Nov 4, 2011

Like other species in North America, the beaver suffered when the Europeans arrived, but they've staged an impressive comeback.

Following Native American tradition, November's full moon is called the Beaver Moon.

Beavers go into overdrive this time of year. Venture forth to beaver territory by moonlight and you'll see them at work, storing up winter meals of bark on a branch to be eaten just like we eat corn on the cob.

We humans could learn a lot from beavers. They're wonderfully playful and affectionate, monogamous and the youngsters stay around to help with the next generation as well as the family's numerous chores.

Beavers have done more positive good in shaping the North American landscape than any other animal, humans included. Historically, beavers transformed the continent's forested landscape, felling trees and damming streams to form ponds. Pond edges were cleared and grew lush with diverse vegetation. Owls, woodpeckers and great-blue herons nested in the water-killed snag trees; bitterns and ducks moved in; fish, frogs and turtles multiplied; moose wallowed in the grassy fringe.

A whole new and diverse ecosystem came to be, over and over again, throughout the land. When Europeans arrived, the wide, flat, deforested beaver wetlands were too inviting. Many were trenched and drained, and their fertile soils put to cultivation. As further human onslaught, by 1800 beavers had been trapped to near extinction.

Although it was humans that reintroduced them to New Hampshire through a trap-and-release program. These big-toothed landscape engineers again are residents throughout the state.

The expression "Busy as a beaver" pays tribute to their work ethic, but beavers also take time out to rub noses, hug, share a communal twig, and swim side-by-side in playful circles.

Script by Francie Von Mertens.