Behavior of beaver in lakes with varying water levels in Northern Minnesota

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College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


We studied the effects of winter water drawdowns (2.3 m) on beavers in Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota, USA. Our study was designed to sample areas within the park that differed in water drawdown regime. Lodges were counted and beavers were livetrapped and radio-implanted to study behavior, movements, and mortality. Active beaver lodge density, determined by aerial survey in 1984 and 1986, was greatest along the shoreline of the drawdown reservoir. In winter beavers living on the drawdown reservoir spent less time inside their lodges than did beavers from stable water environments, foraged more above ice, and they were unable to fully use stored food. Only one case of starvation in the drawdown reservoir was documented, but beavers in reservoirs that were drawn down survived winter in poorer condition than did beavers living in areas in which water levels remained high. In spite of an increasing population and lack of widespread mortality, winter water drawdowns did alter beaver behavior. To reduce these impacts, total annual water fluctuation should not exceed 1.5 m, and winter drawdown should not exceed 0.7 m. Possible management alternatives and costs are discussed.

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© 1991 Springer-Verlag New York Inc. Publisher’s version of record: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02393886

Publication Title

Environmental Management