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Saving the DammedWhy We Need Beaver-Modified Ecosystems$
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Ellen Wohl

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190943523

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190943523.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 22 June 2021

October Of Beavers and Humans

October Of Beavers and Humans

(p.117) October Of Beavers and Humans
Saving the Dammed

Ellen Wohl

Oxford University Press

By mid-October, the first snow has fallen on the beaver meadow. There is no sign of snow when I visit a few days later, but the air feels chill in the shadows and a cool breeze leavens the sunshine’s warmth. Mostly, the beaver meadow seems a golden place. Many of the willow, aspen, and birch leaves have already fallen, but enough remain to create a glowing ménage of yellow, gold, palest orange, and tan. Each leaf refracts and filters the light so that it comes from every direction rather than only from above. Aspens on the north-facing valley slope stand bare and pale gray. Those on the south facing slope form bursts of gold among the dark green conifers. The beaver meadow remains lively with activity. Dance flies move upward and downward in a column of air backlit by sunshine, their delicate bodies shimmering in the low-angle light. A little black stonefly lands on the back of my hand. I resist the urge, bred by summer mosquitoes, to reflexively slap it away. As I cross smaller side channels, brook trout dart away from the warm shallows where they have been resting. The narrow band of white on each dorsal fin flashes as the fish moves swiftly toward deeper water. When one small trout gets momentarily stuck between two exposed cobbles, I cup its slender, wriggling body between my hands and help it along. Windrows of fallen leaves form swirling patterns on the water surface and streambed. Filamentous algae grow in thick green strands along the side channels, where lower water exposes wide bands of mud along the channel edges. The mud bands record the comings and goings along the channel: precise imprints of raccoon feet and deer hooves and blurrier outlines left by moose. Moose beds mat down the tall grasses scattered among the willow thickets. As usual, the beavers themselves elude me, but I see fresh mud and neatly peeled white branches with gnawed ends on some of the dams. Lower water in the beaver pond exposes an entrance hole in the side of the lodge.

Keywords:   Estes Park, Fish Creek, Lily Lake, Lily Pond, ground-penetrating radar, nitrogen, phosphorus, pleistocene

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