June 7, 2021
The Elusive Beaver
- as seen by -Tim Lewthwaite
On an early morning visit to my local lake, I spotted a large, rodent-like animal making its way up the gentle steps of a man-made dam. It was leaving a small pond below to spend the day in the larger lake above.
To my surprise, I recognized it as an American beaver, Castor canadensis. In the coming days, I realized there was a male and female that made the morning journey up the dam to the lake. It took a while to decipher their routine and their comfort zone. If I got too close, they would simply vanish underwater, reappearing in the distance. With some care and a little patience, I was soon able to take photos as they fed in the lakeside shallows.
The beavers would go on to build a lodge of branches and mud on the far side of the lake, making it their summer home.
Late in the nineteenth century, these peaceful and industrious animals were hunted to the brink of extinction for their pelts, meat, and castoreum (a secreted substance used for a variety of medical purposes). Since, they have made a remarkable comeback and are listed as least concern by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Finding them in suburban Maryland was a lovely moment.