What can we learn from beavers?
Over the years humans have learnt so much from Mother Nature. From advances in medicine, to new technologies, we see nature’s influence in the day-to-day. Back in the 1940s, a man was inspired by the small hooks on plant burrs to create velcro. More recently the Japanese took a closer look at kingfisher beaks to improve their bullet trains, increasing the fuel efficiency by up to 20%. Even aeroplane engineers look to birds to continuously innovate and improve plane wings making them more aerodynamic and efficient.
With successful beaver reintroductions across the UK, beavers are becoming a more common sight. But what can we learn from our humble beaver neighbours?
Take care of the world around you
Beavers are ecosystem engineers. They build and shape their environment, changing the habitat around them. Beavers are known for felling trees and building dams which trap water to create fertile wetlands. These wetlands are cradles for life – supporting wildlife from insects to fish to otters and so many more.
It’s easy to take the environment around us for granted, but we have a duty to care for our natural world and keep it as a lush safe space for wildlife to flourish. Have you tried making your garden or window boxes into a happy place for wildlife, filled with native wildflowers for bees and butterflies?
We all know the three ‘Rs’: reduce, reuse and recycle. But, beavers have been leading the charge on this long before we knew the importance of recycling. When a beaver fells a tree for its dam, they use almost the whole tree. First, they will eat the tasty branches, then the whittled sticks leftover from dinner time become the building blocks for their dam. Over these sticks they will add a layer of mud with any remaining smaller sticks, and leaves.
How can you make the most of your possessions? Have you tried upcycling furniture to give it a new lease of life, or mending that pair of trousers before throwing them away? You can even turn old plastic bottles into bird feeders to help out your local wildlife.
The importance of family
Beavers are social animals and live in family groups called colonies. They build a lodge for their family group: a pair of beaver parents, their baby kits and often their yearlings (young from the year before). Kits will stay with their family group, helping out, for the first two years of their lives. At about the age of three, they disperse to find a mate and settle down with their own family lodge. Once a beaver has chosen its mate, they stay together for life in a monogamous partnership.
We can learn a lot from these families. They maintain peace in the household despite living in such close quarters. The kits also know the importance of family, amazingly staying at home to help raise the next generation. This helps to make the parents more successful and they learn valuable skills for when they have their own young. It’s important not to take your family and friends for granted – especially during this difficult year. Even the little gestures show you care and can mean so much.
Use the gifts that you’ve been given
Beavers are specially adapted to their environment and a life between the land and the water. They have strong, rudder-like tails and webbed feet to propel them through the water at 5 mph. When they dive underwater they can stay under for up to 15 minutes! They even have the incredible ability to close their ears and nose to the water with flaps of skin. Beaver teeth aren’t conventionally ‘beautiful’ – they are big and dark orange. The impregnated iron strengthens them, enabling beavers to do an incredible job of chewing through trees and branches.
Have a think about your own talents. What are you particularly good at? How can you put these skills to good use to help further your career, help your neighbours or take up a new hobby?
Beaver fur is thick, warm, waterproof and luxurious. It is these qualities that led people to hunt beavers for their pelts over 400 years ago. But, these beautiful coats don’t maintain themselves. After climbing out of the water a beaver will shake its head to remove excess water and then proceed to scrub down their body, starting with their ears and face. They also regularly coat their fur with castoreum, an oily substance secreted by castor glands near the base of the tail. This oil helps to keep their fur nice and waterproof and therefore warmer when diving in and out of the water.
As busy as you are, taking time to look after your physical and mental health is so important. Have you ever tried mindfulness? Taking some time to look after your mental health has been proven to decrease stress and anxiety levels and increase your focus.
Never give up
One of the most admirable traits of our humble beaver is their sheer tenacity. Beavers spend hours each day tending to their dams and lodges. If there is damage to the dam, possibly due to strong weather, the beaver is straight on it. He won’t waste time complaining or believing his efforts are futile. Beavers will persevere and continue rebuilding their dams no matter how many times the effort is needed.
How can you channel the beavers’ tenacity into your day to day life. Have you recently been feeling defeated by a project and need to find that extra boost to give it another go? Well this is it, time to channel your inner beaver. Get the job done.*
(*This blog is written by an independent writer. Beaver Trust welcomes a breadth of opinions, and those expressed within this blog do not necessarily reflect those of the Beaver Trust.)
Katie Grant Beaver Believer
As a Zoologist and keen photographer, Katie loves nothing more than hiking in nature with her camera in search of wild creatures. From cute and fluffy mammals to creepy crawly. insects Katie is fascinated by them all. With a desire to see as much of the globe’s wildlife as possible, Katie is always on an adventure. She uses Instagram as a tool to bring her adventures in nature to others.
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© Katie Grant 2020.