Nature Guide for January: Beaver Habitats
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
Not only is winter the ideal season for tracking because of the blank canvas that snow provides, but the cold temperatures also help to open up access to habitats that trackers cannot explore during the rest of the year. In particular, winter is an excellent time to learn about beaver habitat!
Once ponds have iced over for the season, beaver habitat is easily accessible on foot or with the help of skis or snowshoes. If the ice is safe, visit your local beaver pond. Find the beavers’ lodge and inspect it up close to see how it’s built. Search for evidence of warmth, like steam or melting snow atop the lodge.
Across the pond, visit the beavers’ dam. Since the dam is holding back water above a river or stream, the ice around the dam is often thin and unsafe for walking on. From a safe distance, examine the dam’s construction and observe the types of trees used and the size of the fallen trunks.
Don’t be fooled by misconceptions – beavers don’t hibernate during the winter! Be sure to walk around the pond to search for evidence of recent forays into the snowy landscape. In places where the entire water surface has frozen over, beavers may maintain an open hole in the ice for coming and going. They may also chew on young branches, leaving behind the inner twig wood.
Eager to learn about beavers? Native species and our natural habitat are excellent community-based resources to support interests and education! Download our free Nature Guide, Tips for Exploring Beaver Habitat: Lodges, Dams, Caches, and Adaptations, to learn more about beaver lodges and dams, as well as their food caches and special adaptations that help them get through the winter!
Robin Morgan Huntley, Community-Based Education Correspondent
Robin joined Hilltown Families in 2011 as an intern and has remained with the organization ever since, first volunteering as a community-based education correspondent until 2016 and later as a contributing writer. Robin is a graduate of Hampshire College and Antioch University New England, where she studied place- and community-based education. She lives on the banks of the Sheepscot River in Maine, where she and her husband are working to start a small farm.