A female beaver (Castor canadensisand her one-year-old kit take turns gnawing a large Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesiinear a lake in northern Montana. New research suggests that juveniles master the art of directional tree felling by copying adults, learning how to approach the task and where to place each cut. By gnawing at different heights on opposite sides of the trunk, the beavers work together to fell the tree efficiently and in the desired direction, the female pausing regularly to assess the tree’s angle and stability. Cameras mounted high in the canopy, and fired remotely from just outside the “falling tree zone,” were key to uncovering crucial aspects of tree-felling behavior in this family group. The obvious risk to the photographer’s cameras was deemed a reasonable price to pay.

Blackfoot Valley, Montana

Alexander V. Badyaev

A professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona, Badyaev is also a regular contributor to several international natural history magazines. His scientific work, nature photography, and popular science writing have been recognized by major international awards and fellowships. Most recently he was a Kavli Fellow of U.S. National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a winner of the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards.

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