Stop! It’s Beaver Time.

Beaver one, beaver two, let’s all do what beavers do! Chhh chhh chhh, chhh chhh chhh….

This familiar camp song has become increasingly popular with the students at the CVEEC because it is an animal they can actually see while they are here.  While we also sing epic songs featuring a multitude of other animals including penguins, moose, alligators, and baby sharks, in the end, they just are not as relevant.

Last spring, a furry little creature, known in the scientific world as Castor canadensis, wandered its way to our very own Redwing pond here at the CVEEC.  At first, the beaver was welcomed with excitement; what a great educational opportunity to have our very own beaver on campus.  However, it did not take long before the cute little mammal became a menace.

Beaver dam at Meadowedge pond.

By the fall of 2011, the beaver had moved its residence to Meadowedge pond- the largest of our four ponds at the EEC.  It then promptly began blocking the drainage pipe and building a dam, creating significant flooding on the plateau trail.  Since this section of the plateau is open to the public as well as our center, the trail is heavily used and the flooding proved to be a serious problem.

Drainage pipe blocked with mud and sticks.

Maintenance staff and resource management spent hours counteracting the beaver’s busy work.  Breaking apart the tightly packed mud and sticks turned into a considerable challenge.  On several occasions, letting water through the beaver dam caused flooding across Riverview road all the way at the bottom of the hill.  It’s amazing the amount of damage one small animal can cause.

Tree near Meadowedge pond. Notice all the beaver's teeth marks!

Another beaver tree with Meadowedge pond in the background.

Resource management park staff met to decide on a course of action.  There was talk about trapping the beaver and moving it to another location, far away from the EEC.  Although staff at the EEC were sad to hear this news, there was not much we could do to persuade resource management that the beaver should stay solely for education purposes.

Luckily, Marquis, a student from Patrick Henry School saved the day!  While visiting the center in November with his middle school class, the students were asked to write thank you letters to donors providing scholarships to students.  In a heartwarming letter he wrote to an EEC donor, he included a line saying that seeing a beaver and a beaver dam was an experience he would never forget.  We shipped this letter over to resource management, and shortly after they officially declared that the beaver could stay.

So how did we compromise?  Battling the beaver meant finding a way to prevent the drainage pipe from blockage.   This was done by constructing a “beaver deceiver.”  We added a fence around the perimeter of the pipe so that it is harder to block the flow of water.  Increasing the drainage area increases the amount of work the beaver has to do.  This method does not disrupt the normal behavior of the beaver in any way.

Beaver Deceiver.

The beaver deceiver worked for several months without a hitch.  However, just yesterday, maintenance staff had to remove blockage from around the fence.  Why is the deceiver not working?  Aaron, the CVEEC’s fabulous maintenance man, predicts that perhaps there is more than one beaver at work.   Only time will tell what lies ahead for the fate of the beaver(s) at Meadowedge pond.  I’ll try to keep you updated.

If you are interested in seeing beavers, and haven’t scheduled a visit to the CVEEC, a great place to view them is at the Beaver Marsh near the Ira road trailhead.  This NPS site bulletin can give you more information.  Beavers are most active at dusk, so heading out to the boardwalk just before sunset is the best time to catch a glimpse.

Fun Facts about Beavers:

-Beavers are the largest rodent in America.

-Beaver teeth grow continuously throughout their lifetime.  Their giant incisors are crucial for gnawing through trees.

-Beavers eat tree bark and cambium (the dark layer of the tree right under the bark).  They also eat some aquatic plants.

-Beavers have webbed back paws but non-webbed front paws.  This makes them well adapted for their semi-aquatic lifestyle.

-Beavers have two layers of fur.  The inner hairs are soft and fluffy, acting as a sweater for warmth.  The outer course, oily hairs act as raincoat to repel water.

If you are interested in the rest of the lyrics to the Beaver Song, check out this link.

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