BEAVER (Castor Canadensis)
The beaver is North America’s largest rodent. They live near rivers, streams, ponds, small lakes, and marshes where they build their lodges of sticks and mud on islands, and banks (some beavers make burrows instead). In the past, the beaver was trapped for its pelt and was eliminated from many parts of the West, including Utah. Increasingly, the importance of beaver as a "keystone species" is becoming understood.
THE POSITIVE IMPACTS OF BEAVER DAMS:
- Creation of new wetland and riparian environments, increasing the carrying capacity for other species
- Water retention allows for increased infiltration of stream flow, allowing for subsurface waters to be restored
- Flood prevention and stream flow moderation
- Improved water quality from dams trapping sediment
- Beavers are responsible for creating wide, flat valleys from centuries of dam building that has trapped sediment.
THE NEGATIVE IMPACTS OF BEAVER DAMS:
- Beaver dams can build up silt, causing flooding in low-lying areas (agricultural fields, roads, and homes).
- Loss of trees
Beavers can cause conflicts with other water uses, but ranchers, farmers, and urban landowners now understand that restoring beavers to a stream may provide the restoration benefits that would otherwise cost 10s to 100s of thousands of dollars! Learn more about “cheap and cheerful” stream restoration provided by these busy mammals: click here
For information on beaver restoration and conservation, click here.
RIVER OTTERS (Lontra Canadensis):
- River otters eat fish, amphibians, crustaceans, small birds, and mammals - making them the top predator species in many rivers. However, the northern river otter is a sensitive species.
- Otter populations are low in Utah and even though they are able to adapt to wide varieties of aquatic habitats, they face many threats: Loss of riparian vegetation, and agricultural and urban development reduce water levels and quality, therefore, they reduce the amount of prey species.
For more information on River Otters: click here
MUSKRAT (Ondatra zebthicus):
Muskrat are native, medium-sized rodents found in wetlands all across North America. These animals play an important role in the ecology of wetlands; they are capable of removing a lot of vegetation in wetlands, changing the abundance of plant species in many kinds of wetlands. Increased muskrat habitat has been created with the construction of canals and irrigation channels.
- Muskrats play an important role in freshwater ecology, find out more information here.
FROGS AND TOADS:
Utah has 14 species of native frogs and toads. Frogs and toads are very sensitive to water pollutants - which can be absorbed through their skin. loss of habitat, as temporary waters/wetlands are filled or drained to make way for development, are damaging toward Utah's frog and toad populations.
For more information and a list of common frogs and toads found in Utah, click here.
Waterfowl are a common visitor to Utah’s ponds and lakes. Many of Utah's hunters participate in the annual duck hunt. In addition, Utah's bird enthusiasts participate in bird counts, such as the Great Backyard Bird Count, and Christmas Bird Count.
Visit here for more information on Utah’s waterfowl!