Canadian National Animal
Canada’s national mammal, the North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) is prepared for the job.
Dressed up in a slick fur coat, this furry creature is amply armed for a night out after a day of damming up the local slough or felling wetland poplars. Anywhere in Canada that has water from sea to sea to sea and all of the wetlands in between are beaver chomping grounds. With a lot of territory to cover under diverse conditions it needs more than a thick skin to represent nationally.
You may not know our soft coated mascot beyond the destructive nature of the North American Beaver:
They have Eurasian relatives and introduced South American ones.
Their kids, called “kits” hang around for two years picking up survival tips from their sage parents. They mate for life. Everyone likes a steady soul.
They can be destructive with tree kills but they supplement with cattails and other water vegetation necessary for wetlands.
Dams are predator protection. Who are they trying to keep away from? Wolves, bears and coyotes primarily.
What self respecting national mammal doesn’t like the publicity of world fame. The world’s largest beaver dam is in Wood Buffalo National Park. It is twice the width of Hoover Dam.
They were nearly extirpated during the fur trade era. It seems it was not just the beaver who liked their cozy fur to cuddle up in. Before that they lived form the arctic to Mexico.
They are smart architects. Dam building requires planning and unique adaptations such as paddles.
Beaver trade is intricately woven into the history and colonization of North America. So as this Canada 150 anniversary rolls along, be sure to salute our national mammal, busying itself in the wetlands and streams and the occasionally park, steadfast and progressive, forging into the future together. We are a better nation because of it.
Occasionally beaver flex their power (see wedding article below).
For more on Canadian wildlife and the North American Beaver, see also:
Historic Carcross, Yukon
Discovered By British Royalty
Where can you find historic log cabins still inhabited, a snow covered mountain range and a smattering of British royalty? To clarify, royalty occasionally, at least.
Carcross, Yukon has had all three in the past month, and always has more.
British royalty visited western Canada in the fall of 2016 and one stop you may have missed is Carcross, Yukon. Last census 289. These royal visits usually raise queries from what all of the fuss is about to how to get to the front of the line for a glimpse to who gets the honour of their presence. So how did Carcross, Yukon get on the royal agenda?
The tiny hamlet has geographical, historical, nostalgic, local and international appeal, all wrapped up in dirt streets, weather worn homes, goldrush archivals and latte cafes. And well, there is always the wildlife. The original name, Caribou Crossing, gives a clue, and where there are caribou, grizzlies and blacks and squirrels and chips hang out too. All of this is wrapped in a drop dead vista, usually shimmering in blues and gold in autumn.
Mining history buffs, come on up. Northern visitors, wander the streets and settle in. Royalty, get your feet dusty. Beachcombers, head to the beach just off main street. And if you like the desert, Carcross has one of those too. It is not so much the quaint, clapboard homesteads decorated with local survival contraptions. Gold mining lore, boom and bust, fortunes chased and hopes dashed and modern survivors. Carcross can claim, a lived in, living up north village besides the history and the beauty. Humanity’s best and worst encapsulated. It is not every place that can brag the misfortunes of former visitors, however temporary, survive and make it worthy of a royal agenda list. Don’t forget warm outerwear, it can be cold up north these days.
For more on northern life in Yukon, Canada, see also:
Death Valley Floral Explosion
A Death Valley floral explosion?
On rare occasions, the lows and highs and all of the in betweens in Death Valley miraculously explode in spring colour. Every miniscule crack in the local terra firma becomes a sponge with botanical possibility. This year has been one of those outlandish Death Valley floral performances and out of the land the wildflowers have sprung, Superbloom 2016.
Auspicious nature watchers take note of a fall in the Death Valley surrounds when more than 5 cm of rain dribbles onto one of the driest places on the planet. Actually part of the series of events required is a sizeable amount of rainfall that must strike at the right time to wash off the protective coating from extreme conditions that the seeds have. Soon the word gets out big rain has landed. Nature, in perfect harmony, overdoes it. Desert Sunflower, Primrose, Monkeyflower and Five-Spot all dress up and dance together, nodding their bouncy heads in rhythm with others of equally uncanny nomenclature, Magenta Globe, Gravel Ghost, Desert Chicory, Bluebonnet, even a Desert Dandelion. Golds, lavenders, pinks, and whites wash the otherwise suntanned craggy landscape.
All of this and more is waiting for you in one of the scratchiest places you could traipse for the bloom is still on in higher elevations. But please do not stomp, crush, crinkle, or otherwise amend the specimens. They need to mature and disperse seed again for the Death Valley floral cycle to continue, even if folks have to wait a few decades when the next set of perfect conditions grants the valley a floral super show.
Do not let the names, Dantes Creek, Hell’s Gate, Furnace Creek, Badwater Basin, fool you. It is not all death in this valley.
For more on Death Valley floral, see also:
Superbloom Death Valley
Wildflower Peepers Delight
Roadside extravaganza. Desert floribunda. Botany bloomfest. Superbloom Death Valley is on again as wildflowers sprinkle and spread a dramatic carpet of colours in one of the bleakest places on earth.
Death Valley is having a flower show? Unpredictable and even more rare, this floral showing is wilder than just wildflowers. Once a century, and recently with El Nino, once a decade, a wildflower extravaganza hits the dismal emptiness of this valley turning a typically hostile environment into a flower festival.
Less than occasionally and sometimes once in a century Death Valley gets more than it’s allotted four trickles a year in rainfall. AND a critical amount splatters the blistered desert in the fall. Wildflower seeds wait for decades for enough moisture to wash off their outer coating allowing germination to perform nature’s magic. The following spring, after a lot of hope and anticipation that this year will be The Big One, Mother Nature nods in approval and the valley turns into a superific extravaganza of colour. Superbloom Death Valley explodes continuously for weeks as the seed to flower to seed cycle progresses from floor (sea level) to ceiling (mountains over 5000 feet) across and up and down this typically barren landscape. With climate change and wet events like El Nino, “normal” is uncommon, and for the second time this century, a “once in a century event” has imploded again.
Everywhere. Watch your step! Please do not step on the desert sunflowers. They are responsible for the entire desert floor taking on a sunshiney yellow hue.
Missing the 2005 Superbloom Death Valley meant a chance of the century passed you by. But last fall the rain gods descended on the desert seeds again with another superbloom. If you miss it you may have to wait another century or a lifetime or maybe just a decade this time.
For more on fragile places and California spring, see also: