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 Farmer.com.
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