Beavers and SalmonRachel CastorNovember 10, 2012
The BeaversEuropean Beaver - Castor fiberFound in Europe and AsiaUnable to reproduce with C. canadensisAmerican Beaver - Castor canadensisFound in North AmericaIntroduced into South America, become invasiveNot the Mountain Beaver - Aplodontia rufa
American Beaver: Castor canadensisSecond largest extant rodent species (after capybara)Herbivorous (does NOT eat fish, insects, etc)Clumsy on land with rear feet webbedCreates its own habitat by damming running waterLives in constructed lodge or in burrows on bank
Eurasian Beaver: Castor fibreHunted to near extinction in EuropeExtinct in UK by 1600 ADExtinct in Denmark by 1000 AD8 populations survived and were used to repopulate other European countries, where it has been used to restore wetlands.
History of Beaver in N.AmericaUbiquitousarctic tundra to the deserts of northern Mexico from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans.Explorer David Thompson (crossed North America in 1784) "this Continent...from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, may be said to have been in the possession of two distinct races of Beings, Man and the Beaver."Historic Population = 100 to 200 million pre- fur trade
History of Beaver in N.AmericaTrapped forFur - Clothing and hatsCastoreum musk - for perfumes and medicinal uses1630 to 1640: 80,000 beaver taken per year from the Hudson River and western New York. 19th century California Fur RushHudson Bay Company (HBC) Scorched Earth policy1826-1834 HBC took 3,000 beaver per year PNW1850 - only 438 beaver taken as population decreasedNearly extinct by 1900
ProtectionPopulation rebounded to an estimated 10 to 15 millionOriginally estimated 100 to 200 million before fur trade 1900 The Lacey Act1903 Roosevelt establishes first Federal Bird Reservation. Goes onto establish Wildlife Refuges, National Parks, and National Forests, protecting 230, 000,000 acres1937 The Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (Pittman-Robertson Act) 1973 The Endangered Species Act State Laws governing wildlife proliferated in 1990sOR 498.002 Wildlife is state propertyOR 498.022 Selling of wildlife & furs is prohibited
Keystone SpeciesThe beaver is a keystone species, increasing biodiversity in its territory through creation of beaver ponds and wetlands.Aquatic plants colonize newly available watery habitat. Insect, invertebrate, fish, mammal, and bird diversity are also expanded.
Beavers and Fish: modern studiesIs the decline of salmonids related to the decline in beaver populations?Sagehen Creek Study, CABeaver dams increase # and size of troutColdwater River Study, BCBeaver ponds preferred by Coho for rearing habitatOver wintering and flood protectionStillaguamish River Study, WALoss of beaver ponds = 89% reduction in Coho smolt productionBeaver pond increase smolt production 80x > Large Woody Debris
Stream Flow and Water QualityBeaver ponds increase stream flow in dry seasons by storing run-off in rainy season.Increases groundwater tablesRemove sediment and pollutantsHarmful bacteria reduced in beaver pondsIncreased wetland functions
Beaver and TreesBeavers once thought to cause deforestation.Still killed and relocated for causing damage to treesForests damaged in South America where beaver are introduced, invasive species and where wetlands do not form or function as they do in the NorthwestStudies show beaver activity increases woody plant coverTrees provide shade and woody debris necessary for salmon survival
Conservation Corps 1930sBeaver stop soil erosion in streamsOregon, Washington, Wyoming, UtahEach $5 beaver completed $300 of work
Instead of DamsWA Lands Council pilot studyIn response to DOE plan to build $10,000,000,000 worth of dams for flood control
Support structures installed along Bridge Creek to encourage increased beaver activity in the John Day River drainage of E.Oregon.
Bridge Creek, ORTypical reach without beaver activityReach with beaver dam activity - notice large riparian zone
ESTUARY RESTORATIONRecently, beaver have been discovered living in brackish water in estuarine tidal marshes, where Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) densities were five times higher in beaver ponds than in neighboring areas. (Mapes 2009)
Do Dams Block Salmonids?
Restrict salmon during seasonal droughtTrout shown to cross 14 consecutivelyCoho jump up to 2mAnadromous trout and salmon found above beaver damsDownstream migration unaffected by beaver dams
Salmon Move Through Beaver Dams
Modern Threats to BeaverTrapping for International Fur MarketPest StatusDOA Killed 100,000 beaver in past 5 yearsHabitat DegradationExcessive Grazing in arid West
Overgrazing :cause of beaver and salmon declines
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