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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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