Arctic Restoration — Go Beavers!

Guest Essay by Kip Hansen

 

beaver_dam

Oh those busy,  busy beavers — aren’t they great?  There’s the little guy in the corner of the photo, he and his pals built that dam that slowed the stream and produced a large shallow beaver pond.   The American beaver is a keystone species on the North American continent in that modifies the environment in such a way that the overall ecosystem builds upon the change.  The ponds, wetlands, and meadows formed by beaver dams increases bio-diversity and improves overall environmental quality.

This lovely active creature has been accused — in the NY Times Science /Climate section by Kendra “Gloom is My Beat” Pierre-Louis [seriously, that’s her real Twitter handle] — in an article with the anti-Darwinian title of “Beavers Emerge as Agents of Arctic Destruction”.

This is a marvelous piece of CAGW propaganda based on the AGU Poster presented by Ben Jones, Ken Tape and others at the recent 2017 AGU meeting in New Orleans.   The poster made a splash in the press, including an article in the blog Earther with the amusing title of “Hordes of Beavers Are Invading Alaska’s Tundra”.

It is true that the beaver are making a comeback in the great northern reaches of North America.  It is not, however news, and has been well discussed in the literature since as early as 2009.

Thomas Jung and others describe the situation:

“Jarema et al. (2009) demonstrated that beaver respond strongly to climate warming, both by expanding its range and by increasing its abundance at the core of its range. in terms of range expansion, beavers are similar to moose (Tape et al. 2016b) and Snowshoe hare (Tape et al. 2016a) in that they would be expected to benefit from shrubification of tundra environments be – cause they can forage extensively on shrubs (Aleksiuk 1970; Busher 1996), and they also use shrubs as building materials for their lodges and dams (Jung and Staniforth 2010). Given that shrubification of the Beaufort Coastal Plain is underway (Myers-Smith et al. 2011b; Naito and Cairns 2015; Tape et al. 2016a) and has likely increased habitat suitability for beavers, it is plausible that they could colonize waterbodies there, once barriers to colonization (i.e., mountain passes or the ocean) were successfully crossed.”

Those clever beavers somehow have managed to find their way to the spot marked on  Canada’s Beaufort Plain — without any suitable habitat through which to travel.

Beaufort_Plain_beavers

The American beaver has a distinct connection to the history of European settlement of North America (United States and Canada).  It was mostly because of a hat, this hat:

beaver_top_hat

That’s the beaver top hat — all the craze in all of Europe in the 1600-1700s.

Between 1600 and 1800, Europe was in the thrall of the beaver hat, every man simply had to have a beaver hat.  Women too wore hats made of beaver felt.

A single high quality hat required 2 to 3 beaver pelts according to a description of the process online here.

Hudson Bay Company records show that that between 1700 and 1770 alone, 21 million beaver hats were exported from England alone (not including domestic consumption of beaver hats nor beaver pelts also known to be exported to other European countries) — using up to 60 MILLION beaver pelts.  This figure does not include the number of beaver pelts shipped to Europe by the French voyagers trading companies nor the America Fur Company founded by John Jacob Astor.

The end of the beaver hat craze did not come for many more years but eventually, by 1840, the silk top hat had replaced the beaver hat in Europe.

By that time, in North America, the beaver had been entirely trapped out of most of its range, dropping from populations as high as 60 million to an estimate as low as six million.  Luckily, beavers live remote areas and rough terrain and by the mid-1800s, their value having dropped, they were saved from extinction — but only after they had been extirpated from most areas of North America, including the far north.

Since that time, the beaver has been slowly fighting its way back into the American landscape, often to the consternation of their humans neighbors.  This is true where I live now, at the foot of the Catskill Mountains on the west side of the Central Hudson River Valley of New York, beavers dam up tiny streams on expensive land, flooding the flat places where owners wish to build half-million dollar homes.

Not everyone is angry with the little busy beavers though, the Lands Council considers the beaver as a silver-bullet solution to our natural resource and environmental health concerns.”    NPR’s PBS’s NATURE program has a wonderful episode on beavers titled “Leave it to Beavers” in which are shown to be “as natural builders and brilliant hydro-engineers, beavers are being recruited to accomplish everything from finding water in a bone-dry desert to recharging water tables and coaxing life back into damaged lands.”

While the Tape and Jones AGU poster was mostly negative about the Arctic beavers and the effects they would have, Tape was more even handed when speaking to The Earther, which reports:

“Research shown at last week’s American Geophysical Union meeting revealed that everyone’s favorite rodent has been using sticks to build dams on the Alaska’s treeless tundra. The colonization is reshaping the geography of the north and could allow other animals to follow beavers into the brave new warming world.”

Why the beavers are moving into the tundra is an open question. Climate change may play a role, but it’s highly speculative at this point. Ken Tape, a University of Alaska, Fairbanks researcher working on the project, said it’s difficult to know if trappers hunted beavers off the tundra prior to the start of the aerial photography.

“Beavers may be changing the Arctic, but I’d bet there’d be as many (or more) winners as losers,” Ben Goldfarb, a journalist working on a book about beavers slated to come out next year, told Earther. “As other species move north with climate change, are arctic beavers actually helping them adapt?”  Goldfarb suggested moose might be one species to benefit. Beaver ponds could allow more willows, a favorite food of moose, to prosper in the harsh landscape and give them the ability to branch out into new areas.”

Bottom Line:

I’m with Ben Goldfarb.  The re-introduction of beavers into the landscapes of the far north do not represent destruction — on the contrary, they represent a restoration.

