Last week, I blogged about November and our full moon called the Beaver Moon as those largest of rodents begin shoring up their dams and collecting food for the winter ahead. Notice in today’s cover photo those big orange teeth--they are that color because those teeth are full of iron making them plenty strong to gnaw up wood. Did you know beavers can swim 5mph (Michael Phelps can swim 6mph), stay under water for fifteen minutes, and a third transparent eyelid provides water goggles?! Amazing rodents.
You can see how they can be brats though, especially in the northwest where willow and aspen trees are their favorites to tear apart and their dams can actually cause flooding. EarthSky recently dug into the history books and discovered an Idaho Fish and Game project from the 1940s relocating the bothersome beavers to a spot called Baugh Creek watershed...a place where no road dareth go. The idea? Parachute the beavers into this remote area of the state to let them thrive! That’s right, parachutes.
Now, the beavers weren’t strapped to parachutes but floated down inside a special box. The forest service first tried woven willow boxes but the beavers chewed through those in minutes and nobody wants a plane full of beavers, thus stronger ones that opened on impact were used. Thousands of beavers rained down on Idaho through 1948 and now the beaver descendants have happily claimed their refuge.
And guess what? Turns out those beavers are an incredible boon to the ecosystem. The beavers’ home is lusher, greener, and more full of life than surrounding areas thanks to all that dam building and reforestation. You can see from this NASA photo the difference in the dark green, lush beaver area versus the non-beaver area:
Proof positive: in 2018 the Sharps Fire burned some 65,000 acres of that Idaho refuge and did NOT affect the beaver’s home of wetland complexes. Look at this:
From NASA: This and other benefits of healthy beaver populations on local ecosystems are now widely recognized. Rivers with beavers can support more biodiversity, are more drought resilient, and keep water available on the land for more days of the year. Some ranchers have gone from seeing beavers as a nuisance to recruiting them onto their land.
There is even a Beaver Restoration Assessment Tool (BRAT--don’t you love it?) along with serious study being conducted on all these beaver benefits. Never underestimate the role nature and its beings play in our world. We have to protect “all creatures here below” even when we’re not sure about just how important they are!
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