Bonkers About Beavers This Summers

August 28, 2019

 

Hello and welcome to the Wildwood Blog. In these pages you will find information about activities going on in the park and hopefully learn some facts about our beautiful animals. To start things off I'm going to write a bit about our summer activity and tell you about the ongoing beaver trial on the river otter!

 

Over the summer months we have been running a beaver activity room. In these sessions visitors have been making lovely beaver masks (rainbow beavers being the most popular!) And learning about the Eurasian beaver. We have had a beaver pelt, skull and gnawed tree trunks on display to show quite how strong beaver teeth are! There have also been interactive games to help work out what beavers like to eat and what a beaver dam can do to the surrounding area.

Firstly lets look at the beaver diet. Beavers are herbivores, which means they only eat plant material. It is a common misconception that they like to eat fish and crabs, but this is the otter, not the beaver! Beavers aren't particularly fussy about the type of wood they eat, but willow, hazel and chestnut are some of their favourites. An interesting fact about beaver teeth is that they never stop growing! This means that they have to gnaw a lot of wood to stop them from getting too long. Finally beavers don't just eat their meals once. They eat the first runny green poo, and then when they poo the second time, it looks like balls of sawdust. This is a very efficient way for the beaver to get the most nutrition out of its food.

Next up let us talk about the beaver dam. Beavers build their dams in rivers with sticks, logs and mud which they collect over time. These dams are known as leaky dams which means they will let through a bit of water but in a slow trickle. This is excellent for the surrounding river banks as it creates a new type of habitat known as wetland. This is perfect for insects and attracts a whole host of animals to the area. The biggest known dam is in Alberta, measuring 850 meters long! Many people think that beavers live in their dams, but in fact they build homes called lodges. The entrance to the lodge will be underwater and easily accessible for the beaver from the river. They tend to have two rooms, one for eating and one for sleeping. 

Finally, a bit about the current beaver trial. This is a five year long trial looking at reintroducing the Eurasian beaver into Devon. The beaver has not been present in the UK for over 400 years so this is a very important step. The trial started in 2015 and is set to end in 2020. Nine beavers were released and have been monitored over the years. They have increased in numbers and spread further along the river. They have created dams and are slowly engineering their site. Research is being carried out to see how this is going to effect potential flooding in the area. So far this is providing strong evidence that beavers might be playing a vital role in reducing downstream flooding. It is even being shown that the dam system and storage ponds will help with drought conditions as well! 

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