# # # # #

Author’s Comment Policy:

Love to read and respond to your on-topic, civil comments.

What do you think?

Beavers as pesky, habitat-destroying interlopers?   or

Beavers as habitat restoration agents?

Let me hear from you below.

If you want me to respond specifically to a question or comment, address it to “Kip…” so I am sure to see it.

# # # # #

 

 

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Tom Halla

All change is bad. That is a tenet of the green faith, and even worse if humans are somehow responsible for the change. So any warming from the Little Ice Age cannot be a good thing, by definition.

Gaz

But the beavers are cutting down native trees – the greens will need to stop them

Tom Halla

But the rationale will be that the beavers encourage the growth of willows around their ponds, and the willows were not there before, so having beavers in an area where there have been no beavers in the short record, so the whole thing is human’s fault. And send the greens more money.

rogerthesurf

Well if the greens are consistent in agreeing that the beaver is an eco plus phenomenon, lets bear in mind that there is a European beaver too, who hasn’t built a dam in about 1,000 years as far as I know. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurasian_beaver

Oops lets not give the greens ideas! 😉

Cheers

Roger

http://www.thedemiseofchristchurch.com

RAH

“Gaz
But the beavers are cutting down native trees – the greens will need to stop them
Reply”

Yea, they’re wasting “green energy”! The trees could be cut down and processed into wood pellets for power plants in Europe that are considered “Green” because the fuel is a “renewable”, resource. Never mind the carbon.

Ron Long

That’s right Gaz. I went to Oregon State University where the mascot is Benny the Beaver, and the (unofficial) motto was “eat a beaver and save a tree”.
Giardia anyone? By the way beavers are plentiful at Tierra del Fuego and make swamps in valley bottoms and traveling by horse difficult. I’m personally conflicted by this report.

tty

“lets bear in mind that there is a European beaver too, who hasn’t built a dam in about 1,000 years as far as I know.”l

Dead wrong. Eurasian beavers bulid dams just like north american ones when in suitable habitat. However when living in major rivers they don’t build dams (and neither do north american beavers), for obvious reasons. There are limits to what even busy beavers can accomplish.

pameladragon

Beavers only build dams if there is not enough water impounded for their use. A river is a wonderful resource for beavers, no need to expend all that energy building a dam. They burrow up into the bank and create a cozy underground den, much like otters.

PMK

NorwegianSceptic

Here in Norway we have hunting season on the little furry engineer, so no extinction there. Tastes quite well actually, but not in early spring because most of their food during winter is aspen and that is reflected in the meat…
We even export them:
https://www.scottishbeavers.org.uk/

rocketscientist

RAH, the beaver situation in SA is a real problem. They are invasive species down there and are causing issues.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaver_eradication_in_Tierra_del_Fuego

commieBob

How do they feel about nature restoring things to the way they were before humans arrived?

The historical range of the beaver extends to almost all of North America, including most of the Yukon and most of Alaska. link Restoring them to places where they had been extirpated should be a good thing, shouldn’t it.

old white guy

beaver ponds create that nice clean water that everyone needs to survive.

The come-back of beavers in New England was helpful in terms of flood-control. There has not been over 30 feet above flood stage on the Connecticut River at Hartford since the beavers came back to the upstream headwaters around 1940.

However when they move to the suburbs all sorts of problems arise, which are discussed in this post:

https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/beavers-and-bureaucrats/

pameladragon

Beavers are amazing little engineers, we have lots of them in Central Virginia and I have great respect for their abilities. It is good news that they are growing in numbers in the far north.

PMK

rocketscientist

Beavers are the mascot of MIT for that very reason: Natures Engineers
It’s the symbol on our class rings affectionately called the “Brass Rat”

Pop Piasa

I wonder if sighting a beaver is still as stimulating to boys nowadays as it was to me and my buddies in junior high school.

My high school’s mascot was the beaver. As is MIT’s – “The beaver was chosen as the mascot of Technology because of its remarkable engineering and mechanical skill and its habits of industry.”

Ellen

Ah, yes. The beaver is the engineer of the animal world, and the Techman is the animal of the engineering world.

Carbon BIgfoot

Our fraternity’s motto was SAVE A TREE EAT A BEAVER. Covered both ends of the spectrum.

Tom O

(Grinning widely.)

Pop, years ago I was on a project at a Cree community in Northern Quebec. Several cars there had bumper stickers saying: Eat a beaver, save a tree!

Pop Piasa

I remember that too, Ron. In St. Louis they were often sported next to “If this car is rockin’, don’t bother knockin'” bumper stickers.

eyesonu

Pop,

Modern beavers need to be approached and handled with extreme caution!

markl

Any change in environment is taboo to the Greenies. For them change = anything that is no longer static. History is irrelevant and sometimes even wrong to them.

Bear

Shouldn’t there be some documentation from say the Russians or Hudson Bay company about beavers in the far north?

Extreme Hiatus

Yes there should. The Hudson’s Bay Company was an extremely well organized multinational corporation and their traders and explorers kept very good records, many of which survived in the archives. They kept very good records of wildlife because wildlife was their business – furbearers for furs and other game as food for their posts. But these records are constantly ignored by modern ‘environmentalists’ whose whole narrative – evil Euros destroying the ‘pristine wilderness’ – is based on fake history.

Extreme Hiatus

“Beaver ponds could allow more willows”

Funny. Beavers eat willows (the bark and leaves). After they have eaten them all, and all other beaver-edible shrubs within range of their pond they must move to a new area. So then and only then do their ponds and the habitat they create “allow more willows” to grow back, and then only until some new beavers move back to consume the new crop. This would be more obvious in the Arctic.

