Using Beavers for Salmon Habitat Restoration

Protecting wildlife and helping landowners builds salmon habitat naturally

The Tulalip Tribes are collaborating with an unlikely partner to restore habitat for salmon: beavers. For four years, the Tribe has relocated about 100 beavers from private lands in the Skykomish watershed to US Forest Service lands in the Mt. Baker Snoqualmie Forest so the animals can do what they do best: build dams and create channels of slow-moving water that salmon and other fish need for refuge and rearing. The tribe works with private landowners who are having problems with beavers, assessing the problem and relocating beavers if local solutions cannot be found. Beavers are relocated as whole families to improve relocation success. Relocation areas are assessed for their suitability as beaver habitat and the sites are monitored regularly after relocation to determine whether the beavers are staying put and then to assess changes in the river channel and flow caused by beaver activity. In the study area, beaver activity resulted in approximately 64,000 gallons of water stored for every 100 meters of stream. This water storage is important to keep water temperatures cool and to ensure stream flow for fish and wildlife during dry summer months.  Successful beaver relocation also resulted in 2.3° Celsius cooler water downstream from beaver relocation areas during summer.   Many areas of Western Washington are still recovering from dramatic declines in beaver population from the fur trade, so there are many areas where beaver could be reintroduced.

What worked:

  • Beavers created ponds in river channels as they built their dams
  • Beaver activity resulted in 64,000 gallons of water storage for every 100 meters of stream providing more water during dry summer months.
  • Salmon were found in the new ponds created by beavers.
  • Water downstream of the beavers was cooler by 2.3° Celsius.

Benefits:

  • Beaver logs and wood create pools and hiding places for young salmon.
  • Cooler water is better for salmon.
  • Removing nuisance beavers from properties creates landowner support for salmon restoration.
  • Beaver ponds allow water to soak into the ground to replenish ground water storage.

Location:

  • Congressional District: 1
  • Legislative District: 39
  • WRIA: 7
  • County: King, Snohomish

Partnerships:

  • The Tulalip Tribes
  • US Forest Service
  • Beavers Northwest
  • King County
  • King County Conservation District
  • Snohomish County
  • Snohomish Conservation District

Project Funding:

  • EPA
  • Salmon Recovery Funding Board
  • King County Floodwater Control District
  • Department of Ecology

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