There is a lack of tolerance for beavers as well as a lack of public awareness of the benefits that beavers provide ecologically. Beavers are an integral keystone species that gets little attention by wildlife managers but have substantial, positive impacts on the ecosystem. Increasing knowledge and love of beavers will increase the understanding of this unique species which will lead to a growth in tolerance and co-existence with this valuable, beneficial species. Local photographer Savannah Rose Burgess shares a story of capturing images of this amazing beaver eco-engineer.
As the looming threat of winter’s brutality quickly approaches, the humble beaver enters a phase of almost frantic preparation to hunker down for the harshest months of the year. I visited a stretch of river active with beavers this past December to try to capture some of the behavior unique to these charismatic rodents. Being so late in the year, this clan of beavers remained active throughout the day filling up their winter food supply. I did not have to wait long before a rotund beaver emerged from the water nearly at my feet and began to lumber from the shore up a steep bank into the willows. I backed up to distance myself from the animal and laid down in the snow where I anticipated the beaver to return bearing branches for the winter food supply.
The repetitive sounds of chomping teeth transformed into a solid whoosh and thud when a young aspen tree tipped over in front of my very eyes. Moments later, the beaver pushed through the willows gripping her prize in her brilliant orange teeth. I had positioned myself broadside to the beavers anticipated course in hopes of capturing the entire scene for an impactful story-telling image. I did not foresee what happened next. The aspen’s branches became tangled in the willows and the beaver launched forward in a display of astonishing athleticism, yanking on the snared branches. I gripped my camera and fired away, capturing a whole sequence of images of this stunt, including the one you see published here.
She landed squarely on her feet and continued plodding dutifully along towards the river, each tug betraying the enormous strength required to move such a burden. I gently rose to my feet and slid down the bank, capturing more stills as she made the last leg of her journey down into the water. Only then did she seem to relax, allowing the current of the river to guide her effortlessly into the deeper waters where the food supply lay tucked under the surface of the water. Thus concluded the best beaver encounter of my wildlife photography career.
I am honored to have had this chance to capture spectacular behavior not often seen in person. I believe beavers are absolutely integral to this ecosystem, building and maintaining critical habitat for a host of native species. They are undeserving of their reputation as vermin and I would like to see the narrative of public opinion shift to a deep appreciation of our most industrious ecosystem engineers. For what they provide, they deserve our admiration and empathy.
Photography has the power to shift our understanding of our wild Wyoming to build a healthy and thriving ecosystem that benefits the lives of everyone. Thank you to @SavannahRoseWildlife for graciously sharing high-quality images of this remarkable beaver/eco-engineer.