Relocation Project That Saved Beavers From Euthanasia Proves Saving Their Lives Means Saving The Environment Too


Most people see beavers as just these small, adorable creatures that love water, but in reality they actually do so much more to positively impact the environment. Beavers have an innate ability to build dams and lodges using tree branches, rocks, mud and other vegetation they find in their environment, regardless of the weather.

In fact, one Utah State University student, Emma Doden, saw the potential of the strength of these semiaquatic rodents in order to combat the incredibly scorching heat of the Moab Desert in her state, and find solutions to the wildfires and drought that they often face. She led the movement of relocating problem beavers that were captured in other portions of the state and bring them to smaller, struggling waterways around the San Rafael and Price rivers.

The hydrology of deserts is both fascinating and delicate, since they have to survive with much less rain than normal ecosystems. They also tend to remain incredibly dry, aside from the few rain showers they tend to have for most of the year, until they get bursts of rain during rainier seasons. But due to the years of agricultural runoff and pollution, a number of Utah’s smaller waterways have suffered and have become very degraded as a result.

Some studies have proven that beaver dams can actually work wonders to improve the quality of streams and wetlands, therefore leading to improved river health and better animal life as well. It was precisely because of this that Doden focused on this “ecosystem engineer” as a possible rescuer, despite many who “raised a few eyebrows” at the idea of these beavers being their environmental heroes.

Doden, who specializes in the passive river restoration, works by the San Rafael and Price rivers that run through the driest and east most areas of Utah. She also doesn’t get any help from people either.

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She told BBC, “We believed the system could support a lot more beavers and we wanted to supplement it with translocated beavers.” And considering that these beavers would have been euthanized also means that her project also gives a new lease on life to these adorable and hard-working creatures.


Amazing Dam Work

In one study that investigates the effectiveness of beaver dams at protecting against wildfires shares, “Beaver dams are gaining popularity as a low-tech, low-cost strategy to build climate resiliency at the landscape scale. They slow and store water that can be accessed by riparian vegetation during dry periods, effectively protecting riparian ecosystems from droughts.”

Meanwhile, another study looked at the damned side of beaver lodges, which cause ponds to form and store large amounts of sediment that gets distributed safely around the river ecosystem. It was shared that for this study, it was found that ‘both in entirely wild areas with no human alterations and those adjacent to intense agricultural regions, meaning that no matter the conditions of sedimentation, beaver dams can help keep waterways clearer.’

Many times, intense agriculture causes sediment runoff which tends to cause heavily degraded waterways, as well as degraded ocean ecosystems since the sediment lessens light, causes toxic algae blooms, and chokes coral.

Utah State also has a program that works to catch beavers and relocate them to the desert in an effort to build dams and create benefits to the environment.

Doden shares, “The ultimate goal is to get them to build dams. The dams are what are going to increase habitat complexity and restore water.”

During their dam-building efforts from 2019 to 2021, Doden and her team managed to release over 50 beavers in the area, with some of creatures moving downstream. Some even went as far as 12 miles down to rebuild their dams.

Although at the moment, there still isn’t enough research about river restoration and dam-building, given the research that has been done in other biomes, it’s definitely one product that will probably have incredible success.


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