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Boulder Watershed Collective Beaver Tour

Describing the importance of beavers Left: Group looks at a beaver pond below Ward on Jim Creek.  Above: Ecohydrologist and beaver researcher Emily Fairfax on the right discusses the benefits of beavers on watersheds with the group next to Lefthand Creek.  Below: Ecohydrologist and beaver researcher Emily Fairfax was the keynote speaker during the Boulder Watershed Collective's beaver tour along Lefthand Creek below Ward.Describing the importance of beavers Left: Group looks at a beaver pond below Ward on Jim Creek.  Above: Ecohydrologist and beaver researcher Emily Fairfax on the right discusses the benefits of beavers on watersheds with the group next to Lefthand Creek.  Below: Ecohydrologist and beaver researcher Emily Fairfax was the keynote speaker during the Boulder Watershed Collective's beaver tour along Lefthand Creek below Ward.

Describe the importance of beavers: Group looks at a beaver pond below Ward on Jim Creek.

The Boulder Watershed Collective hosted a tour of beaver ponds on Lefthand Creek below Ward on May 9, 2024. The purpose of the tour was to hear from ecohydrologist and beaver researcher Emily Fairfax to gain a better understanding of how beavers can impact a watershed. .

Fairfax, an assistant professor of geography at the University of Minnesota, discussed how beavers are considered a “keystone species” because they create habitat by damming creeks and rivers, benefiting the entire ecosystem from birds to insects . Beavers are called nature’s engineers and have been changing landscapes for centuries.

Recent research has shown that beavers are effective in creating resilience in watersheds against droughts, fires and floods. Beaver ponds and their associated channels and wetland landscapes are called fire refugia because they do not burn at all or burn at low intensity, allowing the survival of the plants and animals that take refuge in them during a wildfire.

Ecohydrologist and beaver researcher Emily Fairfax at right discusses the benefits of beavers on watersheds with the group next to Lefthand Creek.

Fairfax said one of the most pressing needs in beaver research is to record what watersheds looked like before a wildfire so they could compare them after a fire to see how fully an ecosystem recovers.

Although beavers are not aggressive animals and do not normally pose a threat to humans, they are susceptible to diseases that can be transmitted to humans. The Gilpin Sheriff’s Office recently confirmed that a dead beaver found near Snowline Lake had died of tularemia, a bacterial infection also called “rabbit fever.”

Ecohydrologist and beaver researcher Emily Fairfax was the keynote speaker at the Boulder Watershed Collective beaver tour along Lefthand Creek below Ward.

It is recommended to keep children and pets away from the lake so that they do not come into contact with the water or drink it. Colorado statute also requires people not to interfere with wildlife. Just leave them alone.

YouTube hosts a PBS documentary titled “Want to Solve Wildfires and Drought? LEAVE IT TO BEAVERS,” which Fairfax said was the catalyst for her interest in studying beavers.

Fairfax also recommended two books: Eager, the surprising, secret lives of beavers and why they matter by Ben Goldfarb and Saving the Damned: Why We Need Beaver-Modified Ecosystems” by Ellen Wohl.

The Boulder Watershed Collective (boulderwatershedcollective.com) and Lefthand Watershed Center (watershed.center) are nonprofit organizations dedicated to protecting and maintaining watershed habitats in the Peak to Peak region. Both websites have schedules of events and volunteer opportunities.