Ask Zimo: Beavers are common in Idaho, but seeing them is rare

pzimowsky@idahostatesman.comMay 29, 2014 

Q: My mom and I were at the family cabin in Garden Valley this weekend when she noticed an unusual rock that turned out to be a beaver. We were very surprised by the sighting and wanted to share the photos.

Wondering if this is a rare sighting; we've never seen wild beavers anywhere.

TAYLOR TODD, via-email

A: Beavers are not rare in Idaho, but seeing them is rare. That's because they are nocturnal. Consider yourself lucky to get photos of one during the day. That's great.

Since they are nocturnal, many people never see them and don't know they are around except for the dams and dens that they build.

You might see them as you walk along the Boise Greenbelt at dusk. I was fishing the Boise River and one swam by in the low-light of the early part of the day.

What a critter. Beavers are considered one of the most important animals for the ecosystem.

The neat thing about this busy animal is its work in rehabilitating streams, the brushy areas along waterways and for creating wetlands that are important for fish, waterfowl, reptiles and other wildlife. Their work in building dams helps slow down runoff and preventing erosion.

I love fishing a creek where there are beaver dams and pools hiding brook trout. That's some of the best fishing around.

Of course, beavers aren't well liked when they start chewing on neighborhood trees or building dams where the pond can flood a pasture or road.

Beavers have come back from near extinction in some areas due to over-trapping during the fur trade of the 1700s and 1800s.

The population in Idaho is good enough to support a trapping season today, and beavers are common in rivers and streams.

TREES ALONG IDAHO 55

Q: My wife and I frequently travel Idaho 55 between Boise and Cascade. Along the roadside from Banks to Smiths Ferry, a large number, of conifers are turning brown or are already dead.

What is going on? Is it the salt used to remove snow and ice on the roadway?

BOB BECKER, via email

A: A lot of things can be going on with the trees along the Payette River Scenic Byway.

In some sections, trees have died as a result of wildfires over recent years. The U.S. Forest Service calls it "delayed mortality" after the fires.

Some of the trees were attacked by bark beetles following fire damage, the agency said.

Other insects might also be doing some damage, the Forest Service said.

Some of the trees do have symptoms consistent with salt and other roadside damages, like plows throwing snow and other road grime that damages the trees.

Still other trees you saw might have been larch, which look dead in the winter because they lose their needles each winter. They will come back in the summer.

Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445, Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors

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