Sunday, April 13, 2014

California Wolf and California Beaver: Two Keystone Species Trying to Make A Comeback

One is a predator, one is a herbivore. One is terrestrial, one is amphibious. Beaver and wolf might not be the most immediate bedfellows that you can imagine, in fact a wolf will- given the opportunity- eat a beaver. So why am I talking about wolf on a beaver blog? Well you might notice I talk about a lot of stuff besides beaver on this blog. Because beaver are a foundational keystone species whose actions have huge implications for threatened wildlife, habitats, water systems, agriculture, and policy: I do not think I am overstepping my cause by talking about all sorts of tangential subjects. Beaver ecology does not invite a myopic view of the world. Indeed the trophic cascade involving reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone, willows, elk, beaver, and songbird is well known- even if beaver might have got a little short thrift in their role in benefitting the Yellowstone watersheds. And ultimately when we look at the story of wolf in North America we see a lot of parallels to the story of beaver in North America.

Tlingit Beaver Clan House. link

Both wolf and beaver have two of the most widespread geographic ranges of all North American land mammals.

Both wolf and beaver featured significantly in the culture of native Americans.

Both wolf and beaver were relentlessly hunted and culled with the migration of Europeans into North America. The wolf due to its depredations on livestock and the beaver for its pelt.

Modern peer reviewed studies on beaver and wolf ecology posit both species as foundational keystone species. Animals that have a disproportionate benefit to the health of the ecosystems in which they occur.

Despite the known benefits that both animals offer a persistent mythology, false presentment of facts, and general propaganda machine has besmirched both wolves and beaver.

Both beaver and wolves are territorial. They will drive out, and potentially kill, intruders. They reproduce once a year. In this manner populations of both species are largely self-regulated. I.E. hunting/trapping by humans is not needed.

As keystone species with huge geographic ranges it is logical to assume that beaver and wolf shaped the ecological landscape of North America more than any other large native mammals (save humans).

Despite the claims of nay-sayers (usually with vested interests) when Europeans first ventured out into a continent full of beaver and wolf what did they find? Were ungulate herds diseased, malnourished, and low in number? Did beaver and wolf reproduce to plague like proportions? Were fish stocks barely holding on? Were salmon being thwarted by the impoundments of beaver?

Bison skulls for fertilizer. mid 1870's
In all instances NO... the amount of bison, pronghorn, and elk on the great plains is stuff of American lore. 30-60 million bison. 40-60 million pronghorn. 10 million elk. All these herbivores despite a population of up to 2 million wolves in North America. Salmon, lamprey, and steelhead just spilling out of our rivers- supporting unique native cultures in the Pacific Northwest that assumed permanent settlements due to the abundance of fish. The same waterways that housed up to 60-400 million beaver in them. All these animals doing just fine not despite of beaver and wolfbut because of them.

That beaver and wolf deserve a place in North America- we hold these truths to be self evident.

Please take a minute of your time to sign the prewritten email to CDFW who are aiming to not list wolves in CA as threatened. Although they wanted this emailed by April 3- do it anyways to make your voice heard. Center for Biological Diversity.

Help Protect Wolves in California (follow link!!!)

In addition please consider signing this prewritten email directed to the CA water board by American Rivers:

Tell the California Water Board: Restore Flows in the San Joaquin River (follow link!!!) 

So San Joaquin Delta. Laura Cunningham 2010

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  1. Thank you, Duane, for this really nice comparison of wolf and beaver in the ecology, history and culture of this country. Both are magnificent animals.

    And thank you for urging people to write to the Commission to state their strong support for listing the wolf under the California ESA. The Commission will receive all letters submitted to them. Please get them in by April 15th (the April 3rd deadline we advised in our alert was to ensure the Commissioners receive letters in advance of the hearing. If folks send in letters now, the Commission will still receive them the very day of the hearing, which takes place this Wed April 16th.)

    1. Thanks Amaroq for comment and info I will be in Ventura for informational presentation, rally, and public hearing so hopefully we can meet if you are there!!

  2. Silly me you organized the whole thing!!