Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Dam Damage

Beavers After the Flood

There is a family of beavers in Elbow River along my customary hike. This year I have seen both adults, a second year, and a new kit. 

An average of two to four baby beavers are born from March to early June. Louise and I saw a baby on June 10th, ten days before the flood. A parent was pushing the kit on his nose through the water to the shore.

Kits are capable of swimming from four days of age and they can dive and remain submerged by two months. The fur is fully water-repellent by 5 to 8 weeks of age.

The lodge for this family is on Kingfisher Island and the entrance is on the north side. I have seen the adults come and go from the entrance on numerous occasions.

After the flood I could not reach Kingfisher Island until the second week. The water was too high and the mud and debris was not easily passable. Once I managed to reach the area I discovered that Kingfisher Island is no longer an island. Two river stone banks of land now connect the west end of the island to the shore. I was able to walk up to the beaver lodge entrance, which I suspect is not ideal for the family. 

What happened to the kits? The island and the lodge must have been totally submerged. Lodges are constructed to allow air flow in through the top and this means the lodge was flooded and the structure, however well built, otherwise damaged by the raging waters. My guess is that the kits drowned or were swept downstream amidst river stones the same size as the babies.

On June 21, the day after the flood, I saw two adults on the river. One was far from the lodge and in a flooded area of the forest. The beaver was swimming slowly between the submerged bushes and trees. My sense was that the adult was searching for a kit.
The photo above, three weeks after the flood, shows an adult carrying a branch towards Kingfisher Island. Once I was spotted, the beaver turned and headed back downstream so that I would not see the animal enter the den.  

The three photos above show an adult in the river by Kingfisher Island. The same day I saw another adult swim with some branches to the area of the lodge but on the south side of the island, which is the opposite side of the pre-flood entrance. Perhaps the family has redesigned the lodge with a different entrance.  

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