The animals have settled in along the Guadalupe River, right along a park trail. There have been beaver sightings along a creek in Martinez and also in the Los Gatos area but never before, to anyone's knowledge, in an urban setting in a park heavily used by runners, cyclists, and even school children. In fact, beavers haven't been seen in the valley in more than 150 years.
Over the past two weeks, video cameras equipped with night-vision lenses have captured a mother and two yearlings as they feed along the river in the dark. If you look closely, you can also tell that the mother is expecting. May is the typical month for giving birth.
"They have chosen this spot to raise the young, so we should be seeing some baby beavers pretty soon here," nature photographer Greg Kerekes told ABC7 News. He was also able to capture sound of the beavers chatting with each other.
A gnawed willow tree trunk was a sign they had settled in the area. "This is tremendously significant because the last reported beaver in the Santa Clara Valley were 1855. That's 158 years ago," beaver expert Rick lanman said.
The Guadalupe River is also used to teach school children about nature. Ducks and geese seem to get along with humans and the hope is, so will the beavers. "We're hoping that we can co-exist and that we can use them to illustrate how healthy our watershed is becoming and use this time as a benchmark to see what other species come back," said Leslee Hamilton with Guadalupe River Park Conservancy,
In that location, the river is sufficiently deep that the beavers haven't built a dam. They appear to be living inside a lodge along the bank. The Guadalupe channels storm runoff and excess ground water to the bay. Experts say the return of the beavers is a sign of a healthy eco-system and it bodes well for other species.
"They'll enhance the water for steelhead trout and Chinook salmon, both of which use this river, because they'll trap sediment, further clarify the water. Also, beaver ponds, if they build them, are like cafeteria for baby salmon and baby steelhead," Inman explained.