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

The Martinez Beavers

Beaver Resilience


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Dry Guadlupe River: Roger Castillo

So this is what most of the Guadelupe River looks like this summer. Too bad for the remaining fish and definitely too bad for the thirsty wildlife. You’ll remember there were three beavers on the creek in 2013, and they made an historic splash. One was seen with a packing strip trapped around her waist and she was rescued so it could be removed and released to the exact same spot.

Not surprisingly, those beavers never showed their faces again. Although sometimes they still see sign of them.

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Beaver chewed tree on the Guadelupe River: Steve Holmes

On Friday I got several very distressed emails from the friends of Los Gatos Creeks that they had discovered a beaver in great despair, living under a pipe in the dry river. They were ready to call in rescue to get him out. And what did I think? Later emails said he was ‘living in a pile of his own feces’ and was obviously sick. I was able to piece together that he was living under a culvert with a tiny leak and trying to use that water. And Greg Kerekes of urban wildlife took this photo.

Beavers using culvert in drought
Beaver in the Guadelupe: Greg Kerekes

This photo made me happier than any I’ve seen recently. Look at what that resilient beaver decided to do with the tiny drip! Waste not: want not. He has made a dam to keep the water inside the pipe since it won’t soak up the water, and if he needs water to drink or eliminate, there it is. In a few weeks it will be deep enough to hide him from unfriendly eyes. Remember that beavers are herbivores so even if he was in a puddle of his own ‘sawdust’ it wouldn’t be cause for alarm. But when I talked more to Roger Castillo about what he saw I realized the ‘filth’ he had seen the beaver sitting on was a scent mound that he was making to mark his ‘home sweet home’. Even though this looks alarming to us, he’s fiercely proud of his ingenuity and doesn’t want to share!

He’s sleeping to the right beside his accomplishment, in a little bed of reeds during the day. CaptureHis hidden stash of water means coyotes or bobcats are unlikely to come and get a drink, and he seems ready for the long haul. Who knows? Maybe he’ll even get company? A beaver pioneer in the dry Guadelupe river. How different would California look during a drought if we had millions more like him?

stickerYou’ll remember that beavers were one of the first species back after Mt. St. Helen’s errupted. And were among the first to reclaim the land in Chernobyl after the nuclear reactor disaster. Here’s Leonard Houston’s opening remarks from the 2013 State of the beaver conference.

“Within this strangely pastoral setting the animals go about their business, sometimes finding uses for what we’ve left behind. The wolves rise up on their hind legs to peer through the windows of houses, looking for routes to the rooftops, which they use as observation posts for hunting. Eagles build nests in fire towers. Deer, elk, bison and wild horses flourish in abandoned farm fields.

 As to the beavers, they have shown an amazing resiliency to some of the worlds most cataclysmic events, in large surpassing sciences understanding of what we call sustainable habitat. Beavers, forced out decades ago when the landscape was engineered for collective agriculture, have already undone much of man’s work converting polluted swamps to free flowing rivers and restoring one of central Europe’s great marshlands.”

So I wouldn’t worry about that little pioneer beaver. He’s doing just what he’s supposed to – what we all should, really.  How careful would we all be of water if we didn’t think any more was coming? I mean out of the sky, out of the tap, out of the bottle – ever. Wouldn’t we all build little dams around every drop to eek it along?

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Last night we saw some very lucky beavers expanding their territory to Ward Street. I thought you’d like this footage of dad and the new kit.