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Beaver Winter Food Supply Cache

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Once locked under the ice, beavers have only the food that they have had the foresight to store in their pond prior to it freezing to sustain themselves for the next four to five months. Sometime in September or October beavers start cutting down trees and limbing them. (The more northern the latitude, the earlier they begin this process.)  Beavers have been found foraging over a third of a mile from their pond in the fall.  At this time of year they tend to go further afield in order to find their preferred trees and shrubs – poplar, willow, alder and sugar maples. The branches are carried to the pond and hauled through the water to the lodge. When they approach the lodge the beavers dive down and push the butt end of the branches into the mud at the bottom of the pond and proceed to weave additional layers of branches into them.

Most caches are built as close to the entrance of the lodge as possible. A cache, or winter food supply pile, that feeds a colony of beavers consists of 1,500 to 2,500 pounds of edible bark, twigs and leaves. (On average, a beaver consumes 1 ½ pounds of food per day in the summer, and 2.2 pounds in the winter.)  Because beavers don’t eat the wood, they must gather several tons of saplings and branches in order to have enough to survive.

If you look closely at yesterday’s close-up view of the food cache, you will see larger limbs on top of the pile. These larger logs are used to weight down the pile –they often consist of species that beavers aren’t particularly partial to, if they eat them at all. (Note proximity of food cache to the lodge, which is to the left in photo.) 

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8 responses

  1. Alice Pratt

    Beavers sure have great instincts. They must use their noses to smell their favorite trees?!

    November 11, 2016 at 9:04 am

  2. Sue Feustel

    Hi Mary,
    Hope you are well. I am enjoying the information you send each day and always learning something.
    Question of the beavers: The amount of food they consume is that per day or per the season? You state 2.2 lbs in the winter so I am guessing that is the entire amount for the winter season. Just wanted to check and to say Hi!
    Best Regards,
    Sue

    November 11, 2016 at 11:35 am

  3. Jodie Moriarty

    Beaver info.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    November 11, 2016 at 12:42 pm

  4. With the low water levels and the ongoing drought here, I expect beavers are having a tough time. They seem to have abandoned a nearby pond that is nearly drained to muddy shallows.

    November 11, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    • Hi Eliza, That’s exactly what’s happened to the active beaver pond I observed all summer. It was fairly shallow to begin with, but by late September was almost totally drained. The day I took the photo of the coyote standing by their trail out of the pond was the last day I saw them…pray they somehow made it safely to another pond or stream, but not sure kits were old enough for overland travel. So sad.

      November 12, 2016 at 9:34 am

  5. Mary, we’ve seen the same here in Concord with some of the riverbank lodges that are too easily accessible from shore during this drought. I routinely check the active lodges in our area for the appearance of winter caches by November as an indication of whether the lodge is still active, though this fall two lodges that we thought were active show no sign of a cache. Do you think a warmer autumn delay their preparedness?

    November 16, 2016 at 10:26 am

    • Hi Cherrie,
      It certainly is possible, but several of the lodges I know are active have ample supply piles. I hate to think that those without them are defunct, but it’s getting mighty late in the year not to have at least started a cache. I’d love to know if you observe any pile activity between now and when it freezes.

      November 16, 2016 at 5:52 pm

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