Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Happy International Beaver Day

Happy International Beaver Day!
photo credit: Gainesville State College Tumbling Creek Woods Beaver Pond web page
Today, Tuesday, April 7th is International Beaver Day!
The Beavers, Wetlands and Wildlife Organization is trying to show people how important beavers really are, and the group has produced an educational DVD and sent 1,000 copies to teachers all over the state of New York.

One member says the beaver is one of the most important wild animals for a number of reasons. First, because they build dams and prevent flooding. And second, because beavers protect us from greenhouse gas emissions.

"Beaver wetlands, like all wetlands, are the best ecosystem for storing carbon," said Sharon Brown, of Beavers, Wetlands, and Wildlife. "And if they are destroyed, carbon dioxide goes into the air and that's a dangerous greenhouse gas."

April 7 was chosen as International Beaver Day because it is the birthday of the late Dorothy Richards of Little Falls, who studied beavers for 50 years.
Beavers, scientific name Castor canadensis, are the largest rodent in North America, and the second largest rodent in the world. Beavers are important animal ecologically and historically. In fact, Missouri (the state where I live now) and the westward expansion of the United States can credit the humble beaver for its place in history. Why? Beaver fur was the number one commodity in the new world and the many systems of rivers and wetlands in the western half of North American proved to be very successful trapping grounds in the 1700 and 1800s. Even today, Beaver are still very important fur species. Though I am no fan of fur, I recognize the important roles trapping, hunting, and fishing have in wildlife species management plans. Because we value our current and urban lifestyles, it is important that we take the time to appreciate wildlife and understand more about their behavior and ecology so that they will be around for centuries to come.
In fact, I know a fellow scientist who researches on beavers. I found one of his scientific papers online that you could read for yourself and learn more about Beavers and why they are important.

Understanding North American Beaver Behavior as an Aid to Management
by Bruce Schulte and Dietland Mueller-Schwarze
The next question you may be wondering is, "Do beavers live in or near cities? Or do they only live out in the forest or country?" The answer is a big YES, to both questions. Beavers do live in and near urban areas if the habitat is right. What's the right habitat? Flowing water like rivers (large or small) or streams and creeks. Beavers live right here in St. Louis along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. I've see their dams under the bridges - the MLK near downtown, the I-270 and the Old Chain of Rocks Bridges. Huge, big, towering dams. Sorry, I don't have any photos (another reason I wish I had bigger, better camera equipment. I love to show real pictures and proof to you.) But they look like this:

photo credit: Skip Mackey Fishing Stories webpage

If you've ever notice a huge pile of sticks and branches in the water, then you can best believe you have come across a beaver dam. Another sign of beaver activity is this:

This chewed off stump, often near a river or stream means you have active, healthy beavers near by. Beavers are important wetland species, because they are engineers, literally. They create habitat for other animals - like fish, insects, birds, other mammals. Create pools of water for land animals to drink from, and bridges for land animals to cross from one side of the habitat to another. This exposes them to new resources like shelter, mates, food, and places to hide from predators. So, think fondly of the beaver and keep your eyes open for these amazing creatures.


Anonymous said...

Happy International Beaver Day to you. Great article. Some people find them a menance, but in fact, beavers are sometimes called the original environmental engineers.

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