Are these ‘scientists’ really this clueless?

As for the recolonization in general, this is more than just a restoration. It is a population explosion. In most areas the natural predators of beavers – including indigenous people, wolves, bears, river otters – are no longer present to keep their numbers in check.

As for the overall question, beavers are great IN MODERATION and in the right places. The idiotic efforst to restore them in Europe is going to cause major headaches. They are RODENTS.

The logical solution to the beaver explosion would be to re-create a market for some things made from their hides to keep the population in control. In the meantime they now pay government employees or contractors to remove them when necessary – like when they block road culverts and flood roads or dam rivers and flood farm lands or cut down every deciduous tree in some riverside park – and these plans are often blocked or protested by the usual suspects – the same suspects that eagerly kill smaller rodents – mice – all the time.

P.S. Don’t get me wrong. We have beavers on our property and they are remarkable intelligent (for rodents) and fast learners. Love them – in moderate numbers!

Pop Piasa

There’s worse things than Beavers making dams, there’s Muskrats destroying them.

Extreme Hiatus

You’re right about that Pop. The original beavers here ate themselves out of food and disappeared for a while (new ones are back again now – for a while – after things grew back) and we thought that at least we could enjoy their nice ponds in the interim. But the muskrats started making little tunnels in through them (in the winter when they can travel safely to feeding areas under the ice) causing endless leaks and dropping pond levels – which the beavers would always fix when present. That is the natural course of events and these dropping water levels create the prime habitat for the mentioned willows to spring up in as well as other positive effects… but not so great for all the wildlife dependent on the ponds or use pondwatchers.

So, yes, Muskrats, with the emphasis on the rats!

Neil Jordan

Don’t forget the nutria:
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080306094624.htm
A “rat-like pest. . .”

Javier

Don’t forget the nutria:
A “rat-like pest. . .”

Nutria is a mustelid. Nothing to do with rodents. Mustelids are small ferocious carnivores. They are not a pest unless their preys are a pest too.

Javier writes “Nutria is a mustelid. Nothing to do with rodents”

I’m reeading here the Nutria is a rodent, once considered a Myocastoridae, it’s now classified as a Echimyidae – grouping with the spiny rats.

AllyKat

When I read or hear about “problem beavers”, I always think of the beaver who caused much consternation several years ago when he moved to the Tidal Basin in D.C. and started taking out the flowering cherry trees. The Park Service was not pleased.

mothcatcher

Some confusion here, Javier?
Nutria does seem to refer to Coypu, which is indeed a large semi-aquatic herbivorous rodent, and quite unferocious!

But isn’t Nutria also an old name for an Otter, or perhaps its fur – which might explain your idea of a connection with Stoats and Martens?

Old44

The logical solution to the beaver explosion would be to re-create a market for some things made from their hides to keep the population in control.
Could we do the same thing with environ mentalists?

rocketscientist

Nah, they are inferior material stock. Kind of like trying to make underwear out of straw. Perhaps they could be made into that new tasty “Frankenmeat”.

pameladragon

Beaver coats are great! They can be sheared or left natural. If the resurgence of beavers becomes a nuisance, no reason why they can’t be trapped and the pelts sold to furriers to be made into warm garments. I would certainly buy one!

PMK

Smart Rock

Extreme: – Beavers plugging culverts should not be a problem any more. See this neat device (invented in northern Ontario)
http://beavercone.com/

pameladragon

Beaver pelts can be made into fantastic coats, either sheared or natural. They are warm and stylish too. I wear fur and many others do as well, blasted animal activists don’t bother me on bit. Limited trapping in areas where beaver constructions can drown roads and cause a lot of damage would help and encourage the protection of other colonies.

Beaver ponds are a huge part of the environment and go through a wonderful succession, from pond with fish and other animals, ducks, etc., to low bogs, also a good habitat, to open meadows teaming with vegetation that help break up wild fires. They are an essential link in the ecology of many areas and I am delighted that they are making a strong comeback way up north where they can do the most good!
PMK

pameladragon

Kip, that explains why it is possible to buy beaver coats, jackets, and hats then. Long live this clever rodent!

PMK

Extreme Hiatus

Kip, 1976-77 was a long time ago, in the pre- to early-PETA period, maybe even before the stupid Euros went all anti-fur and drove the prices down. Wonder what those stats are now?

Gary Pearse.

Did no researchers mention the greening of the planet as a factor in the phenomenon? There is a decided avoidance of this remarkable response to elevated CO2 by those who don’t want to acknowledge a ‘benefits’ side to CO2 increase. Such as the NYT writer will see the expansion of habitat into the fringes of the Sahara as environmental degradation of a delicate ecology! Nature has a naughty sense of humour.

joelobryan
Pop Piasa

The hardest part to take was the notion that he was as Beaver Cleaver at such a juvenile age.

Bryan A

Tom in Florida

I don’t care who you are, this here is funny!

3¢worth

What’s with this “American” Beaver designation? Its name is Castor Canadensis. It’s the “Canadian” Beaver and appears on our 5¢ coin or nickel. It’s the world’s second largest rodent (16-35kg.) after the Capybara, Hands off our Beaver, eh!

I remember a joke by the comedian Gallagher.
Something along the line of “You look at Canadian money and they have the Queen on the front of it. And you go ooh, they have a picture of the Queen. But then you turn the money over and there’s a picture of a beaver! What hell glory is there in first place if second place goes to a beaver?”

