Beavers on Pebble Creek
The population of this keystone wilderness species, and with it the ecological health of the valley, are again in peril. Watch this video ("Beaver: Back to the Future"). 2017: Read about Wisconsin's recent study of beaver management: beaver dams reduce trout size and numbers (due to water temperature changes), but out here in the West, with our colder water, the opposite occurs - more beavers, more trout. LINK

Background: For eons, beavers have been a key component of the ecological health of Pebble Creek valley. The dozens of ponds that they created have provided homes for fish, waterfowl, other mammals, amphibians, and insects, as well as interesting plants. The ponds attract a host of additional mammals and birds, and recharge ground water below their dams. They even provide an emergency source of water for humans (for example, pulling out a dam with a pick has provided emergency water for irrigating the ranch meadow, and could help recharge Wyler Lake in a time of acute drawdown). And of course the ponds are a beautiful and welcome addition in steep terrain in a dry climate.

Dozens of beaver ponds were a steady presence from 1936 (when Bulah Walls arrived - see poster at right) until the mid-1980s, when the first crash occurred, and the beavers disappeared entirely from the valley. In 1990, Sherri Tippie reintroduced six beavers, and they thrived, restoring nearly the entire population during the 1990s and early 2000s.

Then, around 2006, the population was again totally decimated. The dams failed and the ponds emptied.

Update: In April 2012, a few beavers reappeared, and reestablished several ponds and a few lodges in the region at the bottom of the ranch meadow, just above Wyler Pond. It was hoped that they would spread upstream to their rich, unoccupied former habitat at the "upper ponds." Curiously, they started to do so, reestablishing the "First Pond" and satellites (just below the irrigation ditch) in 2015 and 2016, but then abandoning the project. In 2017, they made no attempt to move upstream, and while beavers were observed in the spring, by the summer and fall, all signs of recent beaver activity were gone. It seems that, once again, Pebble Creek has lost entirely its primary keystone species.

Updates

Pictures of Pebble Creek beaver ponds
Beavers in England & Scotland (pdf)
About Sherri Tippie

1990 video: releasing 3 beavers on Pebble Creek*
*Dave Swartz made this video of Sherri and friends releasing three beavers at the upper ponds on Pebble Creek. Dave writes, "The original is an analog recording on Video-8 tape converted to digital tape and then downloaded and processed through Adobe Premiere and exported via DV25 NTSC Codec. This .mov file was then uploaded to YouTube and allowed to be processed to remove shake. The sequence is as it was recorded, no editing other than in camera when originally filmed."