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Beavers in Stanley Park

This post is part of a series about our #Canada2012 trip to British Columbia & Alberta, Canada.

I really didn’t expect to get to see beavers. Not only are they nocturnal, but also (at least, I thought) shy and timid creatures. But we were given a tip-off by a kind lady at the Stanley Park Nature House in Vancouver. She told us where and when we might find beavers in Stanley Park. Apparently one had appeared at a site that had been unused for years, and he’d recently been joined by a female. She said she hadn’t seen them herself, but her friend has seen them a few times. There were even rumours of some little kits!

This was my birthday, and I had planned to spend the evening watching the sunset on English Bay Beach – a must when visiting Vancouver, or so I’m told. But even as a man who loves a schedule, I couldn’t miss the possibility of see some wild beavers. So we made the decision to ditch our sunset plans and take our chances sitting in the cold by a lake, hoping to see something that probably wouldn’t appear…

Well we knew we were getting close to the spot when we saw felled trees beside the lake, with the tell-tale tooth marks that only come from one animal. But most of these tree stumps looked like they’d been there a while. They weren’t recent work. Then we rounded the corner and saw an opening in the lake, with a suspicious pile of wood and mud. It looked remarkably like a classic beaver lodge. Yet I still didn’t believe we would see anything. But it had to be the spot, so we sat and waited for sunset.

Just imagine our surprise when we saw this little guy emerge…

Maybe, like me, his body clock was still set to Alberta time, as he was out shortly before sunset.

For the photographers out there, I was really testing the camera to its limit here, at ISO’s between around 1000 to 6400, due to the darkness. After about half an hour, it was too dark for any photography.

They would disappear for 5-10 minutes at a time, before surfacing again for a few minutes so we could watch them.

I don’t think I could have asked for a better birthday present. It was so unexpected, and they just didn’t seem to be bothered by us.

I did go back to the Nature House a couple of times, but it was never open again. So I never did get a chance to thank the kind lady for pointing us in the right direction. This is absolutely the kind of tip-off we wouldn’t have been given in the UK. At home there’s a real culture of secrecy surrounding what little wildlife we have left. This is due in part to historical persecution, egg collecting, etc. But it’s a trend that continues still. Partly, I guess because we have lots of people, not much space, and not much wildlife. But the powers that be can be very over-protective (just visit Loch Garten and see an osprey a mile away through a military-grade telescope). It speaks volumes about the Canadian people who they’re happy to share these opportunities with others.

We went back on our last night too, and saw them again. Totally unforgettable, and one of the highlights of the trip.




Red Deer Roaring, photographed in black and white


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