Shortly after I started my Sunday Hunt For Links series, I wrote a post that featured the Bison or Buffalo. I chose it because of it’s rich tradition and history with Native Americans. The animal I chose to feature today has it’s own history with Native Americans and also with the explorers and settlers who came from the east to the west, seeking to learn more about what would some day become the United States of America. The fur trade in North America was one of the main economic forces on the continent, as early as 16th century. It was then that the Europeans discovered cod fish could be dried, which preserved it for shipment back to Europe for sale. That was done off the Newfoundland coast and during that time, these fisherman also traded for robes made of sewn-together beaver pelts to help keep them warm as they traveled across the Atlantic. Once those robes reached Europe, it didn’t take long for them to be converted to felt, specifically for the making of felt hats. It was from this simple act of the necessity to keep warm that the North American Beaver became one of the most sought after animals in the world. It was truly the driving force behind the fur trade in North America and it nearly drove the third largest rodent in the world to the point of extinction.
The beaver is another of God’s amazing creations. From it’s instinct to dam streams and create wetlands, all manner of other wildlife are affected positively. It probably has more power to do that than any other animal in the world. Let’s take a look at some of the physical details of the beaver, courtesy of Wikipedia.
The beaver is the largest rodent in North America and the third largest rodent in the world, after the South American capybara and the Eurasian beaver. Adults usually weigh 15 to 35 kg (33 to 77 lb), with 20 kg (44 lb) a typical mass, and measure around 1 m (3.3 ft) in total body length. Very old individuals can weigh as much as 45 kg (99 lb).
Like the capybara, the beaver is semi-aquatic. The beaver has many traits suited to this lifestyle. It has a large flat paddle-shaped tail and large, webbed hind feet reminiscent of a human diver’s swimfins. The unwebbed front paws are smaller, with claws. The eyes are covered by a nictitating membrane which allows the beaver to see underwater. The nostrils and ears are sealed while submerged. A thick layer of fat under its skin insulates the beaver from its cold water environment.
The beaver’s fur consists of long, coarse outer hairs and short, fine inner hairs (see Double coat). The fur has a range of colours but usually is dark brown. Scent glands near the genitals secrete an oily substance known as castoreum, which the beaver uses to waterproof its fur.
It should also be noted that castoreum was also a highly valued trading item, sought for it’s medicinal properties. Again, I go back to mentioning the economic force of the beaver, but I do not believe it can be understated.
Outside of it’s fur and castoreum, the one thing the beaver is best known for is it’s ability to build a dam across a stream. Doing this creates wetlands for other species of wildlife. According to Beavers: Wetlands & Wildlife, the beaver’s ability to change the natural landscape is second only to that of humans. These dams and the subsequent wetlands are a marvelous work of ingenuity and I can tell you from first hand experience, they are a wonder to behold. My Dad has a pond that has a beaver population living in it and they decided the culvert he installed as a spillway was letting out too much water. They have it so dammed up that it would take a bulldozer or backhoe to extract it and would probably result in the destruction of the south end of the earthen dam that was put into place when the pond was dug years ago. The beaver really know how to build a dam. Consider this, from the link at the beginning of this paragraph.
Beavers are more than intriguing animals with flat tails and lustrous fur. American Indians called the beaver the “sacred center” of the land because this species creates such rich, watery habitat for other mammals, fish, turtles, frogs, birds and ducks. We now know that beaver damming provides essential natural services for people too.
Beavers prefer to dam streams in shallow valleys, where the flooded area becomes productive wetlands.These cradles of life support biodiversity that rivals tropical rain forests. Almost half of endangered and threatened species in North America rely upon wetlands. Freshwater wetlands have been rated as the world’s most valuable land-based ecosystem.
