I n southern Maine much emphasis is put on spotting big game, that being bear, deer and moose. There are other animals in the forest that are interesting to see and experience. One animal that can be found in our local waterways is the beaver. Beavers are famous for chewing their way through the trunks of trees and felling trees. Once a tree is felled the beaver chews off the branches for food and to use in building their dam. A tree felled by a beaver will be surrounded by wood chips as if someone took a hatchet to it. It never ceases to amaze me how big the trees are that beavers fell.

Beavers builds dams. The beavers’ dam serves two purposes. First it creates a pond behind the dam. Secondly it is the beavers home. The beavers builds a den inside the dam which is only accessible by an underwater entrance. This underwater entrance thwarts most predators.

I heard that on the Fenderson Common there is a beavers’ colony and a large beavers’ dam. I decided to hike in and try and find the dam and maybe see a beavers or two.

The Fenderson Common is owned by the town of Wells and managed by the Wells Conservation Commission. There is a trail from a parking area off Route 109 to the beavers’ dam.

Starting at the Shell station on Route 109 in Wells and driving 3.3 miles toward Sanford there is a small, ancient graveyard on the left. Also visible from the road is the trailhead kiosk on the left. I turned in and parked between the graveyard and kiosk.

After looking at the map and other reading material on the kiosk I began my hike. I followed the trail downhill to the standing water, turned to my left and followed the ribbons along the edge of the standing water. I walked slowly and quietly so as not to spook any of the nearby beavers or other wildlife. After about 10 minutes, I came to the dam. The dam is a very big one, about 8-feet high with a big beavers’ pond behind it.


Looking around the beavers’ pond I saw no beavers swimming. At first the dam looked like a huge pile of tree branches. Upon closer inspection I could see that each branch was carefully put in place to create structural integrity required to act as a dam.

The dam and the pond are the beavers’ home and should not be disturbed. No stone skipping or throwing branches into the water or pulling branches off of the dam. The beavers deserve our respect.

Beavers are most active at night. Once, on a night hike on McKay creek in North Plains, Oregon, I surprised a beaver. He slapped his tail into the water with such force that it sounded like a 400-pound black bear had dove off the bank into the creek. That beaver startled me and I had a new found respect for the ferociousness of this furry little creature.

Take a camera when you go to the beavers’ dam on Fenderson. Pictures of the dam, pond or a beaver are a good way to share with others what you saw on your hike. Don’t forget to take the kids, they will love it.

— Bill Stride is a conservationist and columnist. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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