Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Hard Day's Night

Beavers in lost lagoon - photo by Junie Quiroga
Beavers aren't, strictly speaking, ocean dwelling mammals, but the ones living in Lost Lagoon, which straddles Coal Harbour and 2nd Beach, have an honorary membership in the club even if they are extremely elusive. While it may be hard to spot a beaver it certainly isn't hard to notice when they've been around and, in the case of Lost Lagoon, these industrious little Canadian icons have left a very clear trail of destruction around the perimeter. No tree, large or small is safe with these guys.

Beaver felled trees around Lost Lagoon - photo by Junie Quiroga
In the absence of a decent sized pond the beavers will build a dam to create one but, in the case of Lost Lagoon, they have one ready to go so the bigger trees are used for building their party lodge where all sorts of wild and sordid goings on take place away from the nosey eyes of other West End residents.  Access is only by going under water which further limits the door crashers. When beavers aren't partying they are out cutting down trees and they do all their work at night.

Beaver lodge in Beaver Lake - photo by Junie Quiroga
Beaver teeth never stop growing and, because they are also herbivores, it makes sense they like to chew wood.  While the big stuff is for building, the smaller trees serve as food, with willow being one of the preferred tree species but alder, cottonwood, maple and cherry will also do nicely.  With those always growing teeth and the constant knawing on willow trees I wonder if it wasn't by observing beavers we discovered the connection of the natural pain killer aspirin which is found in willow.

Beaver felled willow tree - photo by Junie Quiroga
In spite of all this beaver activity being perfectly natural and not something the stewards of Stanley Park or the self-appointed environmental purists would want to disrupt, the line does get crossed on occasion in the interest of preserving other living things.  For the sake of this mature willow tree and the shade it provides, some wire mesh had to be put around it to try and deter the beavers. Quite a few of these trees have had to get protection and it's amazing this one was saved because it only takes one good night for a beaver to take down a tree of this size.

Beaver damaged willow tree - photo by Junie Quiroga
Meanwhile in another corner of the park another group of trees are being covered up to provide a completely different type of protection.  In the upper branches of these trees are the nests of the Stanley Park heronry, one of the largest urban heron colonies in North America. There are more than 100 nests of these unique non-migrating birds in and around the tennis courts but one of the main predators are the equally numerous raccoons that also live in the area.

Raccoon deterrent covers for Blue Heron nesting trees - photo by Junie Quiroga
Keeping the raccoons from climbing up the trees and stealing the eggs is only half the battle as the nearby bald eagle residents are also constantly trying to get at the baby birds in the nests. Meanwhile the heavy concentration of these large birds and their nests is also damaging the trees.  It's a never ending struggle with the beavers trying to cut down the trees at night to build a home, the herons building nests by day, and the trees helpless to do anything about either of them.  All in all it's a hard day's night for the trees.

Blue Heron nests in Stanley Park - photo by Junie Quiroga

1 comment:

  1. Faaaaaaaaaaaantastic article. I LOVED it.