A beaver swims around in a holding tank in the fishway at the Milford Dam on the Penobscot River. Credit: Courtesy of Maine Department of Marine Resources, Division of Sea Run Fisheries and Habitat

Over the course of eight months each year, the crew at the Milford Dam tracks all kinds of species that end up in the facility’s fishway and fish elevator.

Last year, in fact, 19 species, ranging alphabetically from American shad to white sucker, were spotted and counted.

The fishway opened for the season recently, and an unexpected visitor showed up for a swim: A beaver made it into the fishway, joining river herring, suckers, fall fish and sea lamprey, rode the fish elevator to the next level, and posed for a photo in the viewing tank.

Jason Valliere, a marine resource scientist for the Maine Department of Marine Resources’ Division of Sea Run Fisheries and Habitat, said the beaver visit wasn’t unprecedented.

“This isn’t the first time that a beaver has gotten into the fishway. It is the first time I am aware of that one came up the fish elevator from the river below,” Valliere said. “In the past, they have entered the fishway from the headpond [above the dam]. “

So, what was the beaver up to?

“My guess is curiosity. They are curious creatures and like to explore,” Valliere said. “This was a younger beaver [that was] probably striking out to find a territory of its own.”

Valliere said the beaver was never in any danger during its visit.

“The beaver was lifted up into the flume and swam out on it’s own, just like a fish would,” Valliere said. “Beavers are at home in the water. In this case we saw it right away and opened the gate for it to exit immediately. Had it happened without our immediate knowledge it may have had to wait a short time until we opened the gate for it to get out.”

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John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...