Beavers in this country happen to have their own fan club. I’ve heard from a few of its members this past week after my story about beavers was posted online.
“We were so happy to see it here in Martinez, CA,” Heidi Perryman, president and founder of an organization called Worth a Dam, wrote in an email. In her town, “we worked to coexist with beavers nearly 10 years ago by installing a flow device to control flooding. Now because of our safe, beaver-tended wetlands we regularly see otter, steelhead, wood duck and mink in our urban stream! And celebrate every year with an annual beaver festival.”
That’s right, folks, an annual beaver festival.
Perhaps we are entering into a new age, the age of the interminable beaver. These buck-toothed, fluffy (when dry), flat-tailed tumblers of trees and engineers of our ecosystems are beginning to get a little more recognition rather than sheer derision in neighborhoods where they were once considered a nuisance.
When I told our editor Karl Blankenship that I wanted to write this story about beavers — spurred by a study out of the Northeast that looked at the nitrogen removal attributes of their dams — he sent me a trove of notes he’d collected about the critters. We’ve been watching beavers for a while, waiting for the pendulum to swing back in their favor, I suppose. Other comments on the story indicate the Year of Beaver might not be far away for our Bay area as well:
“Let’s hear a cheer for the eager beavers and clean water!” writes one commenter.
“Thank you for spreading the word about the importance of the beaver to our ecosystems,” writes another.
And William R. Bey writes a longer ode to beavers in the comments section, calling beavers “beautiful, intelligent, industrious.” He hopes that “officials in Toms River, NJ, will read this article and change their minds about trapping and killing the beavers who are living on their Lake Placid.
I found in the beaver story an instructive tale for many other species. We should be a little more thoughtful before we cast a mammalian neighbor as strictly an annoyance rather than a partner in creating and maintaining an ecosystem from which we both reap benefits. For the article, I interviewed a hydrologist who does stream restoration projects throughout the watershed. He wondered aloud if fewer of them would be necessary if we’d just leave (some of that work) to beavers, let them do their thing where it makes sense for them to do their thing.
You heard it, straight from the professional ecosystem engineer — let’s leave some of that work to beaver.