On August 23, 2007, I was so enthralled by what I saw that I wrote a poem about it:
The cut winterberry, a dozen inch wide stumps
fingering out of the moss draped roots snaking over
the black bottom of the now dry bog, pointed
the way, fifty yards through ferns, under barbed wire,
over poplar stumps rotting dark grey. The duckweed
gave way to mud, mud to bright yellow brown water,
the blood of a living beaver pond circulating
through the canals the beavers ply to reach up
and strip the bark of cut elms down to yellow wood.
Half girdled maples blush in the shallow water,
the first trees in the valley to greet autumn.
Other trees are half fallen, others touching water,
their touch then cut into logs. The lodge still
a loose pile of sticks is ready for mud to seal
the family from winter. The mud and stick dam,
verdant now, is ready to back up November rains.
In backing up the water, the beavers stop time,
denying Mullet Creek its measure. Wielding mud
and incisors, they defeat the seasons. The frogs jump
into the pond heedless of whether this paradise
is the end or the beginning.
I discovered this beaver development just below 52 acres of woodland we own 4 miles south of the St. Lawrence River. In the summer my wife and I sleep at the land every night, and we visit almost daily throughout the year. Although they were not on our land, they were about 200 yards from our little summer house. I could go out along a wooded ridge every summer evening, find a clear vantage point on the cliff west of the pond,
During the day as I walked through the boggy pools and thick vegetation of our land, I could look for beaver gnawing.
I saw some here and there but assumed it would be 3 or 4 years before the beavers did much foraging that far up the valley.
They were all over the pond I discovered and also foraging in the pond below. I wondered if they were living in the lower pond which was why I hadn't seen a beaver. I also needed a name for the pond. That came on September 6 when I sat high on the ridge west of the lodge as it got dark.
Soon the ponds froze and the snow got deep that winter, especially in the valleys. A few times I saw beaver tracks in the snow going up to our land, but I spent most of my time checking out what the beavers were doing outside of holes in the ice of Wildcat Pond.
But after the thaw I saw more small trees cut on our land and I saw that the lower shore of the large lower pool was being shaped by the beavers into a dam.
Back in 2006, before there were any signs of beavers being there I took a photo in the early spring of what called a "valley bog." Birches always attract a camera, but around them and all in the background, the smaller, thinner, and plainer hornbeam were everywhere.
Let me hasten add that I didn't weep for the hornbeams. So many of them were in the way of seeing the beavers and I assumed they'd grow right back. I was more puzzled by the beavers' insistence on piling more and more on and around the lodge, and, of course, there was no shortage of logs on the dam.
Since the beavers spent so much time, about two years, to create a rather spectacular dam that held back enough water to make the pond about 5 feet deep around the lodge, But I'm afraid beavers judge viability not by how things look at their best. The Last Pool did not serve them well enough in the winter. I have seen beavers move back into old lodges but Boundary Pond lodge wouldn't serve either. Yes, I wondered if a bobcat killed the kits. I had seen a bobcat stalking beavers in another part of our land, three valleys over. I found one beaver there dead. But I don't think that entered the beavers' calculations. Beaver parents often try to get away from their clinging kits. In the summer of 2010, the adult beavers fashioned a one-beaver stick hut on the shore.