The Alpine Examiner
July 10, 2022
Getting to the heart of what matters in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area
A Beaver's Tale
According to the legend the beaver used to have a beautiful fluffy tail that he was very proud of you. The beaver strolled around bragging to all the other animals in the community that his tail was the best and they should all be jealous. The other animals tolerated the beaver and were kind to him even though they knew he was being vain.
One day, the beaver was feeling especially full of himself and wanted to show off more of his skills. He boasted to the muskrat how easily he could chew trees. As he was nibbling away at the bark, thinking how envious the muskrat must be of his skills and his beautiful fluffy tail, he stopped paying attention to what he was doing and CRASH!!!! the tree fell the wrong way and landed right on his beautiful tail. He pulled and struggled to get it free and at last he finally managed to wriggle away from the heavy trunk and check his tail. And ALAS! His beautiful tail had been smushed flat and looked nothing like it did before!
He started to weep and cry for his loss. Now no one would like him anymore! Now he wouldn’t be special! Now nothing mattered! As beaver wept the creator visited him at his side. He told beaver that even though his tail was different it did not diminish his value to his community. He explained to beaver that he had so much to give to everyone through his tree gnawing and dam creating ability and above all his kindness. From that day on, the beaver never bragged about his tail, and all the animals liked him.
When beavers are alarmed or feel threatened, they will smack their tail against the water so loud that every other beaver in the vicinity can hear it and dive underwater to safety. Once underwater the beavers can hold their breath for about 15 minutes and swim with great agility without feeling the cold due to their thick waterproof fur that is coated in a castoreum oil that they secrete from their scent glands.
The adult beavers have a few predators here, including our re-introduced wolves, black bears, wolverines, and mountain lions. Baby beavers are much more vulnerable and will get preyed on by predators like otters, foxes, hawks, owls, and even snakes.
If you are lucky, you will have the chance to spot some of these predators or the beavers down on our boardwalk nature trail behind the Redfish Visitor center. However, don’t worry because beavers are masters of hide-seek and will typically evade their predators.
While gnawing a tree with their awesome self-sharpening teeth, that never stop growing the beaver’s entire life, they will usually squat on their hind legs, and prop themselves up with their tail. They can also use their tail for support when their front paws are full of mud for their dams and must walk on their hind legs.
We have our very own beaver dam that can be spotted under the bridge on our Fishhook Creek Nature Trail and another on the Fishhook Creek trail that starts in the Redfish Trailhead parking lot!
Overall, the beaver’s flat tail is extremely unique and helps beavers excel in their habitat as well as foster change and prosperity to their ecosystem.
Audrey Schuler is a naturalist for SIHA. She likes swimming in the lake, long walks where she can see the mountains, and looking for cool plants and rocks. She is also keeping an eye out for our resident beavers who frequent the nature trail behind her work!
SIHA and Redfish Visitor Center: https://discoversawtooth.org/
Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter, by Ben Goldfarb
The above book is also for purchase at the Redfish Visitor Center