Quotes on the Relation of Beaver Behavior to Engineering


Allred, 1986

Cullen, 1962

Beakley, 1984

von Frisch and von Frisch, 1974

Finley, 1937


Even more remarkable than the beaver's ability to build structures which yield so much control over his environment, rests his ability to employ sound engineering principles in both construction and selection of construction sites.

In the lakes and the streams of our nation, a very special corps of engineers has been busily at work for thousands of years. sitting on their haunches, propped up by long, flat, scaly tails, these hard-working creatures double and triple in brass, not only doing the work of engineers but of contractors and construction men as well, as they go about their ordained task of building dams.

Perhaps the animal that has been most closely associated with civil-engineering exploits is the beaver.

... beavers are experts not only in the building of dwellings but also in hydro-engineering, and have performed tremendous feats in this line long before man attempted anything of the kind.

The conservation history of America reveals many examples of killing the goose that laid the golden egg, the most striking of which is the trappers' campaign against the humble beaver to get quick profits on his hide ... Nature's engineer, the beaver, has a good warm coat, but his greatest service has been in creating our earliest industry of conserving soil and water. In the West he proved to be the most valuable wild animal in existence and one that built up a vast amount of wealth.

to vast structures several feet in height and hundreds — even thousands — of feet in length." Many authors have more or less casually made the analogy between beavers and engineers in regard to dam building behavior (Table 3.4), but the recent concept of "organisms as ecosystem engineers" brings more depth to the matter. Jones et al. (1994) introduced the concept of organisms as ecosystem engineers and defined it as follows: "Ecosystem engineers are organisms that directly or indirectly modulate the availability of resources to other species by causing physical state changes in biotic or abiotic materials. In so doing they modify, maintain and create habitats." Details on the general concept of organisms as ecosystem engineers have been described (Alper, 1998; Gurney and Lawton, 1996; Jones et al., 1997; Lawton and Jones, 1995) and some examples are listed in Table 3.5.

Beavers are one of the best examples of the concept of ecosystem engineers, especially as described by the research of Robert Naiman, Carol Johnson, and their co-workers (Johnston, 1994; Naiman et al., 1988; Pollock et al., 1995). By selectively

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