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he absolute trail camera jackpot—we just captured the second known video ever, as far we are aware, of a wolf attacking and killing a beaver. And this was a pretty sizable beaver too! How amazing is that!?
Earlier this year, we posted rare footage we captured of a wolf in our area almost catching a beaver on a dam. That was really neat to see but in that video, the wolf never made contact with the beaver and the beaver narrowly escaped.
This beaver wasn’t so lucky. In this video from Sept 17, the beaver left the water at 1:09 A.M. to go forage on a 49 m/160 ft long trail—a pretty long trail for a beaver. Just four minutes later, the beaver was attacked by Wolf V094, the breeding male of the Half-Moon Pack.
A brief chaotic struggle ensued and then all went quiet as the wolf and beaver moved out of frame. About 19 hr later, we captured a video of a different wolf walking in front of the camera with a beaver head in its mouth. A few days later, we hiked out and found the bloody remains of this kill not far from our camera.
The beaver put up a valiant fight and at a few points was only a few meters from the safety of water. If the beaver could have just freed itself for a few moments, it might have lived. But it couldn’t…there appears to be a thin margin for beavers between life and death when on land!
The only other video observation we know of was recorded in Quebec in Fall 2015. Given how rare that was, we worked with the person who recorded the video and wrote a scientific paper on the observation trying to glean as much insight as we could from it.
Bit of backstory on the video:
The footage was captured by Dani Freund, a graduate student at the University of Minnesota, and two field technicians—Sage Patchett and Olivia Jensen—that are assisting Dani with her work.
Dani’s graduate work is looking at how wolf predation and other factors influence beavers stress levels. In other words, do beavers in ponds with higher wolf activity levels have higher stress levels than beavers in ponds that have lower wolf activity levels? Or are beaver stress levels driven largely by other factors such as food availability or competition from neighboring beavers?
The way Dani is examining beaver stress is by collecting beaver hair samples and measuring stress levels in the hair. And her hair collection method entails using a strand of barbed wire that the beavers crawl over to get on land (you can see this in the video).
When the beavers crawl over the wire, tufts of hair get caught on the wire and then those hair samples can be collected and analyzed. This is a common method used to get hair samples —biologists often refer to barbed wire and other similar contraptions devised to collect hair from wildlife as “hair snares”.
All this to say, this camera, which was kindly lent to us from the Offal Wildlife Watching Project at the University of Minnesota, was not set here in the hopes of capturing a wolf killing a beaver but rather to monitor beavers crawling over the hair snare.
But sometimes it is better to be lucky than good! And we certainly think we had a stroke of luck. We have had a lot of cameras out over the past 9 years in the area and we have never captured anything like this!