It’s winter, and the leaves and smaller trees haven fallen, providing the perfect tools for nature’s engineer to transform the landscape as few animals can. American beavers are very active right now but that wasn’t always the case.
In 1910, beavers had disappeared across many areas in North America. In the 1930’s, efforts to help beaver populations recover were put in place, and recover they did. Beaver populations around Dallas are doing quite well and can be found around our area rivers and lakes.
Beavers typically weigh about 40 pounds, but some can be as big as 60 pounds. They’re robust bodies provide the perfect insulation to swim effectively and gracefully in cold water. Their webbed feet act like swimming fins, and their paddle-shaped tails like rudders, making them a natural aquatic bulldozer.
Beavers are herbivores and are willing to travel long distances to collect food. Their favorite food is the cambium layer (inner bark) of cottonwood trees and willows, but they also like juniper and pecan trees. They also feed on aquatic plants, ragweed, and Bermuda grass.
In Texas, beavers do not typically build large lodges. Instead, they usually burrow into the banks of streams and ponds; and they transform less suitable habitats by building dams, creating wetlands that are beneficial to other wildlife. The slowing of the water allows sediment to collect, and improve water quality.
Beavers provide good environmental services for our parks but they create some challenges and the Dallas Park and Recreation Department is doing its part to minimize those. Their feeding behavior can significantly damage and kill our trees, so we’re applying shellac and sand to the lower portion of trees to prevent damage. Their burrowing and dam building can create issues with shoreline erosion, and localized flooding so we’re removing smaller dams near residential areas and installing devices like the “Beaver Deceiver” to allow the dam but limit the flooding.
You are likely to see signs of beavers at White Rock Lake, Bachman Lake, or any park with a creek running through it. Beaver sightings are pretty low because they’re nocturnal; but If you do see one, simply leave it alone.