Tuesday, September 28, 2010

All About Busy Beavers

It’s a blue-skied, early-autumn day and I’m tromping a creek-side trail deep in western North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest. For years, I’ve been drawn to these treed slopes and tumbling streams. Today, though, I’m neither fishing, nor backpacking, nor hunting mushrooms — my usual excuses for wandering the woods. Instead, I’ve come to check on a hard-working family that moved to the neighborhood a decade ago.

I round a bend, and a downed tree blocks the trail, its gnawed end and pencil- stubbed stump telling me I’m nearing my destination. I step over it and proceed past more tooth-whittled trees. As I top a rise, the woods open and the landscape transforms. Before me lies a still pond of some 5 acres, with a broad margin of grassy marshland.

A few yards from the high bank where I’m standing, a jumble of logs, sticks and mud blocks the creek, slowing the flow to a relative dribble of its upstream rush and tumble. This is the beavers’ dam, built to provide deep, still water for a safe home. I don’t see the rounded dome of a stick-built lodge. These beavers, like many, instead may have burrowed into a bank underwater, then up, to hollow out a subterranean home. Tall, dead trees rise from the pond that slowly killed them, their bleached trunks pocked with cavities drilled by woodpeckers, but now used by birds and other creatures for shelter. Read the entire article.

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