WATER Institute on reappearance of beaver around California

Since 2014, a colony of beaver have been observed near the suburban South Bay town of Campbell, and with them, an uptick in blue heron, western tanager, ducks and other varieties of waterfowl. In an interview with Eric Johnson, a correspondent with the San Jose Mercury News, Kate Lundquist, co-director of the WATER Institute at OAEC, explains how beaver recolonization creates a cascade of beneficial effects on ecosystems and watersheds throughout California.

“They had been trapped persistently since the 1700s,” Lundquist said, “and when the mountain men arrived in the 1830s, they finished them off.” The beaver population suffered greatly, causing a chain reaction in the decline of other species, such as the Coho salmon.

Beaver are a “keystone species,” meaning they modify their territory so dramatically that it profoundly affects the surrounding environment. “We’re just now realizing the impact of having removed most of the beaver across California and we’re starting to see how that’s had a very profound long lasting effect of de-watering a lot of our systems. Now we want to try and be a little more aware of that,” Lundquist said in an interview with KMUD, a radio station located in Humboldt County.

When beaver reappeared after a long absence in Alhambra in 2007, it triggered a chain of reappearances of long-absent species such as steelhead trout, river otter, and mink. Conservationists throughout the region and state are particularly excited to witness the return of the beaver to watersheds in Northern California because it could mean the resurgence of other species, such as the Coho Salmon, which mature in the pools created by beaver dams.

Curious about beaver sightings throughout the state? Check out iNaturalist.org, where beaver sightings are logged by conservations and citizen scientists.

For more information on Kate Lundquist and her work with the WATER Institute at OAEC, visit our site. Read Eric Johnson’s entire article from Mercury News here. Read Anne Ward Ernst’s article from Sonoma News, which features Kate Lundquist’s KMUD interview, here.  And Stephen Nett’s article in the Press Democrat, Kate and Brock are both quoted here.

Photo by Rusty Cohen

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