|Gnawed tree near Ice House Landing, Maynard|
(2006 photo) Click on any photo to enlarge.
A beaver family has created a lodge on the north side of the mill pond about 80 yards east of the Sudbury Street bridge, and are destroying trees on Mill & Main property, trees bordering St. Bridget property and also on neighboring private property. Tree damage by other beaver families is evident up and down the
between the Ben Smith and
Powdermill dams. Beavers will walk more than 150 feet from water's edge to take
down trees for food and building material. Heavy gauge wire fencing four feet
tall is recommended to protect individual trees. Assabet River
Due to fur trapping, beavers were gone from colonial
Massachusetts by 1750, and
did not start to repopulate the state until 1930s. When colonial farmers relocated
to new areas to start a new village they anticipated finding large, tree-free
expanses near streams. These farm-ready spaces had once been beaver ponds. Resident
beavers would have moved away after all the surrounding trees have been cut
down and eaten. Or else had been trapped for pelts. Unmaintained dams
deteriorated and washed out, draining the ponds and leaving fertile meadows.
While recovery has not been as explosive as for whitetail deer, which now exceed their pre-European population, estimates are that
Massachusetts is home to
at least 100,000 beavers. The Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge is home to
a dozen or more active colonies – all contributors to the wetlands habitat
essential to many other species.
Many towns’ Department of Public Works have to deal with beaver management every year. Maynard's DPW has on several occasions brought in licensed trappers to remove beavers from wetlands near the town’s well fields. Homeowners can apply to a town’s Board of Health for an Emergency Permit to trap and kill beavers affecting private property. State law does not allow for relocation, or for that matter, destroying a dam or lodge without a permit.
When beavers are able to find a place to live without disruption, spring brings a litter of about four kits which will remain close to the parent pair for two years, helping out with chores such as dam and lodge maintenance, plus late-fall food storage in the form of underwater piles of branches. This way, food remains accessible under the winter ice. The adult male of the mated pair will create scent mounds marking the family’s territory. This territoriality results in families being no closer than half a mile from each other. If a beaver pond is seen with two lodges it just means the one family in residence upgraded.
|Beaver skull purchased from licensed trapper.|
Note orange tint to enamel. Click to enlarge.
Our resident adult beavers have no predators. Before the Europeans got here they were hunted by Native Americans, wolves, cougars and black bears. Nowadays, their lifespan in the wild can exceed 20 years, with adults typically weighing 45-65 pounds but known to top 100 pounds. Every spring, the two-year olds, evicted from their parents’ lodges, go a wandering. Summer sightings and new areas of tree damage are probably by these adolescents. Lodges are not always surrounded by water. If the water level is relatively stable the beaver will forego constructing a dam, and instead build a lodge next to shore, referred to as a bank lodge.
The four front wood-gnawing teeth, continually growing, are radically different from the chewing teeth. The enamel of the outer surface incorporates an iron-containing pigment which makes that surface harder and also orange in color. Because the rest of the tooth is a softer dentin material, the teeth resharpen with use.
|Beaver skull showing space between|
gnawing teeth and chewing teeth
|Beaver damage to large trees.|
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