Walter Sobchak

Don’t go there, Walter. Don’t go there.

rocketscientist

Or a loon!

AJ

And Maine Lobsters are really Homarus americanus, American Lobsters, but here in the Maritimes we just call them Lobsters 🙂

pameladragon

Is there really much difference in taste and quality between lobstas caught off the coast of Maine and lobstas caught off Brielle, New Jersey? Once saw Gordon Ramsay shred a restaurant owner for selling New Jersey lobstas for Maine lobstas. I have eaten both, taste the same to me!

PMK

yjiimmy ymmiijy

Go Bemidji (MN) State University! The Beavers. They used to be the Lumberjacks, but that was politically incorrect.

John M. Ware

My mother attended the University of Wisconsin in the 1930’s. One of her funniest memories was going to the football stadium (Camp Randall?) to watch the UW Badgers play; at one game she heard a very loud fan, possibly drunk, yelling, “Go, you Beavers!”

Too funny. The exchange of beaver pelts for wampum has to be one of the most unlikely economies of all time. The indigenous were all, “WTHell do you want beaver pelts for, these rats are all over the place”. The Europeans were all, “Can’t believe these indigenous will trade beaver pelts for sea shells”.

Asymmetries make economies. Switch coasts. The California coastal indigenous traded sea shells (Pacific Wampum) for obsidian with the Great Basin indigenous by hiking over the Sierra, notably at the headwaters of the San Joaquin at a place called Paiute Pass.

Extreme Hiatus

In Canada the main European trade items were guns, iron arrowheads, metal pots and Brazil tobacco and many other useful items. The most unpractical trade items were beads which some indigenous people used for decorating things. Many indigenous people were extremely shrewd traders but, as in any human activity, some groups and individuals were not.

There were extensive inter-tribal trading networks long before Euros arrived.

Javier

No doubt some of them now accept Euros as payment 😉

marque2

Beads and blankets were turned into belts and decorative jewelry which was traded back. Not sure if it was a rip off. Also note that beads were much more expensive to produce back in the day, so modern day comparisons are invalid. It is like looking at an aluminum can and thinking Europeans were idiots 300 years ago for using “precious” aluminum for jewelry. $20 for beads to buy Manhattan, is a modern comparison, not based on actual values of the day.

Steve Lohr

How right you are. Native Americans were already well versed in the art of barter before European contact. William Bradford lamented that some traders were trading high quality firearms to their discerning indigenous trading partners. As a result, members of the Plymouth Colony were alarmed that they were encountering natives better armed than themselves. The natives weren’t fools.

Rick C PE

Brings this letter to mind.

1/6/98

David L. Price
District Representative
Land and Water Management Division
Grand Rapids District Office
State Office Bldg., 6th Floor
350 Ottawa, N.W.
Grand Rapids, MI 49503-2341

Dear Mr. Price:

Re: DEQ File No. 97-59-0023; T11N, R10W, Sec 20; Montcalm County

Your certified letter dated 12/17/97 has been handed to me to respond to. You sent out a great deal of carbon copies to a lot of people, but you neglected to include their addresses. You will, therefore, have to send them a copy of my response.

First of all, Mr. Ryan DeVries is not the legal landowner and/or contractor at 2088 Dagget, Pierson, Michigan — I am the legal owner and a couple of beavers are in the (State unauthorized) process of constructing and maintaining two wood “debris” dams across the outlet stream of my Spring Pond. While I did not pay for, nor authorize their dam project, I think they would be highly offended you call their skillful use of natural building materials “debris”. I would like to challenge you to attempt to emulate their dam project any dam time and/or any dam place you choose. I believe I can safely state there is no dam way you could ever match their dam skills, their dam resourcefulness, their dam ingenuity, their dam persistence, their dam determination and/or their dam work ethic.

As to your dam request the beavers first must fill out a dam permit prior to the start of this type of dam activity, my first dam question to you is: are you trying to discriminate against my Spring Pond Beavers or do you require all dam beavers throughout this State to conform to said dam request? If you are not discriminating against these particular beavers, please send me completed copies of all those other applicable beaver dam permits. Perhaps we will see if there really is a dam violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Michigan Compiled Laws annotated.

My first concern is — aren’t the dam beavers entitled to dam legal representation? The Spring Pond Beavers are financially destitute and are unable to pay for said dam representation — so the State will have to provide them with a dam lawyer. The Department’s dam concern that either one or both of the dams failed during a recent rain event causing dam flooding is proof we should leave the dam Spring Pond Beavers alone rather than harassing them and calling their dam names. If you want the dam stream “restored” to a dam free-flow condition — contact the dam beavers — but if you are going to arrest them (they obviously did not pay any dam attention to your dam letter — being unable to read English) — be sure you read them their dam Miranda first.

As for me, I am not going to cause more dam flooding or dam debris jams by interfering with these dam builders. If you want to hurt these dam beavers — be aware I am sending a copy of your dam letter and this response to PETA. If your dam Department seriously finds all dams of this nature inherently hazardous and truly will not permit their existence in this dam State — I seriously hope you are not selectively enforcing this dam policy — or once again both I and the Spring Pond Beavers will scream prejudice!

In my humble opinion, the Spring Pond Beavers have a right to build their dam unauthorized dams as long as the sky is blue, the grass is green and water flows downstream. They have more dam right than I to live and enjoy Spring Pond. So, as far as I and the beavers are concerned, this dam case can be referred for more dam elevated enforcement action now. Why wait until 1/31/98? The Spring Pond Beavers may be under the dam ice then, and there will be no dam way for you or your dam staff to contact/harass them then. In conclusion, I would like to bring to your attention a real environmental quality (health) problem; bears are actually defecating in our woods. I definitely believe you should be persecuting the defecating bears and leave the dam beavers alone. If you are going to investigate the beaver dam, watch your step! (The bears are not careful where they dump!)

