Category Archives: Natural history

Following the deer tracks

As we’ve been skiing and snowshoeing these last few weeks, we’ve been able to see solid evidence of deer:  deer tracks!  We’ve seen enough deer year round and plenty of droppings and certainly heard the gunshots in November, but tracks in the snow show us how close the deer have come, how many there are, and some of their trails.


As the snow gets deeper, it turns out the deer like our trails!

Not knowing which way to go, I follow the deer trail.


And after persisting on this trail


I came out into this opening and bedding area.

Beaver Games

We’re  fascinated and awed by how the beavers have shaped this landscape.  When on or along the water, it’s hard to find places that show no evidence of their work.

Perforated pvc pipe with screening on both ends as a possible way to lower the water level upstream of a beaver dam.,

One of their recent projects is a small dam on a stream that skirts our property.  A few weeks ago, curious about  their level of commitment to this small dam,  I removed  a few sticks from the top. I returned a few days later to find — as is usually the case — those tireless nightworkers had only become more inspired by my minor provocation.  They had shored up the top of the dam and then some.

Since the dam is near a walking trail we use to access the pond,  I was concerned that the walking trail could eventually become flooded out if they built the dam up higher.  A few minutes of online research revealed a possible solution,:  a ten foot length of perforated pvc pipe with screening on each end.  Some of the sources suggested the pipe should extend 20 feet back from the dam and that upstream end should be caged off to prevent the beavers from blocking it, but I decided to go with the simpler solution for now.

How Big is a Beaver?

Big enough to aggressively slap its tail on our approach, rather than quietly slipping out of the way.   Big enough to cut down and transport trees as much as 30 inches in diameter.  Big enough to build dams more than 12 feet high.

According to LiveScience, the typical American  beaver (Castor canadensis) weighs 60 pounds and is 23 to 39 inches (60 to 100 centimeters) long. The tail adds another 7.75 to 12 inches (20 to 30.5 cm) to its length,

A beaver is big enough to change an entire landscape.  It is big enough to want to defend its territory against humans.  It is big enough to be North America’s largest rodent.


A Landscape Shaped by Beavers

Those straight cuts of those alders could have only been done by a human.  That trail is too wide and level to have been made by an animal.  The irregular waterways cutting through the marshlands surrounding Basin Pond must be a vestige of the geological history of the area.

These are the things I believed.  Now, I am no longer so sure.

After doing some reading and going back again to look at some of these areas, I am thinking that a singular creature, Castor canadensis, the American beaver, may be responsible for these phenomena.

Lots more learning to come.  The photos below are of the multi-channeled waterways that cut through the marshlands surrounding Basin Pond,