The meaning of the saying, "busy as a beaver" is very evident at this time of year. The large rodents are busy getting ready for winter, preparing both their living quarters and food supply.
"They are storing their food caches. They use the inner bark of willows and poplars for food," said Stephanie Tucker, furbearer biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. "They make great big caches of sticks to feed on all winter long."
In a state where trees are not necessarily abundant, beavers can cause significant damage in certain areas. The loss of trees is not always welcome.
A beaver works at removing the outer bark from a tree branch to feed on the inner bark underneath. The photograph was taken Oct. 13 at Wolf Creek on Lake Sakakawea.
"You either love them or hate them. People can get frustrated with them," said Tucker. "They are pretty amazing in that they were once so rare that we re-introduced them into the state."
North Dakota's beaver population dipped so low that the beaver season was closed for periods in the 1930s and '40s. The dwindling population spurred a transplant program that introduced beavers back into areas of the state where their numbers were very small, even non-existent.
"The season opened again in the 1950s," said Tucker. "Right now we have a year-round season. We're not worried about people overharvesting beavers anymore."
The reason why is that the demand for beaver pelts, and the prices paid for them, is so low that few people bother to harvest them. Last year only 306 beaver pelts were purchased by North Dakota fur buyers. Another 304 beaver pelts were sent to the North American fur auction in Canada.
"Last year the average price for beaver was $11.94. The highest average price ever paid in North Dakota was in 1945 at $36.72. In 1945, that was a lot of money," said Tucker.
North American beavers can weigh 50 pounds or more, exceeded in the rodent category only by the South American capybara, which can reach a weight of 150 pounds.