Beaver in our Midst

A guest article by Mike Settell

 

Beavers

Beavers

 

On June 26th, 2010, I inspected the South Fork of Mink Creek to document conditions of the Box Canyon road culvert that was being plugged by beaver.  Like many roads throughout the west, the South Fork Road parallels the creek and so problems with the road-creek interface are, at best, managed.  From its confluence with the West Fork of Mink Creek, the South Fork extends to its headwaters near the southern flank Scout Mountain in southwest Bannock County.  In the spring of 2010, I had seen no less than 25 beaver dams as far as the headwaters.   I was eager to see how the beaver were doing.

As I followed the South Fork upstream, I noticed that the dams I had seen the previous spring were failing, a sign that the beaver were no longer working in the area.  As I rode towards the Box Canyon Crossing, I observed more and more abandoned dams and receding water levels.  By the time I reached the end of the road, four out of five colonies were abandoned.

I continued riding through the canyon up to the gentle plateau that forms the upper South Fork drainage.   It was here that I hoped to see again the massive beaver ponds and the expanded willow acreage that ten years earlier was little more than dead sticks surrounding a marginal trampled, eroded stream.  Now, these colonies were also gone.   What once was a stream with approximately 35 potential cutthroat rearing ponds is now a silty, slithering stream, losing velocity and flowing muddily towards the Portneuf River.

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World’s biggest beaver dam discovered in northern Canada

The dam is over a half mile long-

World’s biggest beaver dam discovered in northern Canada. by Michel Comte and Jacques Lemieux. Yahoo News.

Regarding beaver locally (near Pocatello, ID), today I went up to check on the big beaver ponds below Scout Mountain. I found some ATV vandal today or yesterday had ridden the ATV all over the soft mud and meadow next to the ponds, deliberately making a big mess in a vehicle closed area.

Scientists seek proof of N. Cascades grizzlies

Reported sightings in the Cascades of Washington State lead to funding to search for grizzlies.

There have been reported sightings of grizzly bears for many years in the Cascades of Washington but very little has been confirmed. As the article states, grizzly bears don’t usually disperse long distances like wolves do so colonizing new areas takes longer for them. Another reason for slow recovery for grizzlies is that they reproduce at a much slower rate than wolves and they have a fairly high human caused mortality rate.

Grizzlies here, as in other parts of the lower 48 have full protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Scientists seek proof of N. Cascades grizzlies
By K.C. MEHAFFEY
THE WENATCHEE WORLD

Utah wildlife: Leave it to the beavers

Utah gets a beaver management plan-

Restoring beaver to a creek changes just about everything, mostly for the good, especially if there are no buildings or needed roads near the creek.

Story on Utah’s first beaver management plan. Plan looks to use the large rodents as a watershed restoration tool. By Brett Prettyman. The Salt Lake Tribune

Here at Pocatello, in SE Idaho where I live, there has been active beaver restoration in Bannnock and Portneuf Mountains ranges to the south and southeast of town. A number of the streams have been transformed. The flow of water in them has generally stabilized over the year, the creek areas are greener and the humidity of the drainage increased. They are also a magnet for other wildife, especially birds, and I have seen fish large enough to catch for the first time in several creeks where I wasn’t sure there even was a fish population.

Beaver management is necessary if there are roads and structures. Fortunately, the attitude is changing from kill a problem beaver, to transplant it.

It looks like Utah is ahead of Idaho, however, in beaver management.

beaver-ponding_graffiti-trees

New beaver pond floods a former area of vandalism and stream degradation. East Fork Mink Creek, Idaho. Copyright Ralph Maughan

Watershed Sculptures

Made by Man (Active Restoration)

Dan McCormick combines art, ecology, and engineering to build sculptures that simulate a natural process/feature (ex: beaver dam) of a typical watershed that filters sediment, recharges a floodplain, establishes riparian vegetation/wildlife habitat and promotes general watershed health.

When people actively work ~ say, planting willows or spreading seed ~ to restore a landscape, it’s referred to as “active restoration”.

