April 7 is International Beaver Day and the San Luis Obispo Beaver Brigade is celebrating this year by participating in the first free, virtual California Beaver Summit.
Beavers are native to California. San Luis Obispo County has populations in the Salinas River and Arroyo Grande Creek. Beavers also live in the Arroyo Seco River in Monterey County and in the Santa Ynez River in Santa Barbara County.
Audrey Taub is the founder of the SLO Beaver Brigade, a beaver advocacy group that is participating in the California Beaver Summit April 7 and April 9.
The purpose of the summit is to educate the public about the benefits beavers bring to the environment.
Taub said taking people out to see the beavers in their own environment is one of the best ways to spread awareness.
“[It’s] been so wonderful taking people out there,” Taub said. “Then it’s less about having to explain all the bullets of why beaver are important because they just get it. You just really, really see how beneficial they are first hand.”
Dr. Emily Fairfax is an assistant professor of environmental science and resource management at California State University (CSU) Channel Islands. She will speak at the summit on April 9.
Fairfax does research about how beaver activity can create drought-resistant and fire-resistant patches of wetland that help restore groundwater and combat the effects of climate change.
“When beavers build their dams, that creates a pond on the upstream side. They’re digging channels out from their ponds. They’re chewing on trees in the stream-side landscape,” Fairfax said. “The culmination of all of those behaviors is that these patches of the landscape are really wet, and they can stay really wet even if you don’t have a lot of precipitation coming.”
Fairfax said conflict can often arise between beavers and humans when beaver activity disturbs nearby property.
Cooper Lienhart is a Cal Poly student and SLO Beaver Brigade member. He is training to practice non-lethal beaver management to help the animals thrive near humans.
Lienhart said local property owners can contact the Brigade for assistance if a beaver is causing flooding on their property or chewing trees.
“I’ll be able to go and report to those problems and talk with the land owners to see if there is any way that I can help without getting rid of the beavers,” Leinhart said.
The last day of the California Beaver Summit is April 9 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
People can get involved with the SLO Beaver Brigade by signing up for monthly river cleanups and educational walks on their website.