Beavers reliably and economically maintain wetlands that sponge up floodwaters, alleviate droughts and floods (because their dams keep water on the land longer), lesson erosion, raise the water table and act as the “earth’s kidneys” to purify water. The latter occurs because several feet of silt collect upstream of older beaver dams, and toxics, such as pesticides, are broken down by microbes in the wetlands that beavers create. Thus, water downstream of dams is cleaner and requires less treatment for human use.
Many people may think the beaver just eats wood, but that isn’t the case. They do prefer the bark of the willow, maple, birch, aspen, cottonwood, beech, poplar, and alder trees, but one of the mainstays of their diet is the cambium, which is the soft tissue just underneath the bark of a tree. A beaver will also eat roots and water lily tubers. To ensure they have plenty to eat during the winter, they store freshly cut branches in and around their lodge.
Speaking of the house the beaver built, no discussion about beavers would be complete with mentioning their lodges. To do that, I again refer you to Wikipedia.
The ponds created by well-maintained dams help isolate the beavers’ homes, their lodges, which are created from severed branches and mud. The beavers cover their lodges late every autumn with fresh mud, which freezes when the frost sets in. The mud becomes almost as hard as stone, and neither wolves nor wolverines can penetrate it.
The lodge has underwater entrances to make entry nearly impossible for any other animal (however, muskrats have been seen living inside beaver lodges with the beavers who made them). A very small amount of the lodge is actually used as a living area. Contrary to popular belief, beavers actually dig out their dens with underwater entrances after they finish building the dams and lodge structures. There are typically two dens within the lodge, one for drying off after exiting the water, and another, drier one where the family actually lives.
Beaver houses are formed of the same materials as the dams, with little order or regularity of structure, and seldom contain more than four adult and six or eight young beavers. Some of the larger houses have one or more partitions, but these are only posts of the main building left by the builders to support the roof, for the apartments usually have no communication with each other except by water.
When the ice breaks up in spring beavers always leave their embankments and rove about until just before fall, when they return to their old habitations and lay in their winter stock of wood. They seldom begin to repair the houses until the frost sets in, and never finish the outer coating until the cold becomes severe. When they erect a new habitation they fell the wood early in summer, but seldom begin building until nearly the end of August.
There are many other items of interest about the beaver. For instance, did you know that they will not overpopulate the area in which they live? They only breed once a year and when the occupancy reaches a certain level and food is scarce, the number of beaver kits is reduced. I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea that the beaver is one fine example of nature at it’s finest. Now to the hunt for links.
4Walls and AView has a unique look back at 2010 and forward to 2011.
Always On Watch has more on the failures of the 111th Congress.
American and Proud has some of his own predictions for 2011. He isn’t very optimistic.
America’s Watchtower has a well-researched post about the presidential use of Executive Orders.
Bunkerville has the disturbing news that 1 in 3 Muslim college students in the UK think it is okay to kill for Islam and 40% of them want Sharia Law implemented.
Capitol Commentary wonders why the media isn’t covering President Obama’s use of unmanned killing machines and the deaths of innocent civilians they have caused.
Conservative Hideout tries to get us back on the right track of discussion about Obamacare and death panels. Matt also has a great post about the false racial narrative in America. I don’t normally include two posts from one author, but he deserves this week.
Conservatives On Fire has a list of useful questions to ask about any legislation proposed by Congress.
The Country Thinker explains the economics of bridges to nowhere.
Maggie’s Notebook has some straight talk about Kirsten Powers’ accusation that President Bush signed legislation that would set up death panels.
Motor City Times compares President Obama to the S & P 500.
Muskogee Politico has the story and video of a news helicopter blowing a stranded calf off an icy pond.
NoOneOfAnyImport explains how the road to serfdom is paved with regulations.
One Mom has a list of gas prices and other wonders.
Reporter 37 explains why evolution really doesn’t mean that much to him.
rjjrdq’s America II says the job market is booming overseas.
Sentry Journal has what I consider to be the best post on abortion that I have ever read. RightHandMan deserves major kudos for this piece on the real victims of abortion.
Spellchek explains once again why banning earmarks might not be such a good idea.