We have had numerous “what was that?” moments here on the mountain. Yesterday was another one of those moments...
Driving home last night, a small critter ran across the road and was briefly caught in the glare of the headlights. It’s not the first time I have seen this large guinea pig looking creature here on the mountain but I have never been quick enough, in the few times that I have seen it, to get a picture. After asking several people who live around here, I was told it was a... Mountain Beaver!? I had to Google it, because I still didn’t know what it was.
|This species is the only living member of its genus, Aplodontia, and family |
Aplodontiidae. (Source: animals.lafcadio.net)
It turns out that a Mountain Beaver is an interesting but little known mammal unique to the Pacific Northwest. Its range falls mostly to the west of the Cascades, from northern California to southern British Columbia. First described by Lewis and Clark, the mountain beaver remains rather obscure, even here in the heart of its range. It is primarily nocturnal and is seldom seen. Even though its name is Mountain Beaver, it’s not really a beaver. It’s a rodent. In fact, with a lineage traced back 40 million years, the mountain beaver is our oldest rodent. It has several common names including aplodontia, boomer, and ground bear.
|A few entrances to a mountain beaver's burrow.|
Walking around the mountain, we’re always seeing these clusters of holes on slopes or small hillsides. I have always wondered which little critter they belonged to, and it turns out they are the Mountain Beaver’s burrows. Since they rarely travel far from their burrows, which can have anywhere between 10-30 entrances, this is probably why they continue to escape the camera.
I am happy to add another animal to the ever growing list of animals seen on our mountain.