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Beaver Saga

Source: Personal experience

Read this and other stories in the book, Noticing Nature, by Chuck Bonner. Also available in e-book format for Amazon Kindle.

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Mine Falls Park in Nashua, New Hampshire, was home to beavers long ago. And now it is again.

When I first discovered Mine Falls Park a few years ago, there was a ruin of an old beaver lodge near the west end of the Mill Pond. Here and there you could find the stump of a beaver-felled tree, some of which had put up new shoots that were themselves some years old. Nowhere could you find a fresh sign of a beaver. They were obviously long gone. Eventually, even the remnant of the old lodge disappeared.

Stump that was felled by beavers long ago.

This stump was felled by beavers many years ago.

Along about mid-spring in 2006, during some of the worst flooding southern New Hampshire had seen in over a century, three beavers appeared in the Mill Pond. I figured they had been flooded out of a home farther up the Nashua River somewhere, and had found refuge in the park.

The Mill Pond is a rather nice place for a family of beavers to live. The water is deep and wide, and the level is constant without the beavers having to build and maintain a dam. There is plenty of vegetation for them to eat, including both aquatic plants, and trees and shrubs in the surrounding forest.

The only downside is the human presence. Beavers in Mine Falls Park would have to get used to people in the park just about all day long. Besides their sometimes-unfounded fear of humans, they would have to endure real, direct impact from unthinking humans. There are people who would throw rocks at them, just to amuse themselves. There are people who would destroy the lodges they build - beavers usually build their first lodges on shore, rather than the classic dome in the middle of the pond that we usually think of as a "beaver lodge." Certainly, the vast majority of human visitors to Mine Falls Park would not disturb the beavers, but it would only take one or two incidents to drive them from the pond.

I used to see them just about every day on my pre-dawn jog that spring. They seemed to be exploring the pond, and I found them in a different place almost every morning.

One morning, as I jogged along the point just west of the boat ramp, I must have startled one of the beavers. He returned the favor in spades, tail-slapping the water as he dove, with a sound that seemed like a thunderclap out of the still, quiet pond.

Beaver lodge on the shore of the pond.

The beaver lodge that was built on the north shore of the Mill Pond in 2006.

Toward the end of spring, they built a lodge along the north shore of the pond, near the east end, a hundred feet from the beginning of the Nashua Canal. From then on, they seemed to be settled. I never saw them on the south side of the pond, and rarely more than a couple hundred feet west of the lodge. Mostly, I saw them either in the canal or in the immediate neighborhood of their lodge.

Well, one unusually dark morning, I almost tripped over one in the middle of the Millpond Trail, but he was on his way to the canal.

Summer came, with its increase in human activity in the park. The beavers disappeared.

Something similar happened to the swans the next year, but that's another story.

Later that summer, I found a dam and a new beaver lodge in one of the distributary streams that flow out of the Mill Pond to the Nashua River. This place was more secluded, so it seemed like perhaps a final home for the beavers.

The next year, this year, as I write this, I began to see them in the pond and canal again, but only once in a while. Apparently, they still live in the distributary, but they make use of the pond and canal. I see them two or three times a week, especially when the morning is darker than usual.

They have several paths that they use to get in and out of the canal. Often, I see fresh drag-marks from their tails where they've crossed the Millpond Trail to go for a swim, and probably to eat the fresh aquatic plants.

I think they can live happily this way for years to come. They can stay away from the crowds of people jogging and walking and biking along the Millpond Trail, but still use the canal and the pond in the peace and quiet of dawn.

The beavers are back to stay.

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