Hey guess what? The Martinez beavers saved themselves and the city throws them a yearly beaver festival!
I freely admit I complain far too much. We know its true. I’d better go on vacation right now and improve my attitude. Thank god Mendocino will get me just in time. I’m not happy when we’re NOT mentioned as a ‘beaver success story’ – but ahem, this isn’t really a lot better.
One great example of this win-win approach comes from Martinez, a town that learned to embrace the beavers that moved into Alhambra Creek and threatened to flood an area of town and a major transportation hub. Citizens joined forces with the city to install a simple flow-control device that allows the water to be maintained at an acceptable level without destroying the beaver dams or removing the animals.
What might have been a liability has now been turned into an asset. The city now hosts the Martinez Beaver Festival and promotes these creatures as watchable wildlife, bringing thousands of visitors and supporting the local economy.
What a relief! I thought Worth A Dam hosted that event for the last nine years. How silly I was spending literally months planning and worrying, days with supplies in my living room, and weeks on the phone arranging things, when the city was handling all the details by itself. Whew! Maybe I’ll take a seaside vacation next August and read about it in the Press Democrat since they have made it clear Worth A Dam services aren’t required at all.
Other than these fairly irksome paragraphs its a nice article about the beaver blitz being organized by OAEC to count beaver populations in Sonoma county. I’ll share the good bits and you should think about helping out with their beaver count if you can.
Over the next several decades, conservationists began to recognize the benefits of beavers and began advocating for an end to over-trapping, even supporting efforts to reintroduce beavers to degraded stream channels. The science began trickling in to substantiate the claim that beaver dams conserve water because, as Brock Dolman explains, they “slow it, spread it and sink it.”
“It turns out that as water backs up behind small temporary dams, it flows out across the floodplain of a stream, giving it an opportunity to water riparian forests, trap sediment and slow the water so that it has time to sink into the gravel and replenish the groundwater,” said Dolman, Occidental Arts and Ecology Center WATER Institute director. And this is only the first of many benefits.
In an effort to promote beaver stewardship, Dolman and Kate Lundquist, also of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center WATER Institute, have been leading a statewide effort to promote beaver stewardship. They work with farmers, vineyard owners, municipalities and resource agencies across the state to share emerging techniques for receiving the watershed benefits that beavers provide while preventing property damage.
“Here in Sonoma County, we see Sonoma County Regional Parks as one of the beavers’ best hopes,” says Lundquist. “Most of the recent observations have been in or near county parks, with the most consistent cluster showing up between Maxwell Farms and Sonoma Valley Regional Parks.”
With that in mind, Lundquist is working with Regional Parks and the Sonoma Ecology Center to host a one day “blitz” of the county to look for beaver signs. On Oct. 8, observers will join teams throughout the county in the first ever “Beaver Blitz.” Register at inaturalist.org/projects/sonoma-county-beaver-blitz.
To learn more about beavers, visit oaec.org/publications/beaver-in-california.
I’ve heard that our own Cheryl Reynolds will be joining the efforts, which is lucky for them because she is very experienced at tracking beaver sigh. It’s fun to think of what they might find. I’m not exactly sure what system they’ll use to ‘count’ beavers, since they’ll be looking for signs, dams, chews, tracks etc and that requires someones system to convert into population estimates but I wish them all the best. Good luck Brock and Kate! I hope your count generates interest and raises awareness too.
There are a couple good beaver articles this morning. The other worth mentioning comes from Wildlife Defenders in Colorado.
Beavers don’t often go exploring. Perhaps only once a lifetime, when they disperse as juveniles and search for a new home and mate, do they really explore the boundaries of their world. But one beaver family recently went on quite the adventure. That family of nine beavers was captured earlier that week in the north part of Denver. Their final destination, and their new family home, was a crystal clear mountain stream about an hour south of Denver.
Beaver are nature’s ecosystem engineers, felling trees and building dams, and changing waterways for their own benefit. But they also benefit other species in the process, including humans as well as many species that are now in jeopardy at least in part due to the historic loss of beavers. Their dams help to control the quantity and quality of water downstream, which both humans and animals use. Their ponds and flooded areas create habitat for many plants and animals, such as fish, birds, insects, and amphibians. In fact, some species only live near beaver ponds. Beavers dramatically change their environment, and those changes can last for hundreds of years, even after the beaver have moved on.
This specific beaver family’s former home, a stream on the north of Denver, is slated for re-alignment this winter. The stream engineering will destroy the beaver’s home and habitat. But officials knew it would be a shame to lose the natural engineering benefits that these beavers can provide. So, Denver’s Department of Parks and Recreation contacted Wildlife2000, a local non-profit organization focused exclusively on beaver relocation, and Defenders to live-trap and relocate the beavers to a place where they would be safe and could help create important habitat for other species.
The family will probably move a little bit upstream or down, but eventually they will find the ideal spot. They will start to build a dam, creating a deeper pool for themselves where they can build a lodge, and creating habitat for other plants and animals as well. Within a year, the area around their home will be quite different; within five years, even more changed. New plants and animals will move in and take advantage of the beavers and all their hard work. Defenders will return regularly to monitor the results and learn lessons for future beaver restoration efforts. Relocating this family was a definitive win-win, for them and for all wildlife where they are making their new home.
I love this discussion of the valuable role beavers play in creeks and streams. But, as you know, I’m never entirely comfortable with the “yeah let’s move beavers and solve all our problems” article as a solution. I remarked accordingly in a comment that they decided not to print, but you know by now what it said anyway. Solve problems with flow devices and wrap trees and let the beavers stay were they are. Because the beaver population is going to keep rebounding and we’re going to run out of remote places to move them to eventually. Better to let them reintroduce themselves and use their own naturally territorial behaviors to keep others away.
Now that’s the beaver news and I am outta here!