lodge and thus her nervousness stems from the possibility that I might find out.
Oddly enough, I saw more muskrats than beavers about the lodge this autumn. Seeing at least two individuals repeatedly enter and exit the structure has been enough to convince me that they are living with their larger cousin. It is not unusual for these two creatures to share a lodge – in fact, such a thing seems to be the norm. Beaver-cams (cameras installed inside beaver lodges) have revealed this again and again.
It seems that a pair of ‘rats have set up living quarters within the larger space of the lodge interior and are adding to it daily. They are performing this function as if they themselves built the original mound.Gathering mouthfuls of water plants, they plunge into the entrance and appear for another load several minutes later. Given the vast open space within a beaver lodge interior I am thinking that the muskrats are utilizing a corner apartment carved out of the mud and sticks.
As if to display their complete comfort with this arrangement, the ‘rats raised at least one family in the Conners Creek lodge. A young muskrat took a brief foray from the confines of the family apartment and put in an appearance among the Cottonwood sticks (see below). The tiny creature was still clothed in fuzzy gray underfur pajamas and was yet to gain its smoother covering of guard hairs.
Because both animals are basically nocturnal they likely spend a lot of time together inside the lodge. Most of this time is spent sleeping, but one wonders what the beavers would have to say to their tiny tenants during these times. I would think the conversation would be simple and polite between the two like-minded creatures. The beavers would withhold comment when the muskrats occasionally break their vegetarian habits and imbibe in a meal of fish or clam and the ‘rats would have to change the subject upon seeing the beavers eating their own poop (which they do doo).