Hello to all my fans out there!
My name is Cleaver! I’m writing this to tell you just a little bit about me and what I do. I hope you will stick around to learn why I am important to you and the environment. You see a very long time ago there were American Indians living where you live today. They called us the “sacred center” of the land because we help to make good places for other animals to live.
Some of the animals we help to enjoy life are the fish, turtles, frogs, birds and ducks. Not only do we help those animals but we also help you and the people in your family. We make dams in shallow valleys that sometimes get flooded by rain in the wetlands. The dams we build help to keep the water on land longer and not be washed away quickly. Some people say we are a great deal like your kidneys inside your body because we try to filter out all the things that are not good for the earth. Did you know that freshwater wetlands are the world’s most valuable ecosystem on land today? When we build our dams it helps to filter the water. So if you see one of our dams remember that the water down stream is much more pure because of our little beaver-made filter system.
I am a furry little creature with a flat tail. I am a very gentle fellow and I love to play jokes on my friends much like you do. I can watch you do something and I can copy what you do exactly. I’m a very smart little beaver. You and I are the only ones on earth today that are able to completely change the landscape. We are a team!
I weigh about twenty pounds now but I might gain more like my father. He weighs about forty pounds. My father and mother married years ago and they have been together ever since. Me, my brothers and sisters help our younger siblings to stay safe. I call my sisters babysitters because they are so good with all the babies. Mom and Dad both take care of us all and teach us how to find food. Our favorite foods are water lily tubers, apples, leaves and bark from fast growing trees like the willows. I am really good cutting down trees. I have strong teeth that look like your mom’s meat cleaver. That is where I got my name from. I try to keep the trees pruned so they will grow faster. I like healthy trees to play in like you do. Doesn’t it make you sad to see trees dying? It sure does me.
We try very hard not to waste things. After we eat the leaves and bark we use the peeled sticks to build a teepee-like lodge either on the shore or in the water. When we make our dams in the streams it helps raise the water level and that surrounds our lodge protecting our little moat. We swim under water and make places to store our food for the winter. This way when other animals are cold and hunger, we are safe. We can live and not worry about being hungry or cold all winter.
We have about eight beavers in our little colony now. Some will leave when they get older and make their own homes. Some like me will stay and help our parents care for the little ones. I’m strong and I work hard every day. I can use my teeth to cut down large trees faster than any other animal. My sisters and brothers like to watch me work. I have to care for them closely because there are many animals that try to steal them for food.
Each day I make sure my eyes are sharp and I look for hawks, owls and otters. They love to sneak up and steal a baby. I really don’t like them very much for taking our little babies away. My father and mother have taught me to watch out for bears, wolves, dogs and YOU! I know you would not hurt me but many men trap us and sell our fur. There are many people who hunt us, use our parts for medicine and for perfume. Our population has declined because of these people. I don’t know if you are aware of it, but we are the second largest rodent in the world.
I’ll bet you don’t know why we have a flat tail do you? We use our flat tails when we need to alarm our family of danger. If we are frightened, we will dive underneath the water and slap the water with our broad tail. Every beaver knows that the flapping of our tails means danger. They can hear it for a very long way above water or below the water. When we sound the alarm, all beaver will go underneath the water and stay there until they are sure it is safe. Sometimes we can stay under the water for as long as fifteen minutes.
So the next time you are walking in the woods or near a stream watch out for our dams. You can’t miss it. We put vertical poles in the ground. Next we fill between the poles with a crisscross of horizontally placed branches. We fill in the gaps between the branches with a combination of weeds and mud until the dam has enough water to surround the lodge. It is very hard work and we all help to make it. No one sits and watches the birds sing when there is work to be done. We are not lazy creatures at all.
I hope you now know what I look like and how I live. Tell all of your friends at school or at home so they will know how important we are. I’ll be watching for you! Remember when everything else fails all beavers will still have faith in you!
Written by Sybil Shearin
All Rights Reserved
Question: What did Cleaver use his flat tail for?