I have been playing cat and mouse with a beaver, and for quite a while I was losing. It is the time of year when they are cutting down trees to strengthen their lodge, and create a food stash. So I thought if I could find a tree that had been freshly cut but not yet dismembered, and put a game camera on it, I might get footage of a beaver cutting down more of the tree. But that’s not quite how it went.
I found a freshly cut hemlock:
so I put a camera on it and went away for a week. When I came back, no change. So I walked a little further, found a newly felled maple, and moved the camera to that.
Aiming it just right is tricky, but I was careful, and confident. Over confident. Next day, most of the tree had been cut off and towed away, but somehow he’d done it without ever triggering the camera.
There wasn’t much left, and it looked too big for him to take, so I took down the camera and moved it to yet another tree. Next day, I returned to the original tree out of interest, and not only had he come back again and cut even more off, but he had made a scent mound right by the tree, making it quite clear who was the boss. (The scent mound is the heap of dark wet leaves in the foreground. ) And the new tree that I had put the camera on had not even been visited.
To add insult to injury he had also returned to the first hemlock, eaten some cambium from under the bark, and cut off some branches, but of course I had no camera there either.
The nutrients are in the cambium, the dark brown living layer under the bark. He isn’t interested in eating the wood itself.
By now I was getting grumpy. I was about to go away for two weeks, so I found yet more half-cut trees, and spent a long time positioning two cameras and testing them by pretending to be a beaver so as to be sure he would break the beam and trigger the camera:
Two weeks later, without much hope, I checked the first camera: nothing. But the second one, miraculously, had a series of very short videos. He had come out of the water on two different days, always at night. I’ve edited them into two clips.In the first one he has a good scratch and a bit of a groom:
and now he is ready for his close-up:
In this single frame extracted from one of them you can get a good look at his webbed back feet, hand-like front feet, and two goofy incisors.
And below you can see the underside of his leathery tail:
One day maybe I’ll catch one in the midst of cutting down a tree. I’ve left a camera out, just in case!
PS The sharp-eyed amongst you may notice that the shot of me crawling around is actually dated later than the beaver videos. It is a re-enactment designed to show you what it takes to get these shots, rather like the crews in David Attenborough shows! I can always aspire to greatness.