Being unable to comply with your dam request, and being unable to contact you on your dam answering machine, I am sending this response to your dam office.

Sincerely,

Stephen L. Tvedten

cc: PETA

paqyfelyc

a fuqueen godam letter

NorwegianSceptic

One of the best dam letters ever! 🙂

Gunga Din

😎
Anybody remember “The River That Burned”?
That was the Cuyahoga in Ohio. Sparks from a train passing over a bridge in the Cleveland area caught it on fire.
Much of the river is now a national park.
In the reclamation/cleanup process they ran into a snag. They weren’t sure how to proceed in cleaning up an old auto-repair place’s junk yard. (I guess back then the junked cars might not have had all the oil and gas drained from the cars? Maybe there were other concerns.)
Efforts were made to clean it up but the debate as exactly how to proceed continued.
Beavers solved the problem.
https://www.nps.gov/cuva/planyourvisit/the-beaver-marsh.htm

usurbrain

Born and raised within a bicycle ride of that area before it was a park (more like a blighted cesspool). Returning home after retiring from the Navy the area now is a wonderful place to visit. Spent a day walking through the park with the grand kids and all were amazed.

TA

I had some beavers once and they were trying to build a beaver damn on the small creek located about 100 feet from my house. The problem the beavers had was when a heavy rain came, the small creek became a roaring river.

I used to watch 100-year-old Elm trees being washed down that creek, the whole tree!, back when there were a lot of Elm trees around here and lining the creek.

The huge tree would move down the creek and would then get hung up in the branches of the trees along the creek, and it would sit there for a short time and then you would hear the limbs starting to crack and they would finally let go and the tree would proceed on down the creek and into the Arkansas river. It was quite an amazing display of the power of moving water. About 90 percent of the Elm trees have died since that time (over the last 30 years).

Needless to say, the beaver damn didn’t stand a chance in that location and was washed down the creek along with everything else the next time a heavy rain came along.

The beavers left some years ago, but I did see one huge beaver standing out in my backyard one day about a year ago. I don’t know how it got inside the six-foot-tall fence. But it did, and it managed to get back out on its own, and I haven’t seen one since.

icisil

I saw that happen once, and they didn’t return. Some Hmong refugees who frequented that river also built (rock) dams across the entire stream, probably practicing what they did in Laos. Used to piss me off as a kayaker, but I knew the river would take care of it. After the next flood you couldn’t even tell the dams had been there. I doubt those folks went to the trouble of building them again.

subtle2

Re-read this book just a couple of months ago:
Three Against the Wilderness
Eric Collier
1962
In the Chilcotin plateau country of British Columbia in the 1930s, Collier homesteads. Then works to restore the beaver. Readable and convincing account.

Gregory Rehmke

Highly recommended is the entertaining and informative essay “A History of North American from the Standpoint of the Beaver,” by Jim O’Brien. It’s title is “A Beaver’s Perspective on North American History” reprinted in and environmental textbook. You can read some at Amazon Look Inside link (look for essay in Table of Contents at end of Chapter Three. (Sorry can’t find full essay online).
https://www.amazon.com/Major-Problems-American-Environmental-History/dp/0495912425/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1513831932&sr=8-2&keywords=%22Major+Problems+in+Environmental+History

ShrNfr

Hot dam!

rigwit

Perhaps Argentina can repatriate some of the 100,000 beavers they are trying to cull in Terra Del Fuego back to Canada. Call them climate refuges?

TDBraun

I’d say perhaps beavers may be expanding there because they’ve been expanding everywhere. In recent years I’ve seen two beavers in my hometown of Tulsa, Okla., in urban and suburban areas.

Boris

If you have the opportunity I would suggest the readers of this web site look up a little known book by Eric Collier called “Three Against The Wilderness” set in the interior of British Columbia, Canada. It is a true story set in 1930’s about Eric, his wife Lilian and their son Veasy and their setting up of a homestead around Hundred Mile House BC. The main aim of their settling there was to bring back the beavers to the area and restore the natural balance that was lost when all the beavers were trapped out. It makes for fascinating reading and it explains what beavers actually do to maintain a diverse forest. It also shows you what it takes to actually live off the land in a remote area without any modern comforts. In other words it is a lot of hard work day in and day out.

Randy Bork

I can imagine the effects of beavers on their environment could be viewed as positive or negative entirely opposite depending on which criteria one chooses to conceive are the important ones. And how close the population is to those things we ‘wish’ to keep the same. I do remember this survey of their effects [from someone who views these effects in a positive light]: https://panethos.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/the-ecological-benefits-of-eager-beavers/

icisil

Left to their devices, beavers can absolutely destroy a piece of property, making it unsuitable for any kind of human use. I looked at a property once that had been overrun by beavers. It was a mess.

Tom in Florida

I suppose the opposite is true also.

Don K

Nice article. How do beavers get to the Arctic? Migration down the MacKenzie River I should think. The MacKenzie is a very large river. It drains 20% of Canada — the world’s second largest country. Definitely extends into beaver country. Playing around with Google Maps, it looks like there is some sort of shrub/tree cover at least as far North as the MacKenzie delta. Not so clear about the coast to the Northwest. It’s not that easy to interpret arial images of a terrain I’ve never seen.

