Beavers Building a Presence on Crum Creek
Swarthmorean Robert Scott recently mentioned beaver sightings on Crum Creek, where the toothy furbearers abounded in the time of the Lenni Lenape, but were absent for decades and have only returned in the past few years. The lower trail is all but inaccessible due to tree fall, but walking downstream from the “Crumhenge” meadow near the SEPTA viaduct, Scott said, he had seen four beavers and their lodges during his evening walks along the trail. My wife Jennifer and I retraced his steps around dusk on Monday, a lovely evening following a long workday.
Serendipity was with us as we scouted the banks for lodges — tangles of sticks, logs and other debris which do not span the entire creek like a dam, but provide safe and dry habitat for a beaver family. We soon saw a likely snag far downstream on the opposite side of the creek, and before we had much chance to wonder about where the inhabitants were, a sturdy beaver popped to the surface near it, swimming upstream toward us at a good clip. We tried to make ourselves inconspicuous as we fumbled for iPhone cameras. We failed (see photo). After closing 50 yards between us and him, the swimmer veered left, used his size 13 tail to give an angry slap to the water, then submerged for the next leg of his journey.
Meandering downstream through mud, mosquitoes, and nettles over the next half hour, we found saplings gnawed at the base, testifying to the presence of beavers and their famous incisors, amidst abundant tree fall that made an obstacle field of the lowland trail near the creek. The streambanks along Crum Creek have been planted by Scott Arboretum with native trees, some of which appear to have been victims of the voracious rodents. Bob Scott says if so, “It’s a shame about the trees, but the beavers are doing what they have to do. It’s a good sign for the creek when native species are returning to their habitat.”
Finally, in the waning light as we neared the Strath Haven Condos, we came upon what appeared to be two lodges, and a sleek emissary swimming as if to warn us off. We held our ground, and he finally submerged for the last leg of his swim to the lodge’s underwater entry.