"The thing is - a landscape that suits beavers becomes one that suits otter so the two, while not friends, are almost inseparable."
Do you remember as a child that kid on the block that always went to your school, shopped with her mom at the same store, and hung around where you wanted to play but was never exactly a ‘friend’? Maybe she was too rude or too bossy or too uncool to actually play with, but she was never very far away. In fact, as you grew up you might or have gotten braces from the same dentist, worked in the same factory or married cousins from the same family. Regardless of your particular likes and dislikes, your fate seemed tangled up with hers: linked forever by circumstances that played a more essential role in both your developments than character.
This is the fate of the otter and the beaver.
The thing is - a landscape that suits beavers becomes one that suits otter so the two, while not friends, are almost inseparable.
The father beaver soon chased that otter away and sent the waters echoing with a total of nineteen memorable tail slaps! Since that time I have never observed more than one or two at a time and they seem most likely to occur in the spring. We know that otters like to rest and den in abandoned beaver lodges and on two separate occasions I saw eager otters try to enter the beaver lodge only to be roundly chased out by mom beaver or one of the yearlings.
The fact remains: beaver dams create ideal conditions that improve fish population density and diversity. In fact, in Oregon and Washington beaver ponds on public lands are protected as essential fish habitat and NOAA has been active in promoting this. Not waiting for California to get on board otters are already drawn to our beaver ponds where they are sometimes unwelcome and mostly ignored. As an avid canoe-er, I am used to finding river otter along the Albion, Navarro or Russian rivers, but I never understood how urban their population could be until I started watching beavers. It has become a predictable surprise to be looking downstream for the familiar “V” of the low swimming beaver and see one or two heads pop up suddenly out of the water as if they were standing on ladders below its surface. Otter visitors! Enjoyed around town for a couple hours or a couple days before leaving as suddenly as they arrived.
Watching the neighborhood activity never fails to make me smile. Surely, as different as the two species are, they both need the same things - habitat and clean water. When one is harmed the other will suffer, and nothing we can do to protect the first will hurt the second! This summer’s Beaver Festival will celebrate the role of beavers and creeks with a fitting display from the River Otter Ecology Project. Otter peeps should join us on August 4th from 11-4. I hope we will see you all there to learn your stories of these two remarkable species!