Monday, April 7, 2014

Mojave River Beaver

Mojave River @ Afton Canyon. wiki Mar 2010
I am always drawn to things that live, and even thrive, in habitats where one would not presumably expect them to be. Hence my interest in southern steelhead which lead me to beaver and starting southland beaver. Quizzical looks, blank stares and "I doubt it man" guffaws when I talk about beaver in southern Californian watersheds. But when I am talking about re-introducing beaver throughout southern California this is actually something that has already been done before. Sporadically through out the 20's, 30's, and 40's the California Department of Natural Resources a division of fish and game released over 1200 beaver though out the state- including parts of southern California in counties such as Santa Barbara, Ventura, Kern, Tulare, San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Diego. Kate Lundquist of Occidental Arts and Ecology Center WATER Institute ( was nice enough to furnish me with the list of transplants/dates/places. While some populations seem to have become extirpated since transplanting other populations may be growing and expanding in southern California. A lot of variables come into play as to why reintroductions do not work- not enough genetic diversity, predators, disease, drought - that beaver populations descended from these limited transplants are still surviving is amazing in itself. You see just a couple of individuals, usually less than 10, would be transplanted to any one spot. And that these southern Californian beaver beachheads survived and are still going for the most part is one of the most cogent arguments you can put forth as to why southern California has the habitat for beaver. And of the populations of beaver in socal that have persisted, the most interesting and, seemingly, anachronistic ones are the beaver that inhabit the Mojave river watershed. Yes the ephemeral, largely dry Mojave river has beaver. What is interesting is that although beaver were introduced in San Bernardino mountains, in which the headwaters to the Mojave lie, they were not directly released into the Mojave. So how did they get to the Mojave watershed, an endorheic basin that does not flow to the sea but simply vanishes into the desert? Willow Creek, a tributary of Deep Creek was planted with beaver and likely formed the nexus from which the population came from. But the Santa Ana river basin, which was stocked and still has beaver, is less than 10 kilometers away and so it is possible that there is exchange between the two populations as beaver can easily cover 10 kilometers overland. It is also possible that relict populations existed in these watersheds and were augmented by the transplants.

So what is up with these desert beavers? How do they make a living out there? Well Deep Creek is perennial and a wild trout river- so even if the Mojave goes bone dry beaver can find refuge in Deep Creek. But there are in fact certain sections of the Mojave that maintain year round flows. The Narrows and Afton canyon are the two best examples where shallow bedrock forces the largely subterranean river up. And if you scour the interwebs you can find some nice pics of the Mojave beaver dams.

Link to: all photos trashablanca
Beavers Relieve Waterdogs From SoCal Drought w/Pics 
by trashablanca 2007

Deep Creek. San Bernardino Co CA. trashablanca
Now we are always going on about how great beaver are for threatened wildlife/riparian species but how about just the fact that water is cool and dogs love beaver ponds too!!! Come on now what is not to like about the above pic? Who would not want beaver making dog ponds on your little trickle of a stream?

Deep Creek. San Bernardino Co CA. trashablanca
Look someone even made a cute little bridge over the pond....

beaver pond Deep Creek CA. trashablanca
And keep in mind that this beaver created desert oasis is formed by a mere trickle as the photo below shows the flow of water upstream from the beaver pond.

Spillway w/log guard. trashablanca

More to come as try to elucidate more about the Mojave River beaver and find some evidence that these  beaver may already be performing outstanding ecosystem services for a number of fish, reptiles, amphibians, and birds on this watershed.


Go further with these links:

Field Herp Forum (Repitle & Amphibians). Herping the Mojave River

Habitat Ebbs with Changing River

Mohave Tui Chub. Bureau of Land Management

Mohave Tui Chub. CDFW

Native Fish in a Bone Dry River: The Mojave Tui Chub's Slow Comeback

Report on a Workshop to Revisit the Mojave Tui Chub Recovery Plan and a Management Action Plan

UC Davis. Tricolored Blackbird Colony (400) in Beaver Marsh. Mojave River Victorville

Western Pond Turtle in Beaver Pond. Mojave River. Bureau of Land Management

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