There is a place up in the Beartooths I’ve come to treasure for its’ purity. It’s relatively small, (about the size of 2-3 football fields), but packed with diverse habitat. And old beaver pond.
A Canadian Naturalist once proclaimed, “A beaver is the only wild animal that can truly change a landscape”. This is never more evident than our special place.
Cindy and I stumbled upon the pond in the late 70’s. Even then it had been long abandoned. Over the years the stick dam has filled with silt. Sod covers the structure, which leaks just enough to allow the stream to continue down slope. One hundred year old spruce circle the water giving cover to the wildlife that comes to the pond to feed and raise their young. On the nearby slopes, aspen grow in thick groves, shading lush undergrowth. A haven for nesting birds.
A few years ago we discovered a pair of long eared owls raising a family in the thick spruces. The only ones we’ve ever come across. One day Cassie and I were searching for the owls when we spotted a cow and calf moose peering at us from across the pond. As we watched an elk with her calf passed by in front of them. It was perfect. A scene that truly defined wilderness.
We’d often come across bear beds hidden in the darkness of the spruces. Grouse would drum in the trees, and then parade their chicks later in the summer. Osprey and kingfishers frequented the pond when the nearby rivers were too muddy for fishing. Many times we would find moose feeding belly deep in the water and once a great gray owl perched on the dam hunting voles. Flycatchers, sapsuckers, flickers, bluebirds, robins and a dozen other songbirds nested in the aspens, feeding on the abundance of insects attracted to the water. Frogs large and small hopped in the grasses. Elephant heads grew in the damp. Lupine, paintbrush and balsamroot in the dry.
We used the pond for filming locations for BBC. “Big Sky Bears”, “Battle for Life” and other wildlife films brought natural scenes to life.
It was perfect.
Last week, wanting to visit the pond one more time before the road closed for the winter, I was stunned to find all the spruce surrounding the water had been cut.