The temperature is heading for a thaw. So last chance to check my beaver lodge. Once the ice melts, there will be no going near it without a canoe. After skidding and sliding over a great expanse of ice, I found the beaver lodge frozen solid and banked with snow, the beavers snugly inside.
There were the usual coyote tracks around for the scent of the fat beaver family just inside must fill them with maddening frustration. They know by now that trying to dig out the goodies is a useless waste of claws. The cold has turned the lodge of mud and branches into an iron fortress impenetrable for the hungriest predator.
The ice of the beaver pond stretches away, smooth and slick with patches of snow here and there for footholds but the beavers made sure they don’t have to go far for dinner. Next to their lodge, filling the depth where the invisible farm pond was dug, is a bristling heap of twigs and branches carefully stored for winter dining.
Up close, you can see the channel the beavers keep open to their larder. Lining the channel is a backwash of discarded branches, each neatly cut to about a foot in length, each utterly stripped of bark down to the yellow wood.
A diet of tree bark is not my idea of cold weather comfort food but the beavers want nothing else. I so admire their digestive tracts, specially designed for bark and cambium, the soft tissue right underneath. Willow, maple, poplar, birch, they’ll devour it all with relish.
In a day or two, the ice will start breaking up and the pair of swans who are already hanging about, will set up their nest for this year’s family. The pond will fill again with returning ducks and geese and the beavers will emerge to slap more mud on the dam that stretches across a couple of my fields.
So what’s for dinner in spring, summer and fall. Bark, bark and more deeelicious tree bark. Perhaps garnished with the odd root or bud snatched for a treat while they swim to work each day.