Home Loving Beavers: How the Old Moraine Colony Dam Problem Was Solved, Daily Racing Form, 1919-12-19


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HOME LOVING BEAVERS How the Old Moraine Colony Dam Problem Was Solved. mm; Wonderful Construction mill Transportation Aliility of the Animals for Home Sake. The beavers in the old" :Moraine colony faced a transporta tion problem. They needed to harvest at least three hundred aspens for the coming winters food supply. Previous harvests and a recent blight had taken every near-by aspen. The aspen grove most likely to le harvested was a quarter of a mile upstream. Unde ordinary conditions the transportation of a harvest a quarter of a mile by water would be almost a picnic for beavers. But a drought of weeks had reduced the stream to a shallow brook and the water was so low that a number of obstructions blocked the channel. To change this into a deep beaver waterway would be a work of magnitude, and at one place would tax the skill of even bur first engineers. Among the obstructions were three dams of a ruined beaver colony which remained across the stream jus-t below the aspen grove. A log jam, a large sand bar, several willow clumps and a number of minor accumulations of debris obstructed .the channel at other points. But the greatest obstacle to transportation was n narrow bowldery stretch about thirty feet long. Here the stream was almost lost among the bowlders. So long as low water continued the bowlders offered an .effective blockade to. navigation to the floating of beaver-cut tree.s. . I could see no way for the beavers to get harvested aspeu logs over or through the rocky obstruction. There was another aspen grove about fifteen hundred feet from the main pond of the colony, but there were two moraine ridges between it and the pond. "Either the time element or the danger element would deter a. beaver from attempting to drag aspen logs this distance, though he is skill-;ful at such work and does not hesitate to work hard. So these beavers must either bring in their harvest by water; transportation or . move to a new home. t I watched with interest to see what would be done. Their intense love of home encourages beavers to overcome serious obstacles and often calls for more work and harder work than to move and establish a new home. Home love may have originated the trait as well as the expression "working like a beaver." But "as home loving as a beaver" would be a more- correct and worthy comment, and a tribute of honor applied to either beavers or hunian beings.. Beavers have a permanent home. The Moraine colony, which thesa beavers inhabited and loved, was generations old. IMMACULATE HOMES OF THE BEAVER. There must have been.many traditions, revered associations and close ties to hold them year after year. Their rude," housed, of mud and sticks strangely like the huts of many primitive people in appearance was kept clean and In repair. Now and then it was enlarged, and when necessary the dam raised or leiigtlicned. " A beaver colony, like a village built by people, sees numerous additions and improvements, but rarely is it abandoned. The Moraine colony for years had n numerous population. One autumn more than seven hundred aspens were cut.- floated into the pond and stored for winter food. There was a cluster of seven, ponds in the colony, reached by one of Natures avenues the winding stream , hnd open channel which Roaring Fork maintained through the dark pine forest. In the central pond stood an bid beaver house about thirty feet in diameter. It was so completely overgrown with willows that it was practically a little wooded island. The waters round reflected the dark forests and the snowy crags of Longs Peak, while the shores in summer were colored witli the red wood lilies and- .the fringed blue gentians. With September niore than half gone the colonists had made no winterf preparations; but home love still held them. Perhaps they were waiting for the drought to end. A full stream, would eliminate most obstructions in the channel of Roaring Fork and make transportation comparatively simple-. Beavers are water animals, but they can travel on land, and sometimes drag their trees short distances, even up steep ridge slopes. In emergencies they will drag material more than one hundred feet. But this is slow and dangerous work. They avoid going far from the water, for wolves, lions and wildcats prowl, about their colonies during harvest watching for a chance to sezeione at vork or to pick up one that may have been injured in tree felling. Finally, a month after the other colonies of the neighborhood began harvest gathering and autumn repairs, these beavers made a start and leisurely raised the height of the dam about four inches. Then they "covered the house witli a few inches of mud dredged from the bottom of the pond. But there were, still no signs of harvest gathering. Late in September I discovered that work of liar-vesting the aspen grove upstream and preparations to move, the harvest by water Iiad just begun, with all hands, teeth and tails busy. Judging from the showing made a dozen or more beavers must have been working. They had felled a number of trees from five to eight inches in diameter and from fifteen to twenty feet high. As long distance trahsjwrtation would be necessary these aspjns were cut into sections from four to seven feet long, and the few limbs gnawed off. CLEARING CHANNEL AND CUTTING WAY. The drought had continued and the beavers were at work transforming the stream into a deep waterway. One of the willow clumps that almost filled the stream channel was gnawed down and thrown back on the bank. They then cut a hole about fifteen inches in diameter through the four-foot log jam.. The sand bar obstruction was easily opened by a channel several inches deep from enil to end, which the current kept free of sediment and full of water. A two-foot passageway was made in one of the old beaver