Rodents to the Rescue

“Beavers are the only animals that really change landforms,” says Kent Woodruff, a wildlife biologist who works for the Forest Service and runs the Methow Beaver Project. In the Methow Valley, an region often characterized by seasonal fires, beavers play an important role in stream habitats. Beavers first dam up streams with mud, sticks and fallen trees creating a large still section of water where the beavers then build a lodge to live in. This area serves many useful ecological purposes. The pond becomes a habitat for fish and salamanders to live in as well as a place where larger animals like moose, deer and wolves can come to drink water and find food. The pond holds water from snow melts and then lets the water out slowly during the summer. When a fire comes through an area of stream altered by beaver the marshland can provide a fire break and offer protection to the animals and trees in the wetland. In turn this stream habitat is more resilient after fires. The Methow Beaver Project takes beavers from places where landowners don’t want them, and then match the beavers with mates at a local holding facility. After that they choose a spot in the forest that could be improved by beavers, they release the beavers into the stream and then continue to monitor them. Since the Beaver Project started they have placed approximately 330 beavers in drainages up and down the Methow Valley, providing helpful climate adaptation for stream ecosystems.