I'm saddened to tell you that the beavers are no longer occupying our ponds. Over the past few years the numbers were dwindling from a high of about 12, down to two at the beginning of this season. Things were looking as sparse last year as we saw no evidence of kits in the spring and again none this spring.
The picture below shows the pond in November of 2022 and November of 2023. The first sign is the fact that the beaver lodge has collapsed in the center. Secondly, to the left of the lodge in the 2022 picture, you'll notice and sticks and branches poking above the surface of the water. That is the food cache where they store food for the winter. You can't see it in the 2023 picture, but there is no cache visible this year.
It's impossible to say exactly why this happened, but it probably started happening back in 2018 when the dam on the lower pond gave way. In subsequent years predators and drought added to the pressure on the beavers. Beavers mate for life and as far as I can tell the same couple has been in residence since we moved here in 2009. It's entirely possible that old age was the final blow.
So that begs the question of what the future holds for our ponds and the beaver population. As one of my friends in the Facebook Beaver forums said, "beavers come with invitation and leave without notice."
Beavers establish scent mounds around the pond to mark their territory and let other beavers know that they are not welcomed. With the beavers gone the scent mounds will lose their potency and other beavers coming into the territory may feel free to take up residence.
Those of you who have been around for a while know that we need the beavers. In a somewhat understandable but monumental design flaw, the builder installed a road between the 2 ponds and ran our septic lines run under the road. By doing this he took 300 feet of natural wetland drainage between the ponds and channeled it through 4 culvert pipes. This guaranteed that the beavers would be attracted to the flow and clog the culverts. That history is all here in past posts.
If the dam were to breach there is a good chance it would wash away the road and expose or damage the septic lines. The beavers maintain the dam and the dam is the only thing protecting the road.
The good news is that in 2011 we installed a pond leveler to stop the growth of the upper pond. When it rains it drains the excess water into the culvert and through the pipes to the lower pond. That's one of the things that caused the growth in the beaver population, because they had much less work to do maintaining the dam and that gave them a lot more time to do other more entertaining things.
So now it's a waiting game. Hopefully the pond leveler will continue to do its work and prevent the dam from deteriorating the way it would if the leveler wasn't in place. We can't put a vacancy sign up or place an ad in the Beaver Gazette to attract other beavers, so we'll just have to wait and hope that a beaver or two will come along and repopulate.