- There are two species of beaver. The European or Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) and the North American beaver (Castor canadensis). Interestingly the two species are not genetically compatible.
- Beavers are the second largest rodents on earth. Their large front teeth never stop growing however constant gnawing on wood keeps their teeth from growing too long.
- Beavers possess a set of transparent eyelids which enable them to see under water.
- Most times a beaver lodge will contain two dens, one for drying off after entering the lodge from under water, and a second den where the family lives and is kept drier.
- Beavers don’t mind the cold, they can be seen active throughout winter and maintain use of their ponds even when covered with a layer of ice. You’ll often see an open hole in the ice which is used to go back and forth for food.
- A beavers home is referred to as a lodge. They are dome like constructions built from branches and mud. Positioned in open water, they provide protection from predators. The entrance to the lodge is under water. .
- In the dead of winter you will be able to tell if a beaver lodge is occupied by the snow melt on the top of the lodge. Heat from the beaver in the lodge melts the snow on top of the lodge.
- We all know beavers build dams but did you know the world’s largest beaver dam stretches 850 meters deep in the thick wilderness of northern Alberta. It was discovered after being spotted on a satellite image in 2007, but scientists believe multiple generations of beavers have been working on the dam since the 1970s
- A beavers front teeth are orange a result of the front enamel containing iron which makes them strong and sharp. Because the orange enamel on the front of their teeth wears away more slowly than the white dentin on the back, a beaver’s teeth self-sharpen as he chews on trees.
- In many places beavers are thought of as a nuisance however beavers are vital to maintaining habitat. As well as maintaining wetlands, beavers create standing dead wood (by drowning some trees) which is inhabited by insects, and in turn attracts bird life.
- Beavers use their broad, stiff tails like rudders to steer under water, and for balance while sitting on land. They also use their tails to slap the water as a warning of danger, or a warning to keep away.
- The beaver has a host of adaptations that help them navigate the water. Ear and nose valves shut to keep out water while submerged, and nictitating membranes act as goggles to provide great vision under water. And most people are unaware that a beavers lips close behind their large front teeth, this allows the beaver to transport building materials and food without drowning.
Beaver Photography – Tips For Getting Great Beaver Pictures.
- Beaver are typically very skittish and as a result must be approached very quietly or can be waited out under the cover of a blind. You’ll know when you’ve over stepped when you hear the slap of their tails on the water and they disappear under the water.
- Keep an eye open for them to resurface after a dive, often it is not too far off so you may get a second shot at photographing them.
- I shoot f/4 for single beaver subjects and take it out to f/8 to f/11 for multiple subjects or if I want the lodge or a log that has been gnawed on in focus. For action shots try to keep the shutter speed above 800 increasing your ISO as required.
- Beaver photography can be done in every season although I tend to have the most sightings in Spring, Summer and Fall. Beavers are more nervous in winter because they must make it back to a hole in the ice to enter the water so they are constantly on the look out for predators like wolves, beaver happens to be a favourite meal of wolves.
- Like every other species you photograph your focus should always be on the beavers eye. You’ll hear this tip repeated for every species you photograph, focus on the eye is key to getting award winning beaver pictures.
- If you can try to get as low to the ground as possible when photographing beaver. One to make your presence less noticeable and secondly to get the beaver as close to eye level as possible.
- Pay attention to the backgrounds. Scrub bush along shore lines does not make for a pleasant back drop in my opinion. Try to get the beaver in front of cat tails and grasses and pay special attention to possible reflections on calm days which can make a good picture a great one.
- Take a variety of lenses with you. I shoot everything from a 24-70 to 600mm and everything in between. Shooting with different lenses yields varied perspectives and that makes for a more interesting and diversified portfolio. Every photographer I know strives to capture a close up with a long lens but I’ve been paying more attention to environmental shots with wider angle lenses to capture more of the habitat. I believe it provides the viewer with a better appreciation for the animal and where it lives.
- Don’t forget to go vertical every once and a while especially with single subjects that are beside tall vertical objects like trees in the case of a beaver. Often the front cover of a magazine or calendar is looking for a vertical shot so mix it up.
The North American beaver was the first natural resource of what eventually became Canada to be exploited by Europeans. Beaver pelts were so valued that they were once the unit of currency. The North American beaver population was almost wiped out by 1930, but conservation measures have since restored their numbers to relatively healthy levels. The species has been introduced into Europe, where viable populations have also been established.