'Nature's fighter': Baby beaver spotting in Palo Alto excites wildlife experts

Lauren Martinez Image
Saturday, September 16, 2023
Baby beaver spotting in Palo Alto excites wildlife experts
A recent sighting of a small baby beaver in Palo Alto is creating a huge moment for wildlife experts.

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- A recent sighting of a small baby beaver in Palo Alto is creating a big deal for wildlife experts.

Bill Leikam is the president of the nonprofit Urban Wildlife Research Project that focuses on restoring healthy habitats for ray foxes.

In August, one of Leikam's trail cameras near Matadero Creek in Palo Alto captured a baby beaver.

VIDEO: Beaver makes 1st appearance in Palo Alto in 160 years

A young beaver was caught on video making a rare appearance in Palo Alto, the first time in 160 years.

Dr. Heidi Perryman, founder of Worth a Dam, confirmed to Leikam that was indeed a juvenile beaver.

"For this area, there have not been any beavers in this particular Matadero Creek for over 160 years," Leikam said.

Last year, Bill Leikam said his trail cameras captured a pair of beavers.

While there's no confirmation they produced offspring, the video of the young beaver is offering researchers hope for their future.

"I almost didn't believe it when I first saw it," Leikam said.

Experts say the industrial fur trade pushed the population to near extinction.

MORE: Stanford University study explains how beaver activity may have long-term benefits on climate change

To see the beaver come back on its own, is a huge moment.

Emily Fairfax monitored beavers in California when she worked at the California State University Channel Islands for four years. Fairfax is currently an assistant professor in Minnesota.

"To see a beaver get into Palo Alto from some other population that's bay adjacent, you know, that was a trek to get there - those beavers were looking for new habitat, they were looking for a new place to settle down and they found it, somewhere they probably haven't been in two hundred plus years which is a huge moment for ecological restoration and bringing back a pretty awesome species to the bay," Fairfax said.

Beavers offer a slew of benefits to other animals and humans.

"The beaver ponds and the wetlands that they build are hotspots for biodiversity, they are uniquely resistant to droughts and wildfires and they can help take the power out of floodways so when we have these big atmospheric rivers and other kind of storm events it's not so destructive downstream," Fairfax said.

Dr. Rick Lanman, president of the Institute for Historical Ecology, says beaver ponds store water often in remote regions which provide a water source for firefighters.

"Nature's fighter. Not just an ecosystem engineer that is a keystone species but also nature's free working firefighter," Lanman said.

Since beavers travel up streams, Lanman has an idea of where they could head next.

"San Francisquito is unique in the South Bay because it's not concrete, it's natural. It could provide a corridor for beavers to get from this baylands to the uplands which we need them to get to in order to fight fires for us right," Lanman said.

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