lams. Here a few years before a lively beaver colony had been; But a trapper with steel traps and dynamite had been there, and the coats of its inhabitants now are doubtless worn by other folks. The harvesting proceeded under difficulties. Through all the autumn cutting the Moraine beaver colonists had trouble with falling aspens lodging against large bowlders or becoming entangled in the limbs of tlie standing dead spruces. Two or three of these; aspens were brought down by cutting a foot or two off the base. But a spruce was finally felled to clear things up. The work of these colonists illustrated the manner in which beavers master difficulties through mutual aid. Mutual aid, skill and close application to work, when there is work to be done, give beavers much leisure. They work less than one-half the time. But they have built up monumental works made topographic changes along streams that will endure for centuries.. Before any of their winter supplies were moved the. beavers cleared away all dead logs and fallen limbs that lay betwei n the aspen grove and the water., distance of a- few yards. Then they rolled aiid dragged a number of the short green tree sections into the stream and started them floating down toward their pond. Two or three beavers worked, along the stream; nte rivermen driving logs, to keep the aspen sections moving. But against one willow clump in the channel these little logs jammed badly. I do not know who gave the orders, but no more logs were started downstream until this obstruction was removed and the jam broken. These arid other oieratioits which I have seen take place in beaver colonies lead me to believe that the work in each colony is under the direction of a leader, but I have not yet been able to verify this sufficiently to give it as a fact. After sixteen nights of work the channel was completely cleared down to the bowlder obstruction. The stream below the barrier of bowlders was narrow and deep and all the way to the house would float larger logs than any the beavers could get into it. So if the bowlder obstacle could be overcome there would be; goodvWater transportation all the way for their noy waiting harvest. Several days in 8iiece.RsJori;sl walked to the pond from my cabin before the first aspen was stored for winter. Then in passing the pond one day I saw three golden leaves fluttering on a twig projecting from the water. By some means a log had been taken past the bowldery obstruction; how, I hastened up Roaring Fork to see. Two aspen logs were jammed between the bowlders and others lay stranded on the rocks. I00S LIFTED AT COST OF LIVES. A pile of little logs, lay in the water just above. I returned the following day and found that the beavers had got a number of these logs past the bowlders. Plainly they had had hard work. The logs had been lifted out of the water, pushed and dragged along the bank round the bowlders, nnd then rolled back into the stream. But one log that remained oir the, bank was stained with blood, nnd there was atnft of brown fur on the grass near by. A lion had slipped up 011 the busy workers while tugging at their logs and seized one, so the tracks showed. This depredation or the difficulties of transportation or both caused further channel improvements. Tree cutting aiid log floating temporarily ceased. All beavers went to work to make the stream navigable. To accomplish this they built a rahal round the bowldery stretch. But there was preliminary work .of even more magnitude than that which the digging of the canal required. This was the building of a dam across the channel a few feet upstream from the bowlders. Fortunately there was abundance of material at hand for the" building of this dam. The deeper part of the channel was rolled full of cobble stones from the stream bed just above. The remainder of the dam was made of stones, sticks, willows cut on the spot, and earth and sod dug near by. The entire dam was completed in five nights. It was eighteen feet long and about two feet high except in the center, where it filled the deeper part of the channel and was about five feet high. The north end of the dam was built against a high bank. After the water had filled the reservoir made by the dam it escaped through the spillway at the south end of the, dam. Beginning at this spillway the beavers dug a crescent -shaped canal about ixty feet long, which joined the old stream channel a few feet below the bowldery place. This canal, about eighteen inches wide and twelve, feet deep, formed a deep waterway to avoid the rocky uunavigahle stretch in the stream. The entire work dam and, canal took less than eight nights. No work was lone during the daytime. At one place where the canal crossed a depression the beavers banked up the sides with earthy sods so that it ran brimful of water all the way. Twenty-three little logs were run through the canal the eighth night the new waterway was in use. I found one large log wedged in it, but this was removed the following night. In the new pond .made by the eighteen-foot dam above the canal more than fifty little logs were floating about waiting their turn to be conducted through the canal. In the harvest grove upstream were several dozen cut tree sections and a number of felled aspens in process of being gnawed into logs. After a few more nights of logging the beavers had their harvest home near the big old island house. Food for four months or longer lay piled on the bottom of the pond. These beavers had worked as only home-loving beavers will, used all their ingenuity to overcome serious obstacles, and endured dangers all for the sake of remaining in the old home. Through, a common interest and purpose and mutual aid they had triumphed, and in the Moraine colony this united band of beavers had another jolly winter. Enos B; Mills in Saturday Evening Post.

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Library of Congress Record: https://lccn.loc.gov/unk82075800