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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Dam, Beavers: Back at it again with the gnawing

<ir="ltr">As the snow recedes from the Arb and the trails open up again, a lot of animal signs that have been hidden all winter can finally be seen again. If you look along the banks of Cannon you’re sure to find tree stumps freshly gnawed to a point, evidence of a beaver’s winter work. For a beaver, the trees they fell with their extraordinarily resilient teeth serve as both food and building material. Beavers eat the nutrient-rich layers that lie just below the bark and, in conjunction with smaller sticks and mud, use the trunks to build the dams that they are famous for.

Although beavers build dams in order to create a pool in which they can build their lodges, a beaver’s dam offers many ecological benefits that have a positive impact on other animals. First and foremost, the deep pools that are created by the backed up water behind the dam create a habitat for fish and amphibians. Using the depths of the pools as cover, fish and amphibians can hide from birds of prey (such as blue herons) that hunt in the shallows. Additionally, a beaver’s pool acts as a reservoir that can provide water during the dry summer months when the streams might otherwise run dry.

Beavers were nearly hunted to extinction during the American frontier days when beaver pelts were a prime commodity in the fur trade. Since the end of the fur trade beavers have been steadily returning, only to find that a new animal has taken over the waterways: humans. Over the past few years, beavers have tried several times to move back into and build dams along Spring Creek. However, in order to stop Bell Field from flooding, their dams must be removed. This practice brings to light some interesting questions. How do we balance the needs of animals with our own? Should human and natural spaces be separate entities, or should we try to integrate them as much as possible? These are questions continue to be discussed and ones that we should all consider.

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