BTW, I don’t really care, and I doubt anyone else does, but I think that the second paragraph probably violates some obscure rule of English grammar. I think “accused” probably needs an object.

tty

Young beavers prospecting for new ground can cross extensive areas of unsuitable terrain. They can even swim in salt water along the coast (I’ve personally seen this in Tierra del Fuego). In a case I know of in Sweden they have repeatedly swum across a ten-mile wide very oligotrophic lake, up a five-mile drainage canal, through another five mile wide very eutrophic lake and continued several miles up a second drainage canal in order to find suitable habitat.

Ultimately they will probably find all suitable habitat in North America and Eurasia.

TonyL

Environmentally speaking, beavers are a horrible species.
Environmental destruction:
1) They cut down trees. As any environmentalist greenie will tell you, this is an activity they utterly oppose.
2) They build dams which:
a) Flood out large areas of forest, drowning all remaining trees.
b) They destroy trout habitat. Forest streams are typically cold, fast flowing, and well oxygenated. This aquatic habitat supports a wide variety of species, including trout species. Damming the streams produces ponds which are warmer and less oxygenated. All the trout die. The greenies are obsessed with saving fish like the delta smelt and the snail darter (google this one for a horror story). They must also be concerned beavers destroying trout habitat.
c) The dams cause eutrophication in the ponds. Decaying vegetation consumes oxygen from the water and produces that horrible CO2, and methane. Greenies oppose man-made dams for hydro power and reservoir use for these reasons. They must oppose beaver dams for the same reasons.
3) After they destroyed a region and the pond silts in and creates a mud swamp, the beavers simply move on to another area to destroy in turn.

Environmental groups like Greenpeace and WWF should be lobbied to start anti-beaver campaigns. If the lobbying efforts use the appropriate environmental fear-mongering along with a heavy dose of Marxist drivel, we could probably get them to go along with it.

{They should never have let me take that field ecology course. A little knowledge is a ….}

Earthling2

I understand your frustration Tony. I have been ‘fighting’ with them on and off most of my life. The problem is, they just don’t listen. Just last month, an Aspen tree that sprouted next to my remote house on a creek, grew up to 50 feet tall the last 15 years, and the little buggers chewed that tree down in a few nights so as it fell over on the roof of my well/pump house, damaging the roof. I guess I should have had the tree guarded with a metal wrap. But on balance, I think the Beaver are a major net positive to the overall health of an ecosystem. I just wish the pesky critters would stay upstream from my place, and leave my bridges and trees on my land alone. Like everything, a little bit of bad with maybe a whole lot of good.

In New Hampshire the brook trout get bigger in beaver ponds.

RAH

In Vermont during a survival exercise I remember standing on a beaver dam that was about 50′ tall and fishing in the pond it formed for trout fry. Gut the fry, wire them to a green stick and put one end of the stick in the hot coals of a fire. When cooked eat it, head, tail and all. If that doesn’t sound good to you then you just aren’t hungry enough yet! Oh, in case your wondering we gigged frogs for the bait and fishing line and hooks were a standard item in all of our self constructed survival kits. If you don’t have fishing line, stripped down parachute cord strands will do the trick. Fishing is an ideal survival strategy where the land allows. Burns far less calories per unit of protein gained than hunting or trapping. When it comes down to survival beavers are wonderful pals to have because their ponds provide a variety of resources that are relatively easy to obtain.

Later during that same exercise as we were moving we walked over about 1/2 mile of lower beaver dams. Obviously beavers had been working the area for quite some time and one could see where the DNR had come out and blown up a few dams when they judged the beaver complex was getting too large.

John M. Ware

Do you mean 50 feet tall, or 50 inches? Fifty feet is higher than a four-story building.

Pat McAdoo

Ditto, RAH, was also my own experience in survival training and later near a cabin I built in the hills of Colorado.

John is prolly correct, as fifty feet high sounds like a horror movie beaver dam.

The beaver dams I see and fish usually have small brook trout as you described, and maybe some browns ( invasive species, but they are resilient and adapted well to our Colorado streams and rivers.

As others note, once they eat every aspen, willow and other tree/brush around, they move and their dam eventually collapses.

Gums

DonM

I’ve seen about 30 feet from bottom toe to top (outside face). It was dry and abandoned.

The goofy beaver(s?) were trying to impound an intermittent stream on a 20% grade; the upper containment depth was only about 5 feet deep and 10′ wide.

Not all beavers are good engineers.

RAH

I meant 50 feet! It was that high and the pond if formed was a relatively small one. It was the first of a line of beaver dams along that stream. All the other dams downstream were more like one usually sees.

Earthling2

Just 11,000 years ago, the giant beaver finally went extinct. It was one of the abundant Pleistocene megafauna—a wide variety of very large mammals that lived during the Pleistocene that all perished at the end of the last age. At least 38 mega fauna including the Wooly Mammoth, Camel, Horse, Short Faced Bear and Sabre Tooth Cat all went extinct around the same time frame all over North America, basically at once just as human were entering the NA continent. Something very catastrophic happened to cause all that, and nobody talks much about this. Some days I really wonder why this is. Is our common collective consciousness still so traumatized by previous recent events 11,000 years ago of such utter destruction that we are still to unable to come to grips with this, thinking it could happen to us? Was it the cold and starvation of CO2 being so low at 180 ppmv for so long that led to a massive near extinction of vegetation and habitat south of the ice sheets that led to such massive extinctions of all these mega fauna at once, all over the NA continent?

