Sunday, September 14, 2008

Beaver dam in Zealand Valley November 1969

When I hiked through the White Mountains as a youngster I was fascinated by the beaver dams and lodges. In 1950 Walt Disney made a movie titled Beaver Valley that I went on a "field trip" to see at the Majestic Theater in North Conway with my third grade class in the mid-1950's. We walked single file from the school to the movie theater. It was filmed in a remote valley in the Montana Rockies. The scenery would make you drool. The cinematographer cut a beaver lodge in half and put in a sheet of glass so he could film the beavers inside their lodge all winter. He filmed a beaver colony through an entire year even under the ice. I loved the movie and went back to see it several times. The photo above was taken in November 1969 of a dam created by beaver around 1952-53 close to the Zealand Trail and at the north end of Zealand Pond, a pre-existing body of water. The dam stabilized the level of the pond and made it possible for several generations of beaver to use the pond as a home for decades. The dam is still there but seriously overgrown (photo above) There is little, if any, beaver activity in the valley currently. Beavers are notoriously shy and there are more people hiking in the Valley then there were 30 years ago and that may have impacted on the beaver population. With the exception of Zealand Pond itself, although that may also be caught in the same succession process, all the ponds shown in this article on beavers, will eventually go from ponds to bogs to fields and presumably back to forest. That is because the tension in the larger environment is to find a level of stability (homeostasis), or balance, while achieving maximum output. Alan Savory, a wildlife biologist in South Africa, refers to nature as a "coiled spring", a metaphor for the productivity level of nature everywhere, or what we refer to as nature, and its resilence. The Zealand Valley is a perfect example of this coiled spring and nature's resilence as a little more than 100 years ago the valley, the notch, the mountain sides on the east and west, all the vegetation, were completely destroyed by sensational forest fires. So what you see today, the vitality and health of the current ecosystem, including the contributions made by the beavers, is a testament to how prolific nature can be when man isn't trying to destroy it.

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