Big Excitement over Big Rodents at Oak Openings
Submitted by ScottCarpenter 2/12/2015
Last week, a dozen adventurers set out on snowshoes at Oak Openings Preserve. Apart from enjoying the beautiful day, the group sought signs of one of the park’s least common but most fascinating residents: the North American beaver.
Program participants spotted telltale beaver chew marks along Swan Creek. Beavers are our largest rodents, and their oversized front teeth leave parallel gouges in the wood they chew. Beavers are vegetarians, stripping away the bark of trees to feed on the nutrient-loaded cambium underneath. After eating their fill, they often use the remaining lumber to construct their lodges or dams.
These fresh chew marks are exciting, but beavers aren’t newcomers to Oak Openings. At least one beaver had an established lodge at Evergreen Lake in 2011, but this lodge has not been occupied for several years. Naturalist Kim High and dozens of lucky Metroparks volunteers were able to observe this beaver and capture some great pictures.
This beaver activity is a promising sign of these creatures’ resilience. European settlers brought unregulated commerce and a high demand for beaver pelts to North America. According to the Ohio Division of Natural Resources, Ohio’s beavers were hunted to the point of extirpation, or localized extinction, by 1830. Thankfully, wildlife management practices have helped populations rebound, and beaver abundance in Ohio has been steadily increasing over the past 10 years.