The Farming Beaver

By Terry Golson

This is the view from my house down to the marsh. Those big pine trees are on a hump of land that juts into the water. We call it the South Point.


We think it’s a beautiful part of the property. It has a mix of hardwood and pines. I’ve put in a short bridle/walking path. You can get up close to the marsh.


Someone doesn’t agree with me about how ideal this landscape is and thinks that the vegetation needs improvement. See that?


Once it’s chopped down, this tree is too big for a beaver to swim back to its lodge. Besides which, it’s not a favored food. So why go to all of the work? The beaver knows that if they girdle the trunk, the tree will die and softwoods will sprout up in its place. Which are delicious. The beaver is doing a beaver form of farming. Clearing the land for edible plants.


It’s also a form of dentistry. The beaver’s teeth grow continually and they have to gnaw on hardwoods to keep their incisors from getting too long.


I don’t see the waste of grand old oak tree. This tree will die, and stay upright for a few years before it falls towards the marsh (beavers are masters at aiming where the trees land.) Insects will move in, birds will peck cavities, animals will nest, the forest floor will be nourished, and the beaver will flourish, which means the ecosystem will too. The beaver not only keeps the water level high, but they also create deep channels in the marsh, essential to the well-being of everyone who lives there. Which means that the marsh will be healthy and support all of the creatures who call it home, from bacteria, to algae, to beetles, to turtles, to herons, to bald eagles. Muskrats, otter, wood ducks. The list is very long. To me, that dying tree is a beautiful thing.

6 thoughts on “The Farming Beaver

  • Lizzie in Cornwall

    Fascinating! Beavers have been reintroduced here in Cornwall to manage the landscape and build the ecosystem needed for so many creatures.
    Perhaps I could be so bold as to suggest an alternative title to your post, Terry?… “Taking the Long View!” 😉

    • Terry Golson Post author

      I like that! There’s an excellent book about how important beavers are to ecosystems: Eager Beaver. Well worth a read. If beavers were allowed to return to the American west the wildfire danger would be dramatically lowered. But, beavers have their own agendas, and it can be difficult to live side-by-side!

  • Jenn

    Great photos! Nature is so awesome. Need to install a critter cam so you can get a video of the beaver in action! 🙂

    • Lizzie in Cornwall

      I feel that pain too, Michelle… but Terry’s so good at helping us see the all-round view… 😉

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