Because the beaver isn't just an animal; it's an ecosystem!

The Martinez Beavers


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Mapping beaver habitat amenities and dis-amenities: Spaces of human-beaver predation in Oregon

One of my favorite presentations at the conference was this from Sonoma State’s own Jeff Baldwin. Jeff is a member of the California working beaver group, and worked with Suzanne Fouty on his doctorate. He attended my Valley of the moon lecture in Sonoma and is an all around great guy. His talk was about identifying specific sites where beaver would thrive, and contributing factors to understanding why certain places were inhospitable.

Remember that, (in what my line of work would call a ‘schizophrenogenic policy’)  Oregon beavers are a protected species on public lands and classified as a ‘predator’ on private lands so they can be killed with out permits or records. Relocation is legal in Oregon but in its early stages, and the requirements involve getting permission from land-owners up and down stream for 5 miles in both directions of where they were introduced. Also, it is not legal to ‘hold beaver family members’ while the entire colony is being trapped to aide in relocation of the family unit, so family members get separated and the corresponding survival rate isn’t great.

He appropriately mentioned that cougar, coyote, and bear habitat were not great places for beavers to thrive, but then added that certain human-populated areas were actually much more dangerous (“Unless, he said, you had a guardian angel like Heidi there“).  (Nice!) He pointed out that the unique Oregon laws that allow un-permitted killing of beavers on private land includes leased lands as well. This includes some government lands, regional parks, all soil and gas sites. He took the time to map out just how much of Oregon was beaver-killable and how much was safe. And safe was a very small portion.

It’s hard work being a beaver.

Add to this the fact that only a limited portion of ‘safe’ includes water access and you can see that beaver numbers are going to be limited. Which is why certain regions always seem to have beavers and certain places, which could have beavers don’t have any safe passage for beavers to get there, so they never seem to have them. Which is why, by inference, the beavers continue to come back to Martinez even though we have dam washouts and train whistles and garbage.

Specific Oregon question: I understand that land can be privately held but aren’t waterways and submersible lands public? And, by extension, don’t the beavers that live in those waterways belong to the state? And why don’t you have to get permission from landowners 5 miles up and down stream to be allowed to trap beavers?

What is the Public Trust Doctrine?

This doctrine of law provides that the State of Oregon holds submerged and submersible land in trust for the benefit of all the people. The general public has a right to fully enjoy these resources for a wide variety of public uses including commerce, navigation, fishing, and recreation.

And beavers.