Beavers in the Burbs


Beaverhome300by Susan
In Martin Luther King Park, just minutes outside DC’s beltway, beavers are hanging out in this cozy lodge, waiting for darkness to come Beavertree350_3again so they can get back to work.

Wikipedia tells us: "There are typically two dens within the lodge, one for drying off
after exiting the water, and another, drier one where the family
actually lives.
Their houses are formed of the same materials as the dams, with
little order or regularity of structure, and seldom contain more than
four old, and six or eight young beavers. Sometimes some of the larger
houses have one or more partitions."

Now look at the other result of their industriousness – felled trees all around the pond, with Wiki telling us one beaver can bring down a sizable tree in one night.  Did the one who hacked away at the tree in the photo above just get bored and not bother to finish the job?  Isn’t the purpose of all this cutting to get the tree on the ground where they can eat the bark?  Or not?  (Wiki can’t tell us everything.)Wiretree300_2

So yeah, it looks bad for this little bit of heaven but maybe not: "The actions of beavers for hunWyeoaksign350dreds of thousands of years in the Northern Hemisphere
have kept these watery systems healthy and in good repair, although a
human  observing all the downed trees might think that the beavers were
doing just the opposite." (Also from Wiki.)

One tree whose days were numbered is, according to this plaque, a seedling from the famous, dearly departed Wye Oak I mentioned recently.  But beavers can’t read and white oaks make good chewing, so to hell with claims of famous parentage (presuming to speak for them).

Luckily, this famous seedling has a protector.  My friend Pam lives across the street from the park and walks it almost daily. (ReBeaver3tirement IS bliss, she reports.) Her solution – wrapping it in wire – seemed to work and was soon copied by the park maintenance crew, who’ve since encircled all the still-standing trees with wire. 

What I found most interesting is that contrary to our automatic suspicions about humans always behaving badly in nature, the park authority is doing nothing else to protect trees from damage by beavers.  Despite MAJOR tree loss, the beavers remain safe in their lodge, still eager.

Beaver photo credit.


  1. I think the days of trying to control nature in natural areas are waning. At least efforts seem to be focused on good works, such as controlling or removing invasive, non-native plants and animals, and not interfering with the ways of native animals.

    How exactly is that tree nibbled to almost nothing still standing? It’s gravity defying magic!

  2. I did not realize beavers had orange teeth like our horrid nutria – a transplant here in Louisiana. They are a major cause of soil erosion, having 5 litters a year. They look like giant rodents. Their fur, when shaved, looks like beaver, so I suppose the resemblance makes sense. It is the one fur no one should feel guilty wearing.

  3. There’s a recently restored stream/drainage area in North Seattle that had a few beavers move in. They built a lodge and felled some pretty impressive trees before the city put mesh up to protect the rest. Still, the beavers are a huge neighborhood attraction and have drawn many people to the stream who may not otherwise have come.

  4. No need to feed those beavers. They manage very well on their own. My goal in ‘fencing’ the Wye oak was not just to protect the tree; I sometimes worry that park visitors will demand that the beaver family, there are at least 3, be moved out b/c they have felled so many trees. So protecting the Wye was a defensive move on my part. I’m their fan, having watched them build that lodge over the past 15 months or so. I occasionally visit the pond very late at night, midnight or so, to see what they’re up to. One of them usually notes my intrusion by swimming directly toward me and smacking the water with his or her big leathery tail. Maybe I’m entering my second childhood, but I get a thrill every time I hear The Slap.

    Susan’s friend Pam

  5. In our rural area beavers pick some unhandy spots for their homes. They dam up culverts and the roads flood. So they are trapped and relocated or trapped and …..

  6. “…trapped and…”
    I discovered this sad truth doing my online research about my neighborhood beaver family. I try not to be too romantic about these creatures, just as I try not to be too romantic about the deer whose property I live on. Some make it and some don’t. And if my neighborhood guys caused my basement to flood, or my gardens to wash away, I would be the first one to ask some (human) authority to relocate them. And then I would hope for the best on the relocation. Just as I hope for the best when the trucks haul away my recycling each week. I try to have faith that my bottles end up being recycled but I’m never completely sure.

  7. Here, we have a beaver pond. If it is discovered by the authorities, and it may not be, because it is on land that has been for sale for ages, they will trap and move the beavers upstream. We saw this happen last year. I was thinking about climbing the fence and photographing the phenom for my blog. I may still. Nice to know the park people care.

  8. Pam, I was referring to Susan’s comments about the park authorities not your actions to save that lovely tree (sorry if it read otherwise). Managing the right balancing act between man and critter is not easy.

  9. The beavers in our area do quite a bit of “partial bark removal” as in the photo above. I’m always amazed at how many of the trees recover. Some don’t though – I think maybe the beavers are just very patient! They can wait til the tree dies and falls on its own.

    There’s been a sort of beaver population explosion lately… due to beaver pelts not being worth much money any more. It’s causing a corresponding increase in the river otter population as well.

    Do be careful not to let beaver dams on your property flood your neighbors’ property… there was a court case here in Alabama where the defendant had to pay $30,000 in damages when this happened.

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