Although I've never seen a beaver on Mom's farm, I'm fascinated with them. The damage we saw in recent years was something we never saw as kids. My brothers hunted and trapped in these coulees a lot, and my brother Carl said he's only seen beaver dams in the last few years. He said beavers have built a huge dam recently in the area pictured below. I'm excited to go back and see it next month, and I'll update this with a picture of it. A neighbor killed two beavers, trying to slow down the damage of the trees.
This was taken in May on a drier year, so the creeks are small. Some springs after huge snowbanks melted, these rushed with wide beds of water. I loved the sound!
The above picture doesn't show it well, but in the middle of the picture, the creek was dammed up with the start of a small beaver dam. The water wasn't deep enough to support a beaver lodge, so we didn't understand why they destroyed these trees and left them.
Below, our daughter Jana posing as a beaver gnawing the tree.
This must take some powerful jaws and teeth!
North Dakota has two kinds of beavers--the Missouri beaver (shown below) in the west and the Canada beaver in the east and the Turtle Mountains. Nocturnal animals, the adults average 30-60 pounds. Their paddle-like rear feet and flat tails help them swim five miles per hour. Underwater, they have goggle-like clear eyelids; their nose and their ears can close up as they stay underwater for up to fifteen minutes.
Monogamous pairs for life, beavers average litters of three. The kits (babies) stay in the lodge for two years.
(This illustration is by Gerald Rapp and Cullen Inc.)
One of the goals of the 1804-05 exploring expedition of Lewis and Clark was to gather information about the thriving fur trade in Dakota Territory, the beaver being the most valuable. The Indians used pelts for clothing, medicine pouches, rugs, and decorations. They ate the meat, and used teeth and claws for ceremonial decorations.
My Uncle John Niemitalo said they never saw beaver around their farm as a kid, in the '20's. He did remember the dismay of Alex and Esther Sarampa when a beaver gnawed down the one big tree on their place. (Around 1926.) He also remembers hearing of a very successful beaver trapper southwest of the area, perhaps eight miles into the coulees, around 1930.
The above photograph is a beaver lodge in Canada.
Below is a diagram of the inside:
Built out of sticks and mud, beaver lodges have an underwater entrance for safety, an air hole in the top, and a platform they nest on. Quite ingenious, I think! Beavers will dig homes into river banks if not enough wood around.
They build dams across creeks and streams to ensure deep enough water for the entrance and to not freeze in the winter.
Destructive critters they can be, but their resourcefulness is very interesting.