Saturday, September 19, 2009

Beaver Feeding Time

The fourth annual beaver feeding program got underway on August 23 and will run until about the middle of October. As I write this post 8 pickup loads of aspen branches have been cut along roadsides where they aren't wanted, trucked to Maxwell Lake, and dumped into the lake at the picnic tables by the east end of the Maxwell Lake Apartments. The beavers take over from there, feasting and hauling away the branches to build their winter food cache beside their lodge west of the lake.

Why do this? Well, it's fun! The beavers are used to humans and feed on the leaves, twigs, and bark while people are standing a few meters away. But more importantly, supplementing their food supply reduces damage to deciduous trees around the lake and ensures the Maxwell beaver colony will continue to live in the area. Beavers aren't great conservationists - they often exhaust accessible winter food supplies over a period of several years and then have to move on. Either that or they have to travel further from water and increase risk of predation by a hungry wolf or bear.

I give the beavers another pickup load every 2-3 days. Come out at dusk for the best chance of viewing. Hope to see you there!

Thinning the Thistles

The Canada thistle is an attractive plant - lush green foliage and purple flowers. But it's invasive and very hard to control once it's established. Unfortunately thistle got a foothold several years ago along the beaver dam and the perennial plants were increasing. New shoots come up from the underground roots each spring.

Pulling the plants just makes the roots put up more shoots, so Rocky Morin, Beth MacCallum, and I spent several hours clipping the plants just as they started to flower. The idea is to let the plants put energy into growth and then remove the above-ground parts before they can seed or send energy back to the roots. In theory over several years that will do them in, and at the very least it gives other plants a chance. We took away two pickup loads this year. I sincerely hope it will be less next summer! Thanks Rocky and Beth for your help.