The little tree munchers
Friday November 04th 2022, 8:55 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

I grew up next to a watershed preserve, a creek surrounded by park extending ten miles as it flowed down to the Potomac River.

So to my eyes it was the weirdest thing in the world to see creeks in California that in the 1950’s had been turned into concrete-lined, sharp-angled corridors. You, water! You go here, only, and yo, developers, build hereandhereandhereandhereandhere to your heart’s desire.

I found this article today: beavers were gone from this area since the Gold Rush, 160 years ago.

In the 1980’s, two of them were being considered a nuisance in the Central Valley.

California has a strict law re relocating wild animals: you can’t. If you trap one you can kill it mercifully if it’s not endangered in any way–or you can release it right there where you found it, after, y’know, giving it a good scolding about trespassing or something.

They didn’t quite say Fish and Game got permission or whether they’re the ones who grant the permission anyway so they just did what they wanted to or what (the article made it sound like the answer to the reporter was just don’t ask, guys), but, what they actually did in this one instance was to trap that pair where they weren’t wanted.

And then release them in the mountains above here near a large reservoir to see what they would do when they had the whole mountain to themselves.¬†Either mountain lions or coyotes would get them or we would get to see what it’s like to have an actual beaver dam in operation. Because, science! Plus a chance to right a historical wrong.

Beavers looked at that concrete dam and chortled, Hey, let us show you how it’s done! Went right around it at some point.

The creek below there feeds into a river in San Jose, and it turns out they can manage the saltwater of the Bay just fine as a way to find their way up new creeks. Which, slowly, gradually, they’ve been doing.

San Jose Water Department went, Since when do we have beavers?! and wanted to get rid of them. They got told no, and that the beavers would do far more good than harm.

They are a keystone species. Where they’ve shown up, all kinds of things are making a comeback already.

But they don’t touch those concrete creeks. That would be slapping an Eat Me sign on their backs. Also, Starve Me. Which means that to expand further they have to find the one further north where the two counties couldn’t agree in the post-War era as to which one would have to pay for all that, with influential people fighting it anyway, and the officials threw up their hands and left the banks in their natural state.

We’re talking the richest part of town on the south side of that county line, with bigger house lots with great views of the creek and lots of trees near the water line that those beavers might find tasty and which might soon upset some people.

Maybe Mark Zuckerberg could take up wildlife photography.

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