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Art Collectibles Reflections by Kathy and Bill Lair

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Obituary for Four Fallen Beavers

March 30th, 2009 · No Comments · Lake Cotoxen

Image Source: LASZLO ILYES / License under Creative Commons 2.0Image Source: LASZLO ILYES / License under Creative Commons 2.0

The following is a eulogy for Four Beavers (Castor Canadensis) whose lives ended tragically on the shores of Lake Cotoxen, on the Southwest Branch of the Rancocas Creek, in environmentally concerned Medford, NJ. All four were victims of death by auto, all killed, in the very same spot at the edge of Church Road. The first one was killed last fall in October or November; then two more were killed together one night a few weeks later; and now a fourth has been killed just last week, March 2009. All four bodies were removed fairly quickly by persons unknown before we had a chance to bury them. (We have buried a majority of the poor creatures who have met an untimely end here.)

We’ve lived on Lake Cotoxen for almost thirty-eight years but had never seen a beaver here until about three years ago when we spotted a young one circling the rain swollen lake. The area was partially flooded, normal with Spring rains. All the tree trunks on the bank were about three to five feet under water and must have looked very tasty to this newcomer. For a couple of days, while the water was up, he nibbled and gnawed on the bark, but he disappeared again once the water had receded to normal levels. We added some chicken wire surrounds to the trees he deemed worth eating just in case he returned. We saw him swimming around a few times but we never saw him again after that summer. We never saw another beaver until the first of the deceased creatures turned up out front one morning last fall.

Recently, Medford proudly announced that the efforts made to clear log jams and debris along the Rancocas, from the center of town to historic Kirby’s Mill located at Lake Cotoxen, had been completed. Two and a half miles of creek is now open to recreational activities and easily accessed by boat owners. Community Canoe Days with canoe and kayak rentals are open to all and efforts by Burlington County to implement plans for clearing the waterway from Kirby’s Mill to Lumberton is underway. And the beavers? Were their lodges and dams a part of the log jams and debris? Only those who helped to clear the stream might know… or maybe they wouldn’t. I didn’t know much about beavers until they began to show up dead at my doorstep.

So I must thank a great website BWW, Beavers: Wetlands & Wildlife www.beaversww.org/index.html for enlightening me. They offer a lot of great information. You can see some excellent photos on their website as well. The best picture I have of a beaver exists only in my memory. I was minus camera on the day I saw one swimming under the railroad bridge on the Southern Branch of the Rancocas at Marne Highway and Creek Road. He was heading towards Rancocas Woods with a bouquet of flowers in his mouth! What a sight! We just assumed he must be going to visit his girlfriend… although, being vegetarians, he may have been taking the roots home for dinner.

Beavers are good for the environment and what’s good for the environment is good for mankind. They create a wetlands with the dams they build. Such wetlands can help to absorb flooding, control erosion, and purify the water. They are intelligent gentle creatures who rarely bite (humans or each other). They mate for life. They can live for 20 years in captivity but in the wild usually only survive for about 10 years, succumbing mainly to traps and traffic accidents. I have learned that they are nocturnal, rarely are they seen during the day except at dusk, an hour before sunset, and at dawn. I will start looking for others now and truly hope that the deceased were not the last of their kind here.

Kathy’s words

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