Author Topic: Pearl's talk on beavers' part in watersheds, 10-11-19  (Read 9 times)

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Offline Suzanne Meeks

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Pearl's talk on beavers' part in watersheds, 10-11-19
« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2019, 08:54:31 AM »
Beavers – Our Watershed Partners
talk by Pearl Schneider 10-11-19

   The Mayflower trip was financed by beaver hides;  Manattan was built with them.
   Trappers started taking North American beavers in the 1500's – some years as many as 100,000.  This wiped out the eastern beaver popluation.  Their fur felts beautifully and makes wonderful coats and hats.  The beaver-felt hat went out of style when silk hats became the fad in the mid 1800's, but  250,000 beaver hides were still exported in 1878-9.
   Before contact, it's estimated that there were 400 million beavers in 150 million dams in North America (Canada-Mexico; there's no evidence they inhabited South America).  They were once in every state but Florida (where alligators were the apex preditor).  Western tribes considered the beaver sacred.  Part of the reason the west is dryer: It's short 60 million beavers.  Lewis and Clark (1804-6) shad to portage round their dams on the Missouri River.  When Audubon came to paint them in 1843, he never saw one. 
   Beavers are semi-acquatic, monogamous, territorial, matriarchal.  There are usually 5-7 per colony.  Kits stay 2 years.  Only 1/3 survive; wolves and  bobcats like to eat them; even otters eat beaver kits.  Willow, aspen, and sycamore are their favorite food.  The eat the cambium layer before storing the tree for winter use.
   A beaver dam has a stone foundation, then logs, then sticks are woven in, and it's packed with mud.
   People and beavers want the same land, but the land wouldn't be so good for people if beavers hadn't been there first. Their dams slow the flow of the river and make the water deeper, keeping it cooler; this is good for cold-water fish, and creates habitat  for other wildlife, including otter and muscrat. 
   They may build a complex of 3 dams – this creates wetlands and often raises the water table.  One beaver complex in Wisconsin is so big it can be seen from space.  They can lasst hundreds of years if not disturbed.
   When streams runs fast and scour to bedrock, beavers will dam them.
The sound of running water imspires them to build (people keep them away from culverts, e.g., by playing the sound of running water elsewhere).
   Beaver dams filter out sediment by the truckload.  Herbicides and bacteria bind with the sediment and are chemcally changed.  There are 50-75% fewer suspended soldis downstream of a beaver dam – though there may be some extra methane.  But our federal senators have helped pass legislation forbidding the Army Corps of Engineers to consdier wildlife when discussing flood control.  There are rescue organizations and indivuals who move unwanted beavers to more suitalbe areas -- but it's illegal to relocate them in one state.
   People often want the land that beaver dams flood; Pearl knows of a cattle farmer who kills beavers because their dams flood his pastures.  They may remove trees people wanted.  But she said this is “water in the bank.”  When the Ozarks had a drought in the 1950s, the only place that had water was Oran More – thanks to its beaver dam.  There's one on Turkey Creek, and one on Lick Creek at Eastwind.
    Not everyone hates beavers.  They were re-introduced outside Yellowstone, and have now gone into the park.  In Martinez, in Northern California, there's an annual beaver festival, celebrating the return of beavers.  In some places, fake dams are being placed to attract beavers; they take up housekeeping in about half of these   
   Pearl is trying to map beaver activity our area.  Let her know if you see or hear of one.                         --Suzanne Meeks