As winter approaches, Delaney’s beaver population is busy at work, adding mud to insulate their lodges against the cold. Active lodges will have a muddy path leading up one side, and if you’re lucky, you might see the beaver’s webbed footprint in the muck.
Active lodges will also have a food cache nearby – a half-submerged pile of recently cut saplings and branches. Once Delaney freezes over, the beavers will feed upon the underwater cache throughout the winter.
In contrast, an abandoned or inactive beaver lodge will have lost most of its mud, and will be topped with whitened logs that have weathered in the sun over the years. Purple loosestrife and other vegetation may have sprouted and grown up from the lodge. There won’t be a cache of food adjacent to the lodge.
The beaver captured in these photos was out working on his lodge every night. He’d make his first appearance an hour or so after sunset, and then make repeated trips up and down the side of the lodge, hauling mud, muck, and sticks. Notice how he walks on his two hind feet, pressing back on his flat tail for balance.
Surprisingly, this lodge doesn’t have a food cache yet. Unless this beaver gets busy, he may not make it through the winter.
You may not ever see a beaver out and about at the Delaney Wildlife Management Area, but you can’t walk or paddle very far without seeing signs of their presence. Freshly-chewed poplar and alder branches wash up on the beach and the boat launch. Scent mounds serve as territorial boundary markers along the shore. Stick dams impound the waters in the wetlands above the Future Electronics spillway and clog the drainage culvert underneath Finn Road.
And of course there are the beaver lodges out in the ponds. How many lodges are there at Delaney? I know of seven, in various conditions, scattered throughout the property. Some are active lodges, with fresh mud and a submerged cache of recently-cut branches which will sustain the beavers under the ice until spring. Others have been abandoned for years, bleached white in the sun and sprouting purple loosestrife and other vegetation. How many have you seen?