Beavers log back onto Tule River Reservation

(Courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.)

Tule River Tribe introduces seven beavers to South Fork Tule River; Tule River Tribe, California Department of Fish and Wildlife hope the beavers make positive impact on environment

TULARE COUNTY – Hot dam, they’re back! After several decades away, beavers are finally logging back onto the Tule River Indian Reservation.

After years of work by the Tule River Tribe, a family of seven beavers have been released into the South Fork Tule River watershed on the Tule River Reservation. This is part of a multi-year beaver reintroduction effort done in partnership with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Beavers play a critical role in the ecology of their environment. They build dams that retain water on the landscape, extending seasonal flows, increasing summer base flows, improving drought and wildfire resilience and better conserving the Tribe’s drinking water supply, of which about 80% comes from the Tule River watershed.

“We’ve been through numerous droughts over the years. Going through these droughts we were wondering how we can conserve, save water, get water here on our lands,” said Kenneth McDarment, a Tule River Tribe member and past tribal councilman. “The answer was in our pictographs.”

Estimated to be between 500 and 1,000 years old, beaver pictographs can be seen at Painted Rock next to the South Fork Tule River on the 55,356-acre reservation. Tribal elders recall beavers being present in the high elevation meadows when they were young, but prior to this release, beavers have not been present on the reservation for decades.

“We can make our future different from our past,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “Our past is one where we treated these animals and others as varmints, as nuisances and our culture over time ran them off the landscape. That can’t be our future.”

Ten years ago, tribal leaders set a course to bring beavers back to the Tule River watershed, and through research, advocacy and the state’s pursuit of nature-based solutions, CDFW received state funding to launch its Beaver Restoration Program in 2022. The program created a pathway for the Tribe to reintroduce beavers into their river waters, supporting efforts to ready sites to receive the beavers.

The program partners with tribes, non-governmental organizations, private landowners and other state, federal and local agencies to implement beaver restoration projects.

Before the beavers’ arrival, Tule River Tribe spiritual leader JR Manuel performed a blessing and was joined by Anthony Hunter of the Tachi Yokut Tribe and Elder Robert Gomez, chairman of the Tubatulabal Tribe. 

“I’m very happy to see (the beavers) come home and it’s going to be wonderful to watch them do their thing,” said McDarment. “People will be educated even more by seeing the work that they do and the benefits they bring to the environment. My hope is to have the beaver throughout the reservation and all the watershed that we have.”

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As part of a multi-year beaver reintroduction effort conducted between the Tule River Tribe and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, a family of seven beavers have been released into the South Fork Tule River watershed on the Tule River Reservation. (Courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife)

The initial June 12 release included three adult beavers, one subadult and three babies, or “kits.” Two additional beavers were released into Miner Creek on the Tule River Reservation June 17 and more will be reintroduced in coming months and years to reestablish a genetically diverse population in the watershed.

Because of the beavers, CDFW wildlife biologists expect to eventually see better habitat conditions for species of endangered amphibians and riparian-obligate birds. These species include foothill and southern mountain yellow-legged frogs, western pond turtle, least Bell’s vireo and southwestern willow flycatcher.

CDFW wildlife biologists remained on site in the days following the release to monitor the beavers’ behavior. According to the latest report from the field team, the family group has remained together at the release site on Eagle Creek.

Organizations also supporting the Tule River Tribe in its beaver restoration efforts include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Tulalip Tribes Beaver Project, U.S. Forest Service (Sequoia National Forest and South Pacific Research Station), the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, Swift Water Design and Acorn Environmental.

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