Not a Nice Way to Treat New Neighbors

It’s raining again on the glacier moraine and the troll woods it surounds. Aki and I are here to check out the baby king salmon recently released into three little lakes.  Raised along side king salmon about to be dropped into ocean waters where they might grow to fish that deserve their name, the 500 fish dumped into these landlocked lakes will live as farm animals until eaten by someone or something.

Near the beaver village we spot the tell tale rings of rising fish on the lake that borders it. We also see the swirl of large animal, mammal not bird, break the surface in the middle of the rising salmon. I’m thinking river otter because, as  the government who planted the salmon in this lake will tell you, beavers don’t eat fish. Fresh green yellow foliage now hides the main beaver house and provides a rich counterpoint for the line of dark green spruce trees that fill the space between lake and the cloud obscured ridge of Thunder Mountain. 

From here we follow a trail into the troll woods. We pass a pocket lake where a single Common Merganser, its white body standing out against the dark lake waters glides by.  Seeing a lone duck on water this time of year makes you wonder if it is fiercely independent or the victim of tragedy. Did he drive other birds from the lake or come to a place no one else wanted to sulk? Did I mention it is still raining? Along the lake shore recently released spruce pollen forms elongated yellow islands on the water’s surface. 

While moving deeper into the woods Aki and I are startled by a small explosive sound like that made by a sizable rock striking deep water. A bear practicing diving? More likely a strong child throwing something in the lake for the resulting splash. Minutes later we reach a lake where a beaver swims back and forth across the surface. Just before reaching the shore it slaps the water with its tail and dives. In seconds it is on the surface heading back to the opposite shore. Beyond small king salmon stir. Some launch themselves a foot or two into the air.    

Aki, displaying the posture she reserves for meeting other dogs (tail and rear up/legs straight/ feet slightly forward) is half submerged at the lake’s edge. The beaver takes no notice of either of us and soon Aki is back at my side.

What is going on? If this were a seal I’d know the score. It would be driving the salmon to it’s hungry buddies at the other end of the lake. That would explain why some of the salmon are jumping high out of the water. But, as those that study these things in college will tell you, beavers eat wood bark, not fish.  If this is true then the beaver is just being territorial and wants to drive these new neighbors out of town. Eat tail slap could be telling the salmon to find their own lake.

I could see why the beaver would want this lake to himself. It offers a beautiful view of the glacier and surrounding mountains. When he stops disturbing the water’s surface with antics, he can appreciate the serene reflections of mountains and glacier captured on the lake’s surface.

The beaver is still tail slapping the lake’s surface when we head back to the car. At home I use our internet search engine to look for an explanation for the beaver’s behavior. As expected there are many government websites providing assurances that beavers are vegetarians.  Each is written in “pat on the head that’s a good boy” prose.  One You Tube posting might make the authors of the other web articles re-examine their research on beavers. It shows one near Lake Clark Alaska happily munching on a fish.

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