Protectors of a small colony of beavers on Tulocay Creek near Soscol Avenue became alarmed recently when flood control workers began cutting down dead trees in the middle of the beaver pond.
Ron Swim said he grew concerned when he saw trees being felled near the largest beaver mound, located adjacent to Hawthorne Suites. “I would like to see the wild beaver left alone to do what wild beavers do. They create ponds that will bring fish and ducks,” he said.
Until recently, Swim said he’d lived in Napa for 57 years and never seen a beaver. “It’s a nice addition to the community,” he said.
Rick Thomasser is the watershed and flood control operations manager with the Napa County Flood Control and Water Conservation District. It’s his job to keep creeks clear of possible flood hazards.
“The beaver habitat is great, but one of the downsides is they fell trees” for dam building, Thomasser said. This, in turn, causes a water back-up, which can drown tree roots and result in the death of the tree, he said.
That’s exactly what happened near the beaver dam just east of Soscol Avenue. Thomasser said the flood district had been monitoring a number of trees that had been engulfed by the new ponds.
A dead tree in the middle of a stream becomes a hazard and can collect debris. “We try to keep the center of the stream open to flows,” he said.
Proudly lowering the level of discourse, reporter Jennifer Huffman took the a phone call from concerned beaver friend Ron Swim who was worried Flood Control was chopping down the beavers’ trees and transformed it into a Beavers-are-Problematic article. She called Rusty several times for quotes and he mentioned keystone species, wildlife photographers, beavers saving water, etc. She was really only interested in the dog fight. Napa has been SO good about beavers up until now. I think she is hoping if she shakes the ants in the jar enough they’ll start fighting and make an exciting news story like we had in Martinez.
Rusty Cohn checks in on the animals five to six times a week. He hopes that as few trees as possible are removed near the beaver lodges.
“I think flood control is doing their best to take care of the beavers,” while at the same time preventing flooding, he said. “I don’t think what they’ve done so far is causing too much grief for the beavers,” he said.
“It’s a balancing act,” having beavers in an urban area, said Cohn.
Rusty is such an excellent beaver defender. I think he’s in that stage now where he can still recognize how bizarre it is to care about something this new this much, but is fascinated where the trail will lead. Obviously he’s reading everything he can get his hands on about the topic. And he’s struggling to alienate no one while he steadily builds education and support. I sometimes fondly remember those days. I actually remember standing at the Escobar bridge to film the beavers in the beginning, which is where I always used to watch them. I never went any farther or down to the primary, maybe because I could sense it would push me farther into the story. I filmed from there and it seemed like the distance down to the dam was this magical, inviting OTHER place. The beavers story, not mine.
Here’s a time capsule from those days, May 6, 2007. There is even a mislabeled nutria for you to spot. Ahh memories!
I have long since crossed the rubicon into the new world and there’s no going back for me. Maybe Rusty is tempted to go back while he still can? (We hope not!)
In the other direction, the South bay is equally interested in beavers. Here’s a video that Steve Holmes of friends of los Gatos Creeks, (A truly heroic creek-watch group that does unbelievable cleanups with massive public support) just sent.
One comment: Those beavers probably weren’t building a ‘leaf nest’. It’s probably a scent mound to mark their silicon valley territory. Other than that I’m always happy to see beavers making a splash! Thanks Steve!
One final update of some not-so-local beavers. On Sunday we had another visitor from the Blue Heron Nature Preserve in Atlanta, Georgia. This time the president, Kevin McCauley, who cycled from Bart to my house where he met Cheryl and I, had some lemonade and friendly developer-taming conversation and then went down to the creek where he was delighted to see three beavers courtesy of Martinez.
I’m thinking the beaver festival in Georgia can’t be far away.