Critter of the Quarter: Beaver
Beavers, or by their formal name, the North American Beaver, are North America’s largest rodent and are related to mice, squirrels, and similar mammals. Although beavers have historically been hunted for their extremely soft, warm, and valuable fur, they are very common throughout areas of northern and central California. Beavers modify their habitat in many ways, including building dams, cutting trees, digging burrows, and constructing lodges (their version of a home), all of which can benefit other species that live with or around beavers. They can also be considered a management challenge since they may cut and eat trees that are planted for restoration projects, build dams that may cause flooding for humans, and make other unplanned changes to the creeks and waterways in which they live.
Beavers use Moorhen and McNabney Marsh, Peyton Slough, the estuary, and nearly all creeks and channels for different aspects of their lives in northern Contra Costa County. Although beavers are generally active at night, it is often easy to know they are nearby by their signs: tree cuttings, lodges, and dams. While beavers may present challenges to humans and the environment we share, by causing minor flooding or damage to planted trees, they also provide habitat for hundreds of other wildlife species.