This morning at 4:45 I staggered onto the Escobar bridge to see a raccoon milling about in the water. Uh-oh, if he was there the kits might not be allowed to come! Mom swam protectively by and the raccoon skedaddled. And then a little peanut with a beautifully light underside floated into view. And then another. Mom swam up and appeared to be taking them to the annex. Then raccoon appeared on the other side of the bank and SLAP!!! I was worried I wouldn’t see them again, but I waited anyway.
The raccoon again appeared on the first side of the bank, and tiny kit number one popped out of the water and made a bee-line for him. Curious about everything the raccoon seemed to do or touch. The raccoon started to look around nervously for the adult, like we might if a cute bear cub started to approach. Mom swam by and the raccoon vanished again. This time the brave kit climbed onto the mud bank where the raccoon had been, right below me. The other kit never returned after the tail slap. In the streetlight I could see him clearly, not a foot long – about twice as big as when I saw him in May. He was much more skilled at swimming and diving. I thought how this was the 7th year I’ve sat watching new kits emerge, and how it never got less amazing.
The funny thing is that it never gets less terrifying either. No sooner had I gotten a good look at him that I was suddenly afraid the raccoon would eat him, suddenly worried there appeared to be soap suds in the creek, worried that raccoon feces would give the kit Baylisascaris, and then suddenly worried when the tide turned and it looked like all the water was going to flush away at once. (UPDATE: Found out it was a water main breaking and not the tide or the dam. As Jon says “good clean water” so go ahead, Martinez. Leak all you want) There are a million things that could go wrong in a beaver’s life, and in my 6 years as guardian I’ve seen most of them. Honestly, when I watch those little faces, part of me just melts, but a large part of my thinking is dedicated to this running inner monologue trying to talk myself out of whatever terror I’m currently imagining.
And still…and still…in the middle of a tiny urban creek…our beavers manage to bring new lives and raise children and carry on the family name. And they do it without midwife’s or healthcare or electricity. And their babies have fingers and toes and tails and learn to be beavers and have babies of their own. It’s all pretty amazing.
Looking about when the kit swam out of sight, I could see the memorial of mom and I thought of what a grand thing she had started. The first time I heard about the beavers it was on the street and a woman I didn’t know and never saw again told me about them. She said she had seen them many times, but that morning she had finally realized there were three, a slightly smaller beaver out on the bank. I never saw three and wasn’t sure I believed her, but thinking back now I am sure she meant a yearling, which means when the parents settled in Alhambra Creek they had already had families before someplace else. Where? We can know for certain that mom was at least 6 at the time – probably even older because she had 4 kits in 2007. (Beavers can reproduce at 3, beaver fecundity goes up with age.) Remember our current mom had one kit last year and two this year. The original mom had 4 the first year they were here, which suggests that it was probably the third or fourth time our old mom had kits.
Maybe they relocated because something happened in their old territory, which meant that they had no kits and only one yearling left. It’s a dangerous world for beavers, and their are few safe havens. Martinez was going to trap them until we stopped them. Now San Jose, American Canyon, Sonoma, Santa Rosa. Come to think of it, I guess there are a few more havens than their used to be.