Three people reported seeing a beaver April 18 sauntering down the Recreational Path in the direction of the capped Pickett Landfill. This is a good thing!
The American beaver is the largest rodent in the United States and is commonly thought of as a nuisance in populated areas, because it fells trees (for food) and floods areas with dams (as protection from predators).
Less known, however, are the critical benefits beavers bring to the healthy ecology of streams and wetlands, providing a diversity of wetland habitats and replacing forested areas with grassy “beaver meadows” and aquatic vegetation. Beavers are a “keystone” species, which means that they have a disproportionate positive impact on an ecosystem when compared to their numbers.
A growing coalition of “Beaver Believers”, including scientists and ranchers, are trying to restore beavers to diverse areas, from the Nevada deserts to the Scottish Highlands.
A 2018 book, Eager: The Surprising Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter, by Ben Goldfarb, shows how our landscapes have changed over the centuries, and how beavers can help fight drought, flooding, wildfire, extinction, and the ravages of climate change. The book is the winner of the 2019 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award.
For further information, read Beavers in Connecticut: Their Natural History and Management.