This week, amongst field sign surveys, water chemistry sampling and beaver watches, we also set the beaver traps on the Dubh Loch. Our end of year live trapping period runs October-December and aims to catch any individuals not trapped over the summer period including new kits, so that we can carry out health and body checks and fit new tags if required.
There was not much interest in the traps this week apart from a repeat visit from Mille. Field staff were undertaking an early morning beaver watch from the canoe, when we heard the trap go off at 06:45. As Mille has unique tail markings, she was easily identified. As she was health checked during the summer we quickly replaced her lost ear tags, weighed her and attached a geo-tag which should record her movements every 15 minutes around her territory over the next two weeks.
Beavers are at their heaviest going into winter as they feed well during the summer and autumn. Like us all…beavers store extra calories as fat, not only is this reflected as body weight gain but also through increasing thickness of their tails! During each catch up we take various measurements of the tail, recording these at different times of year and through out the trial which enables changes in body condition to be monitored. We are pleased to report that Mille has put on nearly 4kg since the summer and has a fat tail going into winter.
When we are observing the beavers from the canoe, we often see them swimming rather than out on land, so it is important to be able to identify individuals from a distance. This is when ear tags can be crucial, especially as offspring grow and start to look very similar to their parents. Mille and her mother Katrina can be quite difficult to tell apart if their tails are not visible, and we are keen to see Katrina as she has been more difficult to spot this year. Mille is notorious for removing new ear tags but hopefully at least one stays in until we trap Katrina.
After release Mille headed towards the dam rather than back to the lodge at Dubh Loch. The next evening she was seen at the new lodge in Loch Coille Bharr (with all her tags still on!), Bjornar was feeding in the reeds nearby, so it looks like at least these two have relocated here for the winter. We have several remote cameras around the Dubh Loch and Loch Coille Bharr, and these combined with observations carried out by the Field Team will help us to establish which beavers are using which lodges. We will be sure to keep you posted as to what we find!