Monday, December 1, 2008

USFS counting beavers

unedited Tahoe Mt. News story

By Kathryn Reed

Small, football size rodents beware – Forest Service officials are tracking you.
Wildlife biologists are looking for mountain beaver habitat, but don’t actually expect to see any of the critters. It’s all part of a study to see how many of the animals are living in the Benwood Meadow watershed.
“We are not getting the numbers we would like to see,” Rena Escobedo, USFS wildlife biologist said.
One definite habitat sighting was confirmed by mid-August in the Benwood watershed. Last year’s study in the Big Meadow watershed yielded about 20 sightings.
This year’s team started near Round Lake on the Christmas Valley trail on July 29 and is expected to wrap things up this month. They are following the Upper Truckee River down to the bridge that crosses South Upper Truckee Road.
“We walk the whole water area. We will heavily search the area, very slowly,” Escobedo said.
Biologists look for hay piles to indicate a beaver’s home. Beavers clip vegetation at a diagonal and then pile it outside their burrow to dry before using it to line the inside.
Mountain beavers are not marine mammals and don’t build dams. Squirrels are closer relatives. Their faces are small, their tails stubby. They can travel from watershed to watershed. These beavers have been around for about 40 million years.
They need water. They tend to favor low flowing water year-round and semi-soft soil so they can dig a hole into a bank. One beaver may call a 75-square-foot area home.
They live alone. Youngsters are kicked out at 3 months. Males serve one purpose.
The mountain beavers were studied extensively in the 1930 and 1950s. The data collected on the South Shore will be sent to the regional office in Vallejo for analysis.

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