Thursday, July 10, 2014
Errant Mountain Beaver
Folks up here on the ridge were recently roused to declare their biophilia when a mountain beaver was reported swimming down the Butte Creek Flume.
One of our local naturalists, a retired bike-riding school teacher known by his avatar Forest, documented the rare event in video.
This is the first verified record of mountain beaver in Butte County, and the discovery begs the question: From whence the errant rodent?
I'm an enthusiast of these guinea pig size rodents, and I recognize their haunts when I see them, but I have never seen their signs in the county of Butte.
They require lush vegetation for food and live in moist habitats with shallow water tables, Their burrows often tap into underground springs.
I guess I have to look a little harder.
Arctos, an extensive database of zoological records, lists mountain beaver specimens from several counties in the Sierra Nevada, including Shasta, Plumas, Eldorado, Sierra, Nevada, Placer, Mono, Mariposa, and Tulare.
I suspect this particular rodent entered the flume voluntarily, swam around, and went with the flow.
But here's the rub. Its flume float could not have been longer than about 3 miles.
If the rodent had embarked on its swim further upstream it would have passed into a deadly siphon that conveys the water down and then up a ravine.
Even Houdini couldn't have made it through that siphon alive.
If the mountain beaver's odyssey started above the siphon, it had to travel by land to bypass the siphon and reach the flume's navigable portion.
Unfortunately, the neighborhood's flumes do not lead to suitable habitat for mountain beavers. So I doubt this rodent's trip led it to greener pastures.
It was an unusual event and it makes you wonder.
Did the mountain beaver abandon its home because of the drought? Or was it just a normal attempt to disperse that few people ever see?
We're lucky to have naturalists like Forest here.