The home of Pollux the beaver is a busy one. Three generations of her family and a couple of freeloading muskrats have been keeping their western Quebec lodge bustling with activity throughout the winter.
The family had already starred in the documentary The Beaver Whisperers, which premiered on March 28 on The Nature of Things. But now they have what amounts to their very own web-based reality show.
CBC's CastorCam began streaming live in March, and already the project is revealing a lot of new information about the daily life of beavers.
Annette Bradford, the CBC journalist behind the beaver cam project, said web viewers may get to see even more exciting things this spring, as the beavers typically give birth in May.
"We're hoping to catch that and catch the raising of the young," she said.
Bradford, who works for CBC's documentary unit, said the CastorCam project came out of a desire to learn more about beavers, following the documentary. She decided to enlist the help of Michel Leclair, general manager of the Eco-Odyssée water maze that is home to a few different beaver families.
Leclair, himself a star of The Beaver Whisperers, thought he knew the perfect beaver family to watch – Pollux's. The family had built a new lodge in the fall that he could see from his deck. And the Wi-Fi he had just installed throughout the maze would make the logistics of webcam streaming a whole lot easier.
"They've actively tried to block the camera a few times because there's a little red light on it," she said. "It doesn't bother them, but they notice it and they notice it's not part of the normal environment."
They have gotten used to it, she added. She visits the website several times a day and says the beavers are there about half the time. She recommends visiting CastorCam at dawn and dusk, when the beavers tend to be at their busiest.
Bradford said she was surprised to see how active the beavers are during the daytime, since they are known to be more nocturnal.
"We see them in there all the time, grooming and eating and sleeping," she said.
Leclair said the camera recently captured two beavers fighting.
Viewers can also expect to see a couple of muskrats, who take advantage of the free room and board, or occasional visitors such as otters, ducks and turtles, Leclair said.
He's been keeping an eye on the beavers for years and already knew lots about them, but even he has learned some new things from the CastorCam.
"I didn't know they were so friendly with muskrats," he said. "They're like small brothers. They're not fighting at all."
Bradford said she has even seen muskrats and beavers groom each other.
Once the snow and ice have melted, the beavers are expected to leave their winter lodge, which is usually full of fleas by springtime, Leclair said.
If the beavers build a new spring lodge, as they often do for birthing and raising their young, the camera will be moved there. A second camera will also be installed outside the lodge.