The species of Castoroides, also known as giant beavers, were much larger than modern beavers. Their average length was approximately 1.9 m (6.2 ft), and they could grow as large as 2.2 m (7.2 ft). The weight of the giant beaver could vary from 90 kg (198 lb) to 125 kg (276 lb). This makes it the largest known rodent in North America during the Pleistocene and the largest known beaver.

The ancient giant beaver and the modern day beaver have probably done as much or more than any animal to terraform the North America continent. That they are coming back, or even beginning to form new habitat in the far north should be valued as the best possible news ever. Wherever you find beavers, you find a very healthy ecosystem, and abundant water and other wildlife. This is also why I think that Ducks Unlimited is really one of the few credible practising environmental organizations out there, and why I support and work with them. They actually do something mainly positive, just like the beaver.

tty

The Giant Beaver probably did not build dams. Fossil beaver dams/beaver ponds are not very rare, but nobody has ever found one that was larger or otherwise different from extant ones.

By the way in past warmer times beaver lived almost as far north as there is land in North America:

https://ipfs.io/ipfs/QmXoypizjW3WknFiJnKLwHCnL72vedxjQkDDP1mXWo6uco/wiki/Strathcona_Fiord.html

During Christmas, it will be very cold in North America.
http://pics.tinypic.pl/i/00952/ybu97hrfk793.png

toorightmate

It will be cold due to global warming.
Don’t you have any common sense my good man?

How is the air in the polar vortex moving now?
You can see that the stream runs from Siberia over Kamchatka, reaches the Canadian Archipelago and falls over the Hudson Bay. This means heavy winter in Canada.
http://files.tinypic.pl/i/00952/f03kyt21kzaq.png

DaveK

Not ALL of North America. Here on the West Coast, the weather may be wet at times, but not terribly cold.

Bill J

Simple solution: trap the beavers and feed them to the poor starving polar bears. Two problems solved!

/sarc (hopefully that tag wasn’t actually needed)

Yirgach

I’ve seen beaver stew on the menu in Šiauliai Lithuania and also around Quebec.
Tastes like chicken!

MarkY

Kip,
Wonderful link re: HBC.
I’ll spend some time with it over the Holidays.
But am I reading right, that it took over 3,000 pelts to “buy” a rifle? Geez!
I recently found a small group of beavers (do they ever live solo?) along an urban creek, largely hidden from a nearby highway. Their lodge (if they had one) was washed by torrential rains this summer, but they are still gnawing away. It appears they can and will live in hillside dugouts.
Since they don’t eat turkey nor deer, I’m gonna leave then alone, but the game cam goes down this weekend.
Thanks again.

Griff

UK conservationists are busy re-introducing the European beaver to England and Scotland, because of it environmental benefit (creates wetlands which retain water longer: the change in the UK climate has resulted in more extreme/intense rainfall and increased flooding, which rapid run off makes worse).

The issue in Alaska however is definitely one of an indicator species showing local environmental conditions have shifted due to warming.

Ian Magness

“the change in the UK climate has resulted in more extreme/intense rainfall and increased flooding”
Please show hard evidence in the form of non-modelled or adjusted data please Griff. Otherwise deniers like me will not believe you.

Toneb

“Please show hard evidence in the form of non-modelled or adjusted data please Griff. Otherwise deniers like me will not believe you.”

I’ll do ot for him…..
Enter: UK, Rainfall, Annual.

https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/summaries/actualmonthly

Griff

This is a nice summary Ian, with links to the science
https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn28779-uk-rains-broke-river-flow-record-and-climate-change-is-to-blame/

Every year since 2000 with the strange exception of 2006 has seen an exceptional flood event in the UK.

hunter

Griff,
I am pleased you are still rational and coherent enough to admit beavers are good for the environment.
There may be hope for you yet.

tty

“The issue in Alaska however is definitely one of an indicator species showing local environmental conditions have shifted due to warming.”

Is it really? I checked with my well-worn “Peterson Guide to the Mammals”, originally written in 1952 and according to that the range of the beaver reached the Arctic Ocean in the area indicated in the map even then.

u.k.(us)

@ Griff,
A horse named “Griff” just ran at Gulfstream Park, it was a grey, you could almost call it white, long story short, it won at 7-1.
Thanks Griff for the …..forethought 🙂

u.k.(us)

Of course, I love to bet out of spite 🙂

Mydrrin

Beavers increase the H20 in the air, water vapour is the most important greenhouse gas. Perhaps the massive decline in beaver populations make the Little Ice Age worse.

For obvious reasons I thought this article would be about the idea that beaver dams cause global warming (they trap sediment which then creates methane).

Michael Darby

“Leave it to Beaver” Who was the actor?

hunter

Jerry Mathers.

Norman Hills

Beavers being re-introduced to Scotland – hurray!
https://www.scottishbeavers.org.uk

Ian Magness

“Hordes of Beavers Are Invading Alaska’s Tundra”
Really? Just a short observation based on limited experience (but perhaps more than some of the authors…). I have fished a river in sub-arctic western AK for 20 years, on and off. The surrounding area is full tundra but the river creates a micro-climate so, when lack of major flood destruction allows, there is a narrow band of scrubby woodland between the river channels and the tundra. Unsurprisingly, the scrubby stuff and small trees are what the beavers eat.
1) I haven’t noticed any differences in the thickness or height of the scrub/woodland over the 20 years;
2) the river has always held a good beaver population pretty much throughout its length. If anything, the population has increased over the 20 years and, in the upper reaches at least, you can get much closer to them than you used to even to the point that a group had built a lodge, and produced young, right next to the fishing camp.
So, have the beavers benefited from global warming? Unlikely. Their main predators are man and bears. The bears are doing fine but catching salmon and eating berries is less dangerous than attacking beavers and provides tons of food, for a few months of the year anyway. Man? Well, you only have to look at the decrepit state of old yupik hunting cabins up river to see that hunting and trapping isn’t nearly as popular as it used to be. Financial factors (not least the cost of fuel and the availability of state benefits) are often stated as the reasons.
I note, incidentally, no differences in overall climate and its effects on the timings of salmon runs – just variations caused by unusually warm or cold or early or late winters (which last 6 months + in that part of the world). In other words, no trend.

