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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: 12 May 2021

November: Beavers to the Rescue

November: Beavers to the Rescue

November: Beavers to the Rescue
Saving the Dammed

Ellen Wohl

Oxford University Press

By late November, snow covers much of the beaver meadow. I visit on a sunny day well above freezing, but the low-angle light comes with long, long shadows. The meadow is noisy with continuously rushing wind that keeps the bare willow branches swaying and sculpts the snow on the lee side of plants into streamlined mounds. Individual grass stems have traced downwind crescents on the snow surface. Tracks of wind, tracks of animals: the activities of the meadow are once again made visible in the footprints of moose, hare, squirrel, coyote, and birds. The snow is mushy in the warmth and many of the tracks are blurred, but I also cross fresh, sharply defined traces left by four little leaping paws, with just the brush from a long, slender tail behind them. The prints are so delicate that they barely indent the snow, but clearly a mouse was stirring here recently. The fragile tracery of tiny claws in the snow seems vulnerable, but I know the animal is probably better adapted to the cold than I am. The main channel of the creek remains open, the water golden brown between white banks bulbed with ice along the edges. The creek flows quietly, the sound of moving water submerged beneath the wind. The larger side channels also remain open and green with filamentous algae, but I break through the snow-covered thin ice on the smallest side channels. The off-channel ponds are frozen more solidly. Mats of dried algae quiver in the wind on one newly drained pond. Downwind, the snow is dirty with silt blown from the exposed bed. A layer of sticks, sand, and muck floors the pond with a woody carpet created by the beavers. The main beaver lodge is freshly plastered with mud and sticks, but the ice on the surrounding pond remains unbroken and the snow is trackless. Away from the pond, snow into which I sink to mid-calf obscures the details of the ground. The upright stems of willows and aspen trunks dominate the foreground.

Keywords:   Beaver Restoration Guidebook, Dust Bowl, Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber), beaver-dam analogs (BDAs), connectivity

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