SciSun: Party Poopers   Leave a comment



North American Beaver (Castor canadensis)Here, we have the humble North American Beaver (Castor canadensis). For the typical beaver, their main goal in life is to cut down small trees and easy-to-get-to branches of big trees; drag the wood to nearby streams where they build dams that create ponds; so beaver can build a stick-and-mud home (called a lodge), safe in the middle of that pond. Yes, Beaver is a very industrious and purposeful character. Plus, in all that cutting-and-dragging-and-building, beavers help create wetlands and open areas for new plant growth and clear the forest of excess wood that could be fuel in a wildfire. So what’s not to love, about the beaver?

But some people think beavers cause more problems than they solve; and, these beaver-blamers also say beavers don’t even belong in the forest, and should be removed. All this is causing more conflict than a beaver can shake a stick at. And a beaver can shake a lot of sticks.

The North American Beaver is only found in North America (of course!); however there is a similar species of beaver in Europe, and parts of Asia. When early adventurers and explorers came to North America (the ‘New World’, it was named, although it had been here all along), they found beaver almost everywhere – from North to South and East to West. Sadly, men made quite the business of catching as many beaver as they could and turning them into hats and winter clothing. By the mid 1800’s, few beaver were left and those were usually in places too inconvenient for people to go. So, no one really knows exactly where beaver did, and didn’t live before all the beaver-brutality began; or if the beaver moved into places they hadn’t been before to avoid being caught.

And that brings us to the current anti-beaver barrage. In the streams feeding into Lake Tahoe, high in the mountains of North-East California and North-West Nevada, government officials are being forced to remove the dams and lodges and re-locate the beaver because they have been identified as non-native species (The beaver, not the government officials. Although it’s possible the officials might not be natives, either). We know how destructive and unpredictable non-native species are, and government agencies like US Fish and Game; Forest Service; state wildlife offices; and other departments are required to remove these species whenever they can. Officially, it’s on ‘record’ that beaver didn’t live in the region until the 1930’s, when the California Department of Fish and Game transplanted a few animals into the area, in an attempt at natural soil and water conservation. In fact some of these beaver were dropped into remote areas by parachute! Unfortunately, the 1930’s was too early for any of them to be wearing helmet-cams, or else we’d be seeing skydiving beaver videos on YouTube.

However, there are old reports and word-of-mouth passed down through generations that beaver have always lived near the lake, maybe just not as many that lived elsewhere. The climate, food, and living conditions are similar to other places beaver have lived thousands of years – why not Lake Tahoe?

So while beaver may, or may not have been in the area for thousands of years, what is the main complaint of the beaver-beraters? The annual Kokanee Salmon Festival, an Autumn party for non-native fish that were only introduced to Lake Tahoe in 1944. Every Fall, the salmon need clear, unobstructed streams to migrate and because there are so many fish in one place at one time, it’s become quite a tourist attraction. So, out goes the suspected ‘non-native’ beaver, so people can spend a few days watching the known non-native salmon swim by, and jump over obstacles on their seasonal migration. In an example of bad judgment (and desire to P-A-R-T-Y!), people have decided to remove beaver who ‘may’ have been there all along (and probably were, even if we didn’t know about them) to celebrate fish we definitely know aren’t native. But for the busy North American Beaver, it seems no matter how hard they work and how important their work is, they just aren’t invited to the party.


Michonne Says:  Sometimes men say Marmots and Beavers look the same. That’s silly. Marmots have long pretty fuzzy tails. Beavers have flat dull boring tails. Anyone can see that.

Posted September 29, 2013 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

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