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Busy beavers may change more than the landscape at Asylum Lake Preserve

WWMT Grand Rapids/Lansing logo WWMT Grand Rapids/Lansing 3/10/2021 Meteorologist Christina Anthony | News Channel 3

Clearly, this isn't the work of a professional tree trimming service.

a body of water © Provided by WWMT Grand Rapids/Lansing

It's also not the work of vandals.

a tree next to a body of water © Provided by WWMT Grand Rapids/Lansing

The changing landscape of a peninsula at Asylum Lake Preserve is due to these furry creatures below that stand at about 3 feet tall.

a small brown animal in the water © Provided by WWMT Grand Rapids/Lansing

"Beavers are doing what they do," said Kathryn M. Docherty, an associate professor of biological science at Western Michigan University. 

a pile of hay next to a body of water © Provided by WWMT Grand Rapids/Lansing

Docherty hikes Asylum Lake Preserve about once a week, and says she followed the progression of the beaver habitat there for about a year.

"It's been really interesting to see ecological processes in action on this sort of slow time scale," Docherty said. "I would imagine what they might start doing is dragging those trees into the water, to start building a dam across the lake to the other peninsula that comes out of semi-dry land."

a rodent standing on a beach © Provided by WWMT Grand Rapids/Lansing

The dam would transform the area between the peninsulas into more of a wetland, leading to a major ecosystem change, but one that would benefit the environment there.

"What beavers tend to do, is they tend to increase ecosystem heterogeneity," said Docherty. "So, they'll increase the different types of habitats in an ecosystem by changing some of its structure."

a tree next to a body of water © Provided by WWMT Grand Rapids/Lansing

According to Docherty, both the vegetation and the wildlife at Asylum Lake Preserve may become more diverse due to the beavers' activity.

That said,  the peninsula would no longer be a great spot to set up the hammock.  In fact, getting too close to the remaining trees could be dangerous according to Docherty.

a tree next to a body of water © Provided by WWMT Grand Rapids/Lansing

"Just be aware that these trees are in a precarious position, and they haven't been professionally cut by a human to try to ensure human safety," said Docherty. "They're cut by a wild animal."

a rodent looking at the camera © Provided by WWMT Grand Rapids/Lansing

A wild animal that according to Docherty, might ultimately lead to wildly different life at the nearby lake.

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