Stick Season & the Mighty Beaver

2 inch diameter stump with
turkey tail fungus
Blond beaver stick
on north side of Lost Pond
Gnawed balsam fir
on north side of Lost Pond

"Beavers are the only animals, other than humans, that will create entirely new ecosystems for their own use. And often, like humans, once they have depleted an area's resources, they will abandon their holdings and move on."  --Tom Wessels, Reading the Forested Landscape: A Natural History of New England

There are busy beavers at Lost Pond in Pinkham Notch.  Blonde sticks, downed trees, pointed stumps, and wood shavings on the ground prove it.  Beavers are herbivorous engineers.  They eat wood, they build their lodge with wood, they dam up a wetland with wood.  Much land in the WMNF has been altered by their touch.  An assignment?  Step one: walk the 0.7 miles from Route 16 to the middle of Lost Pond on the Lost Pond trail and count the number of stumps you see.  Most stumps will be close to the river or pond as beavers generally stay close to their lodge to avoid their land predators.  Who with webbed feet, luggage for a tail, and a heavy middle wouldn't?  Step two: Inspect the stumps.  Is the stump blond, grey, or covered in lichen and/or mushrooms?  "A tree that has been cut within one year's time leaves a stump with blond-colored wood," Tom Wessels teaches us in Reading the Forest Landscape. "[Gray wood] dates its cutting to more than a year ago...the growth of turkey tails, a species of shelf fungus that grows on decaying wood...is never visible on stumps less than three years old."  Step three: If you found a stump with shelf fungus growing on it, where do you think its trunk landed years ago?  You cannot miss the renovations to the active lodge on the west side of Lost Pond, but is that the only lodge on the trail?  And where are the complementary dams?



Renovations to the beaver lodge on Lost Pond
All photos credited to Whitney McCann
"The trees are cut in the summer and floated to near their houses and [the beavers] have the ability to sink the wood to the bottom, and, if not molested, these little logs, which are about three feet in length, will stay there till wanted for winter food, when one of them will be brought into the house and when the bark is all gnawed off, will be sluiced off and another one brought to take its place.  When one of these houses is complete..one can plainly trace the outlines of this skillful piece of engineering and contemplate the untiring energy, the inexhaustable perseverance and wonderful ability to these animals who have nothing but their teeth and tails to work with." --Bailey K. Davis, Traditions and Recollections of Berlin