Nature’s engineer.

Our island is home to at least a couple of beaver colonies. Though we lack squirrels and chipmunks entirely, beaver seem to have either survived or been brought over — or swum.

A few weeks ago now, as the fall color was just beginning, Paul and I went for a walk on some of the trails that cut across the center of the island, through hemlock woods and past ponds towards the shore. He noticed the evidence of beaver from afar, and we strayed from the trail so we could investigate.

You’ll notice from these pictures that the beaver are being selective: they appear to have chosen one species of tree to fell, what looked to be a kind of poplar, and left the hemlocks intact. (That’s perhaps not surprising — I imagine hemlock is pretty unpleasant to gnaw.) But I wonder what effect this will have on forest composition in the long run. Is the hemlock forest party an artifact of the beaver activity? I don’t know enough about beaver, or about forest succession, to say one way or the other, but we were struck by how consistent the beaver were in their tree choice.

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