Vegas Verdes: Beaver Visit the River Park

Published on May 25, 2021 in the Las Vegas Optic.

At one time in our history, beaver were plentiful in rivers all over North America. With the arrival of the Europeans and the growing demand for fur, beaver pelts became an internationally traded luxury item and the beaver population declined. Some rivers, the Gallinas through Las Vegas for example, haven’t seen any at all for a number of years. The beaver, with their engineering feats, are known to promote water quality and quantity. Let’s welcome beaver back to the Gallinas River Park.

Beaver sightings were recently reported in the area near Prince/Independence Streets. Lest the readers suspect the spotter couldn’t tell the difference between a muskrat and a beaver, beaver are much larger than muskrat (a beaver is 3 to 4 feet long and 44 to 60 pounds while a muskrat is no more than 2 feet long and weighs 1-4 pounds). There is physical evidence of their presence in the same area. Two trees have been taken down and the telltale teeth marks can be
seen on two others. It’s believed that the beaver are attracted to the south end of the Gallinas River Park because of new deep water resulting from restoration work. Still, it seems the beaver have yet to decide if they will stay. If they do stay, the Friends of the Gallinas River Park (FGRP) plan to protect the few trees in the area by caging them with wire mesh, and hope the beaver is encouraged to find a more congenial place to settle. An ideal locale for them might be the north
end of the River Park where trees are plentiful and beaver are known to have previously resided.

It is true that beaver have acquired a poor reputation. They do, after all, take down healthy trees. They build dams in rivers and sometimes in acequias. The dams they build make ponds and those can and often do, flood nearby human
enterprises. Think of hay fields or roads or somebody’s back yard. The running water associated with culverts and acequia diversions can confuse the beaver so that they think their dam has sprung a leak . . . then the beaver try to stop the leak by clogging the culvert or the diversion.

But wait . . . we humans can take steps to protect what we grow and what we have built. We can cage trees; we can construct a flow device thru the beaver dam that will regulate water level and maintain the pond at a constant non-threatening height; and there are mitigation methods to safeguard acequias. In the River Park, the willows and cottonwoods that the beavers cut for food and dam and lodge building will regenerate themselves over time, leaving a vibrant bosque. We humans might also find better places to build than in flood plains.

It is true that beaver have acquired a poor reputation. They do, after all, take down healthy trees. They build dams in rivers and sometimes in acequias. The dams they build make ponds and those can and often do, flood nearby human
enterprises. Think of hay fields or roads or somebody’s back yard. The running water associated with culverts and acequia diversions can confuse the beaver so that they think their dam has sprung a leak . . . then the beaver try to stop the leak by clogging the culvert or the diversion.


But wait . . . we humans can take steps to protect what we grow and what we have built. We can cage trees; we can construct a flow device thru the beaver dam that will regulate water level and maintain the pond at a constant non-threatening height; and there are mitigation methods to safeguard acequias. In the River Park, the willows and cottonwoods that the beavers cut for food
and dam and lodge building will regenerate themselves over time, leaving a vibrant bosque. We humans might also find better places to build than in flood plains.

Leave a Reply