We were enjoying a cool evening watching the sun set over Ninemile Creek, when we saw a flurry of brown fur cartwheeling near the far bank. When the melee ended, one huge beaver climbed victoriously onto the bank and watched as the smaller beaver swam in retreat to the main current and drifted downstream to a spot about 20 yards below us.
The small beaver then sat on the bank and proceeded to give us a hilarious show of beaver behavior for the next 15 minutes. First, it stood up on its hind legs, reaching its nose as high as it could, and sniffed the air that was wafting our scent downstream. Its whiskers twitched furiously and its tiny beaver arms madly scratched its face, like some grand rodential sneeze was brewing from deep within.
Once satisfied that we were no threat it sized us up for our mating potential. Even though there are days that we probably smell like waterlogged, swamp dwelling rodents in heat, apparently we weren’t what it was looking for that evening. It appeared to be more concerned with the other beaver that it had the encounter with earlier.
It began to drag up piles of castor laden mud and grass that it set on shore, a behavior that is thought to mark territory and/or attract a mate. Mating should have already occurred, so we presume that building these scent mounds was a response to a territorial dispute. And sure enough, as the beaver sat in the shallow backwater, sniffing the air once more, it was attacked. The huge beaver from upstream had slipped down undetected, snuck up from behind, and “goosed” the unaware beaver from below.
It reared up on hind legs, threw its tiny beaver arms in the air in a state of shock and then immediately turned and jumped upon the aggressor. They rolled around again splashing and flopping, but it was apparent that no teeth were involved; they were pushing shoulder to shoulder, wrestling more than fighting which made us wonder if it was more playful rough housing than actual territorial aggression. As the wrestling ensued, a third beaver, this one much smaller than the first two, exited from the bankside den and climbed onto dry land, perhaps indicating that the three were part of a colony.
So the question remains, was this a friendly relative sparring jovially, using a surprise attack to the nether regions in an act of comedic genius. Or was it a territorial dispute using a surprise attack to the nether regions in an act of tactical genius. We may never know.
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