Saturday, May 11, 2013

Blueberry Beaver Will be Greatly Missed

Blueberry 2010 - 2013
Our Beaver Colony lost one of its members this week. Blueberry was born in late summer of 2010, the first offspring of our resident pair at the time, Julia and May Apple. It was an unusual time of year for a beaver to be born, since most beavers have their kits in the early spring. The fact that he was an only kit was not particularly unusual since this was the first time that his parents had reproduced.
Blueberry in 2011
Blueberry (left) with his father , May Apple (right) enjoying some apples in 2011
Blueberry wasn't an only beaver for long, and in the spring of 2011 his parents supplied him with 4 new siblings, which he seemed more than happy to help care for. One of the kits would incessantly badger him for apple pieces or any other tasty morsel its older brother might be enjoying. That particular kit was dubbed “Badger Beaver” and later became Blueberry’s closest friend in the colony. Blueberry and Badger, along with their father, May Apple (the master builder) did the lion’s share of the maintenance on all of the colony’s dams and lodges.
Blueberry having some poplar twigs
Blueberry (left) with Badger (right) in the summer of 2011
In the spring of 2012, when the main pond’s water level had been substantially increased, emergency work was needed on the lodge and the 3 worker beavers toiled around the clock until the job was done. They piled up branch after branch on top of the lodge – greatly increasing its height, while simultaneously, from the inside, chewed out a new ceiling. They also raised the level of the living chamber’s floor. Interestingly, Julia and her latest batch of kits were inside the lodge during the entire reconstruction process.
May Apple dragging a branch onto the lodge in 2012
Blueberry coming down after working on the roof of the lodge
Blueberry was a very friendly beaver and I had many encounters with him during his too short life. He would often come up onto shore right near me and collect grass or groom himself. Sometimes he would causally pass by me on a foot trail – headed out into the sapling grove to do some logging for dinner.
Blueberry collecting grass probably to use as bedding inside the lodge
Blueberry loved apples
The most famous anecdote about Blueberry had to do with a one beaver protest that he staged against his father’s selection of the family's “groceries”. He was about a year old at this time and May Apple was still providing him with most of his food. Pussy Willow is the most common beaver food plant at the nature preserve and so that's what May Apple usually came back with. The trouble was that Blueberry was tired of willow and what he really wanted his father to bring back was Quaking Aspen. So to protest, he began taking the freshly cut willow saplings – one by one, and pushing them over the dam. Hilariously, after he finished shoving the last nemesis branch over and out of the pond, May Apple returned with a king-sized willow sapling. Why don’t you just help yourself, Blueberry? There’s plenty more where that came from.
By 2012, Blueberry got over his dislike of willow and collected loads of it for the winter food supply
After the big dam collapse in June of 2012, and May Apple and 3 of badger’s brood mates disappeared – and were presumably killed, it was Blueberry and Badger that managed to pull things together and recreate a new place for the remainder of the colony to live. Blueberry was instrumental in fixing the dam at Secret Pond and creating a new lodge there. Now in the role of main provider for his mother and for 4 brand new kits, Blueberry got over his hang up with willow in a big hurry.
Badger and Blueberry take a short break from emergency dam building at Secret Pond
Blueberry works on the dam at Secret Pond
Last fall, the bulk of the food collecting for the winter food cache was done by Blueberry, but Julia and Badger also helped out. Their search for food led them further away from the home ponds than our colony had ever gone before. They found a remote grove of aspen and exploited the trees will skill and efficiency. The food cache, which was primarily assembled by Blueberry, grew as large as any that his father or grandfather had created before him.
A Quaking Aspen cut down by Blueberry
Blueberry drags the Aspen tree back to the pond
Blueberry seems to have died from injuries sustained from being caught in a leghold trap. Most likely this happened while he was looking for new territory somewhere off of the preserve’s boundaries. It is surmised that he either had freed himself from the trap or was released by the trapper. Beaver trapping season ended in our region on April 7, and so any beaver caught after that date would be mandated released or dispatched. Since leghold traps are not typically the trap of choice employed for trapping beaver, it’s likely that beaver was not the target animal in this case.
Blueberry with one of the new kits in 2011
Blueberry evidently took a long time to die. He managed to get himself back to his home pond where he died from a massive infection in his crushed right leg.
Blueberry with a new kit from 2012
Trapping is still a thriving “sport” in New York State – promoted and “managed” by the NYS DEC. Traps are set in wild areas throughout the State where they indiscriminately kill and maim many thousands of wild animals every year. Rarely encountered animals like Pine Marten, Otter, Fisher and Bobcat are included on the list of animals that can be legally trapped in New York. Gray Fox, Red, Fox, Coyote, Ermine, Mink, Opossum, Raccoon, Muskrat and Beaver are among the typical animals targeted by this barbaric practice. In the case of most of these animals, there are no bag limits imposed on trappers – so come on kids, trap as many as you want. And yes,the State does actively encourage kids to get involved.
Blueberry with a new kit from 2012
Remember never to purchase real fur! And tell your State elected officials that trapping in all of its forms should be banned permanently.
Goodbye Blueberry

1 comment:

  1. Blueberry will indeed be missed - but not forgotten. Thanks for your touching memorial.