This week, between November 23rd and November 29th, a full beaver moon will grace the skies in the Americas. Both the colonial Americans and the Algonquin Native American tribes called November full moons Beaver Moons. The Algonquian are the most populous of the Native American language groups, and they are grouped together because they spoke similar languages. Quite a few of their groups cultivated corn, beans, squash and rice, but their main food sources came from hunting and fishing. Beavers were prized both for their meat and for their warm fur.
Both the Native Americans and the European colonists practiced a seasonal economy, and they used the monthly moon changes as signs from nature in order to track seasons. This was very important for survival. Back in the days of colonization and even before, November was the last month to set beaver traps before the water froze over. As a matter of fact, they used the light of the Beaver Moon to set traps to catch beavers in preparation for their winter survival.
The water freezes over, but the beavers don’t hibernate. They pile sticks and logs in the ponds and streams where they build lodges, which is what we call their homes, and some of that pile is above water. The above-water part accumulates snow in the winter, which creates enough insulation to keep the water from freezing around their lodges. Beavers are excellent engineers and often build in water that they have dammed to form a pond. They use a mix of mud and weeds to fill in the gaps between the branches and *logs they build with. Yes, they cut down whole trees to build their homes. The largest beaver dam ever found was 850 meters deep, and built by Canadian beavers. Beavers often build canals to float the building materials they need so that they don’t have to haul the wood over land.
Their lodges have more than one entrance, and it is almost impossible for wolves or other predators to enter, as the entrances are underwater. Just before the Beaver Moon, they cover their lodges with fresh mud, which freezes as hard as stone in the winter. They build a room inside their lodges for drying off after leaving the water, and then there is usually just one other room, which is drier and where they live. They do, however, sometimes build more rooms.
When the ice breaks up around the time of the Pink Moon in April, beavers go out roaming until autumn, when they return to their lodges and prepare for winter. Beaver lodges can sometimes last for centuries. They are necessary in our ecosystem because they create wetlands, and actually, no other species, apart from humans, do more to shape the earth’s landscape.
Beavers belong to the genus Castor, which is easy to remember. They are the second largest rodent in the world, after the South American capybara. Beavers are herbivores, semiaquatic, and mostly nocturnal. Their teeth grow continuously throughout their lives, so that they never get worn down from chewing on wood. And their bodies continue to grow throughout their lifetime, too. Beavers live up to about 24 years in the wild and sometimes weigh over 25 kilos in their senior years.
And they fall in love! They are usually monogamous and mate for life, sharing the responsibility of taking care of their kits. Curiously, male beavers have a strange chemical compound inside their testicles and under their flat tails that smells like vanilla. As a matter of fact, it is an FDA-approved natural flavoring, and used in medicine and perfume. Their front teeth are orange because of the iron that their tooth enamel contains. Their tails, which our species likes to make into watch bands and cell phone cases, are both rudders and communication devices. Interestingly, they have a third transparent eyelid that helps them see underwater, kind of like built-in goggles.
And last but not least, just for your general education, the word beaver is slang for vagina.
Enjoy the Beaver Moon this week, and use its inspiration to recreate yourself in some way.