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Democrat Gulch, Big Wood River Watershed

5/17/09

up Democrat Gulch © Brian Ertz 2009

© Brian Ertz 2009

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Agencies to let more bison outside Yellowstone

Bison will be able to occupy the Horse Butte area for the first time-

Finally, the bison will be able to leave the Park and occupy this now cow-free area area for the first time this winter.

Conservation groups and the couple who bought Horse Butte have prepared the way, and it looks like the plainly obvious right thing to do will finally be allowed.

One caution, this is still a draft.

Associated Press story. Agencies to Let More Bison Outside of Yellowstone in winter. This is a much longer version of the story than the one first posted.

Will forthcoming Alberta grizzly plan stop the bears’ nosedive?

Biologists push for action on grizzly plan. Bear population continues in decline despite 2002 warning in report.
Darcy Henton, The Edmonton Journal.

Perhaps only 500 grizzlies are left in this vast province, fewer than the Bob Marshall/Glacier National Park grizzly recovery area* just to the south of Alberta.

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*Officially named the Northern Continental Divide recovery area.

Guest opinion: Western Watersheds not to blame for Murphy fires

Some time ago, this web site posted the opinion of public lands rancher and state legislator Bert Brackett on the Murphy fire complex.

Here again is Brackett’s opinion. Failed policy based on flawed science has gotten us here. Guest opinion in the Idaho Statesman. Brackett blamed the Western Watersheds Project because it won a lawsuit and then entered into an agreement that reduced grazing by 30% in the BLM’s Jarbidge Resource Area where a good deal of the fire burned.

The Statesman then published a guest opinion from Jon Marvel, executive director of the WWP.

Here is Marvel’s guest opinion. Western Watersheds not to blame for Murphy fires. Idaho Statesman. In addition to the extreme dryness and heat, Marvel blamed it in 100 years of mismanagement of ranchers and the BLM from over grazing that promoted the spread of cheat grass and the planting of exotic grasses like crested wheatgrass which did not, as predicted, retard fire. The end result was more fuel to burn than before cattle and sheep were brought to this land. The livestock also wiped out the green riparian areas that served as barriers to range fires. This included not just green grass, but green shrubs and trees that supported beaver ponds. The ponds created large hard-to-burn areas that were difficult for fires to cross over.

More on this year’s Western fires

2007 fire conditions are off the charts

Officials are finding it difficult to predict fire behavior because this year’s data don’t fit any model. Experts say climate change is a big part of this season’s extremes. By Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman.

Busy Week for Fires in Northern Rockies. Record-Breaking Fire Season? New West. By David Nolt.

New fire threatens home in Southeast Idaho [near Preston]; 14 other fires rage. By Tessa Schweiger. Idaho Statesman.

My view is that a century of bad grazing practice, suppression of forest fires, logging with little consideration of its effects (positive or negative) on future fuel conditions are major factors, but number one is the drying and warming climate. This makes the fight against cheatgrass, the need to restore native grasses and forbs, conservation of large trees in unlogged areas, and judicious thinning (not just any kind of thinning) of forests more important than ever. Read the rest of this entry »

Salt Lake Tribune says wolf delisting premature

Editorial. Top predator, Wolf delisting in West is premature. The Salt Lake Tribune. March 10, 2007

Beaver restoration in SE Idaho

This is a story about beaver being reintroduced to places in southeast Idaho where they have been wiped out. Because of the natural abundance of aspen and willows in Eastern Idaho, the area is naturally better beaver habitat than points north, such as central Idaho and Yellowstone.

In the past, many beaver dams were deliberately destroyed. Just a decade ago some agency people and some farmers argued that beaver stole water and grass by impounding it. The result of dynamiting or trapping out beavers was stream erosion from rapid runoff, and lower water flows in the summertime, and the drying of riparian meadows.

It’s good to see that incorrect view going and maybe gone and beaver restoration underway.

Article in the Idaho State Journal.