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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: 06 May 2021

January: Of Rocks and Ice

January: Of Rocks and Ice

January: Of Rocks and Ice
Saving the Dammed

Ellen Wohl

Oxford University Press

The beaver meadow is quiet in January. For many plants and animals, winter is a season of subdued activity, or of waiting. North St. Vrain Creek remains open along the main channel, the water flowing clear but tinted brown as pine bark between snowy banks. Densely growing thickets of willow closely line the banks. Each stem starts pale brown near the ground, then grades upward to shades of maroon or yellowish orange at the branch tips. In a bird’s-eye view, these startling colors make the meadow stand out distinctly from the dark green conifers that define the edges of the meadow. Spruce and fir trees grow sharply pointed as arrows; pines present a slightly more rounded outline. Snow falls silently in thick flakes from the low, gray sky. The upper edges of the valley walls fade into snow and clouds. The sun appears briefly as a small, pale spotlight behind the clouds to the south. Snow mounds on the patches of ice in the shallow channel. The water flowing beneath creates flickers through the translucent ice like a winter fire of subdued colors and no heat. Tussocks form humps of straw-colored grass above the dark, frozen soil. Rabbit tracks line the snowy bank, sets of four paw marks with a large gap between each set. Something small crossed the bank, leaping one to two feet at a bound, two paws with slight drag marks behind them. In places the powdery snow has drifted deeply, but mostly it is shallow over a frozen crust. Beaver-gnawed sticks and stumps poke up through the snow. A large flood came through four months ago, in mid-September, washing out dams that the beavers have not yet rebuilt. Chunks of wood deposited among the willow stems by the floodwaters stand far above the January flow of the creek. A dipper fishes the creek, wading rather than swimming, at home in the cold water. The slate-gray bird is the only visible animal, busily probing the bed with its short bill, then pausing to stand and bob up and down.

Keywords:   Belaney, Archibald (Grey Owl), Holocene, Neoglacial, Yellowstone National Park, dipper (Cinclus mexicanus), elk (Cervus elaphus), pleistocene, timberline, tundra

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