|Walking weed- Click to enlarge|
I pulled out my flashlight and plunged in after it. There it was, bounding ahead of me, plowing a path through the grass. I still couldn't see what was dragging it, so I stepped on the trailing leaves and it came to a stop.
I stepped on the foliage again, this time higher up on the plant. Again it stopped and I now got a good look at a large beaver with the base of the cup plant firmly in its jaws. It paid no attention to my flashlight or camera flash, just jerking desperately at its treasure.
I was able to take see it better and to lean closer for pictures. This was a big beaver by Bull Mills standards. Comparing the 11-12" leaves like the one in the picture above confirmed my impression that it measured a good 28" to the base of the tail. It was remarkably tenacious, not even considering giving up on its treasure to escape.
I finally lifted my foot from the stalk of the plant. The beaver and its treasure plunged into the weeds and over the bank, splashing into the water out of sight. I just stood there and thought deep thoughts like "WOW!"
|Hanging on tight|
Now the remaining question is what did a wood-eating herbivore want with a cup plant anyway? Maybe salad? It turns out that while I think of beaver eating bark, in the summer woody plants drops to 10% of their diet as they shift to higher energy foods such as water plants and even sweet corn when available.* The hot dry summer with the creek drying up is enough to drive a beaver to drink, or at least to more leafy greens.
* Wild Mammals of Missouri, Schwartz and MDC.