Today was the Kickapoo Valley Reserve‘s Winter Festival in La Farge.
While I didn’t make it for any of the morning activities (flint knapping, dog sledding, ice cave hike, live raptor talk, and more!) I did get to go on a brilliant hike with Chuck Hatfield and learn about beavers– I absolutely loved it!!!
[ Click the first picture then go through the slide show if you want to read the captions or see bigger versions of the images!]
I learned quite a bit about beavers in college but it was nice to get a refresher and actually see some dams and lodges! Coincidentally I also read about beavers last night in Wintering by Diana Kappel-Smith. She made some interesting notes about them, my favorite being that even when it is below freezing outside, it is still cozy inside of a beaver’s lodge thanks to all the warm bodies in there. Chuck told us that beavers don’t leave home until 2 sometimes 3 years old meaning that at any given time there could be upwards of 10 beavers living in a lodge! Something else that I find fascinating about beavers that wasn’t touched on today is that the have a special gland inside their body that pumps super acidic juices into the beavers stomach so that they can process all the cellulose. Wood is made of cellulose which is undigestable to most except for mushrooms and apparently beavers! Other things that eat diets high in cellulose like ruminants actually have micro-organisms inside their bodies that help them break it down. The beaver just gets cooler and cooler! My last fun beaver fact, that I just learned through the wonders of the internet, is that beavers exude a substance called castoreum for marking territory that was often used in medicines. Turns out that since beavers favor willow that this exudant is actually high in salicylic acid (aka aspirin) which explains its medicinal effects! Fascinating! Thanks Kickapoo Valley Reserve and Chuck Hatfield for putting on such a fun and thought provoking hike!