Zoology Faculty Work


The Orientation of Beavers (Castor canadensis) when Cutting Trees

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The Ohio Journal of Science

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We studied patterns in the orientation of cutting when beavers (Castor canadensis) cut trees around Alum Creek Lake in central Ohio. For 462 trees, we measured the slope at the base of the tree, the orientation of the cut relative to this slope, the distance of the tree from the water, the radius of the tree, and the symmetry of the cut. The land around Alum Creek Lake generally slopes toward the water, so to direct the fall of a tree towards the water a beaver should cut a symmetrical tree from the downhill side. Cutting from the downhill side occurred for trees >9.0 m from the water. Near the shore, trees tended to lean toward the water and would fall toward the water regardless of the side from which the beaver cut. At distances <9-0 m from shore, beavers cut predominantly from the uphill side where it should be easy to sit and there is little danger of the tree falling on them. At all distances, beavers showed random orientation when cutting trees on shallow slopes (<20°), whereas on steep slopes (especially slopes >30°) they cut predominantly from the uphill side. Beavers cut small trees (<5.0 cm diameter) mostly from the downhill side, but tended to cut trees >5.0 cm in diameter from the uphill side. Overall, enough factors interacted that no single pattern of cutting existed for all trees.



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