The other day when I was out on a mushroom walk (and not finding much of any, by the way) I happened upon this:
Immediately I thought, What vandal has been chopping trees here? How indignant I was. This is public riverbank, along the shore of an old quarry behind an island in the Clackamas River. Cottonwoods grow here, and a fair amount of brush, and sometimes, in the fall or spring, edible mushrooms. Taking mushrooms is one thing. Chopping trees is another. Hmpf!
But then I noticed the unmistakable marks of chisel-teeth on the stump.
Ah-ha! Rodent at work! These are the marks of beaver teeth.
Contemplate for a moment, this young tree of 8 inches in diameter. Consider cutting it down with your teeth. It makes you think.
I met a couple of beavers once, long ago when I worked for the city zoo in Portland, Oregon. I was a college kid. You take the jobs you can get when you’re working your way through school. My mother pretended I was a research assistant. That sounded much better than the truth, that I was there to clean cages and feed the animals in the quarantine area on the hill above the gardens.
It was interesting, though. A cage-cleaner gets to meet animals she would never encounter in ordinary life. Animals coming into the zoo had to pass through qurantine before they could enter the general population, so we few, we lucky few, got to see them all. I served as hand-maiden to a juvenile lion, a pair of siamangs, 6 opossums (another time I may tell about the opossums), a couple of romping young cougars, a heron, a Hamadryous Baboon (blue face!), 3 gibbons, a Sun Bear, several owls, a Capuchin monkey, a Ring-tailed Lemur, a Ring-tailed Cat, and: 2 beavers.
The beavers were not glad to be there. They were not glad to see me each day. They were not glad to have their cages cleaned. They might have been OK about the feeding, but if so they didn’t betray much. They hissed at me. They showed their xanthodontous grins and chattered meanly. I was there to serve them. Did they appreciate it? I do not believe they did.
You see them in children’s books and they’re cute. Think of Mr. and Mrs. Beaver in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. What could be more appealing?
It is my opinion that, close-up, beavers are nasty big rodents.
But, anyway, I was out strolling that day, and came upon such skillful beaver-work on the banks of the old quarry. A person does have to be impressed. There were trees down everywhere. Some had been skinned for the tasty bits under the bark:
Some had been chopped and chiseled and left to lie. I can only wonder what the author of such industry had in mind. It’s as if the beaver simply has to cut down trees, even if only to leave them littering the shore.
I looked about for sign of the beaver’s house. Everyone knows beavers build lodges. Given the old quarry hasn’t any current or any stream to dam, I thought maybe the beaver lodge would be built into the bank somewhere near the cuttings. But there were so many trees were down all along the bank, so haphazardly and without plan, I couldn’t make head or tail of the architect’s intent. If it were me, I would cut trees near where I intended to use them. Obviously I do not have the mind of a beaver.
I’m rather glad about that, really.
At last I gave up the quest. You can only spend so much time looking for the front door to a rodent house, and odds are when you find it you will not be invited in. These local beavers do not have the manners of the Narnian ones.
On my way back to the road, however, I spotted this in the brush and felt a little sorry for my superior attitude.
How was I to have known?