Beavers as Master Builders of Wildlife Habitats

Photo by Minette Layne


Full disclosure here: there are no beavers living at Hawk Hill. That said, we do have our share here in El Dorado County, the Sierras, as well as throughout all of Northern California. Beavers are often viewed in a negative light and quite frankly, they’ve brought it on themselves. You see, the very thing that’s prized in a human employee, has earned beavers a bad rap: they’re too dam good at their job.


Photo by Carly & Art
The fact is that beavers are master engineers and when they choose the wrong place to gnaw trees down, farmlands and roads become flooded. Beavers are overachievers and when they want something dammed, well, by golly, it will be dammed. Once widely considered nothing more than a pest, the beaver (Castor canadensis) is finally being heralded for its true value as a as an irreplaceable engineer for the ecosystem and a major contribution to wildlife. Farmers, biologists and environmentalists are finding ways to balance road and farmland damage and continue to protect beavers at the same time.


Photo by Finchlake 2000
Turns out that North America’s largest rodent is extremely important for wildlife habitat restoration, as well as increasing bird populations. Beavers end up reviving natural stream function, repairing degraded streams, recharging local water tables, and creating wetlands that encourage the survival of numerous plant and bird species.

Wetlands are created when dams create flooding. This produces more fertile land and therefore, homes for other animals and plants. A marshland is then created as the water slowly dries and an entirely new wildlife habitat is created and acts as a host for an entirely different group of animals and plants. Down the road, a brand-new meadow is born in the marsh’s place and with that even more plants and animals flourish. In fact, one study shows that the more dams beavers built, the more abundant the local songbird population became.

Photo by DMCdevit

How I love it when we finally understand the importance of a wildlife species.

If you’d like to keep abreast of what’s happening in the world of the beaver, check out this San Francisco Bay Area group Worth a Dam.

Chris McLaughlin’s hobby farm and beautiful wildlife garden is located in the Gold Country of Northern California’s foothills (zone 8A). Check out her blog A Suburban

© 2012, Chris McLaughlin. All rights reserved. This article is the property of We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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  1. says

    Chris what a dam great post. It so refreshing when we can give wildlife its due. We do have beavers but they were moved by our state Dept of Environmental Conservation because they were flooding a road. The area they damned was a wetland next to a road that had so many songbirds and other wildlife. They took down lots of trees and made amazing dams that were removed.
    Donna Donabella recently posted..Gardens Eye Verse-January

  2. says

    We spent some time in Yellowstone last year and heard how the re-introduction of the wolf helped bring back the beaver because wolves reduced the population of the deer and similar mammals and then the trees that the beavers prefer (was it aspens? cannot remember) came back. The increase of the beavers meant healthier water, new habitat for other animals and so on. I loved this post. Go beavers!
    Green Bean recently posted..New Year’s Harvest

  3. Chris McLaughlin says

    Town Mouse ~~ Exactly! (I also added the Martinez Beavers link in my post because it’s a great one! But I have it under the blog name “Worth a Dam”)

  4. says

    Great post! Love beavers. They have not yet re-appeared where I live in Stamford Ct: we instead have their wonderful smaller cousins, the muskrats, who are well suited for the urban environment.

    For interesting spare time reading, google “how to build a beaver baffle”. This is an old Yankee tick for having your beaver and the water flow too.

  5. says

    Excellent article Chris – lol about “beavers are too good at their dam job”! :)

    Here in MA with all our water, there have been many clashes between beavers and humans over the years – fortunately we still have enough natural areas where they can do their thing, but as Sue mentioned (see beaver “baffles”), there is a lot of creativity that can be achieved in keeping them from flooding homes and roads…
    Ellen Sousa recently posted..When Life Gives You Storm Damage, Make Habitat!

  6. says

    Love the little critters. We have a few around the lakes by where I live. This summer they were out in a pond that is usually dry in the summers but his past summer one was swimming around, he happened to gnaw one of my favorite trees down but was not successful in damming the dry pond. I will see what transpires in the next summer rainfall.
    karen ho fatt recently posted..Fire Pit Glass

  7. says

    Chris! What a lovely post and thanks for the plug! Funny that the commenter actually refers to the Martinez beavers story which STARTED Worth A Dam! I love the photos, where are they from? I’ll link to this on the website. Thanks!!!

  8. says

    Hi Chris, I love your post! Everyone (including city officials!) needs to know about the importance of beaver for healthy wetlands and our environment in general. We have antiquated, infuriating methods for dealing with beaver in Ottawa, Canada. They are our national animal, yet they are trapped in conibear traps or leg hold traps when they are found in city waterways. We are strongly urging the city to adopt more humane, progressive methods of coexisting with beaver so they can live in peace. I hope this will happen this year. Beaver are amazing and lovely animals. I’ll put your link on our blog!
    Anita Utas recently posted..Colorado relocates beaver, why can’t we?


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