Smart Rock

But Ian – your observations made on the ground over decades haven’t been published in a peer-reviewed journal. One-time observations by a climate activist (who hasn’t bothered to check historical literature) are what really counts.

Besides, what value is an observation if you can’t spin it into a doomsday scenario?

Gary Pearse.

Kip, I’ve wondered if the expansion of greening of the planet is a significant heat sink. A 14% increase in forest cover, fattening of existing trees, “shrubification”, plankton uptake… Recent estimates of number of trees is 3 trillion
http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-34134366

14% of 3T= 420B trees, average age, say, 10yrs (30yrs greening), average carbon uptake is 48lbs/yr or ~0.2 metric t in 10yrs., sequestering 84million tonnes of carbon in the new trees only. Heat sink for that should be > that amount of anthracite coal…. Hey, it coincides with the pause, too!

hunter

And the climate obsessed want to end this planetary explosion of life, because they have been taught to hate.

The gov’t around here loves the beaver. If the buggers build on your property or near it, the state goons either declare your property a wetlands and don’t allow you to do anything, or they blame you for modifying the landscape without a permit (apparently beaver don’t like waiting in line, paying fees etc, the little scofflaws), and attempt to fine you for their work.

1saveenergy

“Hordes of Beavers”
Is that like Basil Fawlty’s –
“Hordes of wildebeest sweeping majestically across the plain”

tty

What is wrong or silly with that? It is exactly what happens every year on Naabi plains in Serengeti. You can stand on Naabi hills and the vildebeest herds stretch literally to the horizon in all directions.

richard

Lovely short film on putting back wolves into yellowstone park and the effects it had.

hunter

Beavers are pesky, destructive and change the landscape. Since tge changes tgey impose, damming up and flooding land which many urbanite climate fanatics like, they are on balance good…….

ivor ward

Polar bear food

hunter

Exactly.
Beavers have colonized the Arctic before.

In my neighborhood beavers seem to be considered a nuisance…
“There is significant beaver activity at the Sheep Paddocks site. Beaver trails were evident, including one leading under a pre-existing fence that was protecting existing and new plantings. This fence was repaired. Some beaver damage was sustained to a dozen cottonwoods which were soaking along the water’s edge over the weekend. These trees were still planted as they are expected to re-sprout.”

http://www.coquitlamriverwatershed.ca/sites/default/files/WWSS%20Coquitlam%20River%20Riparian%20Planting%20Report%202012.pdf

Beaver baffles had to be installed in my nearby Coquitlam River Park to suppress the beavers instincts to plug the trickling water drain. I understand that NASA invented the beaver baffle.

tty

Nothing new. There were beavers up there during the previous interglacial as well:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/ancient-beavers-leave-traces-of-dam-in-yukon-1.549858

Beavers are very destructive in a developed area. Keep them out.

The North American beaver is very prolific. It has been accidentally released in many areas and they end up taking over. Large swaths of Siberia are impassible now because of introduced North American beaver.

tty

Eurasian beavers are just as prolific. That said I don’t know why the Soviets introduced American Beavers (and several of other idiotic and destructive introductions, like muskrats and raccoon dogs, none of them accidental).

John W. Garrett

Kip-
You’ve written another wonderful, interesting and instructive piece. Thanks.

Beavers really are amazing creatures. They’re fun to watch but there are downsides (giardia and suburban dams).

This is definitely nitpicking but the program NATURE airs on PBS (not NPR)—
“…NPR’s NATURE program has a wonderful episode…”

Hocus Locus

Consider the North American Grand Canyon.
Now consider the surface watersheds that span post-glacial North America East and West of the Rockies including all of Canada. The single living species whose profound impact on the land is most visible from space is the beaver. Sorry, people!

A continent without the beaver (by now) would be a stark landscape of mass erosion, creeks and small rivers become deep gullies that scarcely allow any moisture to seep into the surrounding countryside. Combined runoff from these would be violent deluges as is seen in the Southwest. The Mississippi and Missouri would be deep canyons below grade.

Yirgach
Extreme Hiatus

Unfortunately, some beavers can and do overcome this and similar devices by simply building a ‘dam’ around them, up against that housing. That then blocks water from getting to the drainage pipe.

The best method that I know of is to simply put an ‘L’ shaped end on the end of a drainage pipe like that with the end pointed straight up to the level you want the water to stay at – and this has to be done somewhere on the dam where this pipe will be sticking well out into deeper water. Beavers are smart but they don’t seem to be able to figure that out.

rckkrgrd

A solution to SLR. Beaver dams to keep the water from reaching the sea.

Andrew Cooke

Beavers truly are magnificent creatures. They influence the regional eco-system in ways that are not always readily observable.

This is an excellent thread and I appreciate the candid discussion of the benefits of beavers.

ResourceGuy

Unleash the vegan trapper generation…..into the wild. All it takes is some Facebook prodding and fake news plants.