Discover nature this week and watch for evidence of beavers in your area. Measuring up to four-and-a-half feet long and weighing up to 90 pounds, these animals are classified as the largest rodents in North America. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, they will be feeding on sapling reserves throughout these winter months.
The search for beaver pelts was one enticement that led to the exploration and settlement of our nation. In 1763, Pierre Laclede and August Chouteau founded a fur-trading post below the convergence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. By 1880 this settlement, St. Louis, was the raw fur center of the world.
Due to extensive trapping and other by-products of civilization, beavers were almost exterminated in the eastern and southern portions of North America. In Missouri, beavers were common in every major watershed prior to the Civil War, but by 1875 the population started to dwindle. Thanks to repopulation projects, the species is re-established in most counties of Missouri. In fact, their numbers are plentiful enough to permit an annual trapping season in the state.
Beavers play a valuable role by damming backed up silt-laden waters and subsequently forming many of the fertile valley floors in the wooded areas of our continent. Beaver dams stabilize stream flow, slow down run-off, and create ponds which influence fish, muskrats, minks and waterfowl.
However, some landowners wish to protect certain trees from potential damage from beaver cutting. This can be done by enclosing the target trees with wire netting up to a height of three feet.
For more information about beavers and how to find sign of them in your area, check out mdc.mo.gov.