Graduation Date

Summer 2021

Document Type

Thesis

Program

Master of Science degree with a major in Natural Resources: option Environmental Science and Management

Committee Chair Name

Laurie Richmond

Committee Chair Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Second Committee Member Name

Erin Kelly

Second Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Third Committee Member Name

Barbara Clucas

Third Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Subject Categories

Environmental Science and Management

Abstract

As ecosystem engineers, beavers construct complex riparian and wetland habitats that benefit many other species, including endangered salmonids. Through their landscape alterations, beavers also promote increased groundwater recharge and provide refugia during wildfires and high flow events by impounding water and allowing it to spread across the landscape. Prior to the North American colonial fur trapping campaigns, there were between 60 and 400 million beavers in North America. By the beginning of the 20th century, beavers were extirpated from many parts of the continent, however through human efforts, their population has since rebounded to between 10 and 15 million. The loss of beavers has significantly affected the arid west, including California where beavers had played an important role by impounding water on the surface and water on the landscape. Human tolerance of beaver behavior has been found to be one of the biggest barriers to increasing the number of beavers in California.

Starting in the early 20th century, if beavers caused a disruption in human dominated areas in California, the most common action was to deprecate the animal in order to prevent potential flooding or vegetation damage. However, in the past 40 years, there has been increasing interest in coexistence alternatives where humans mitigate potential damages through various methods, allowing beavers and humans to coexist.

To better understand how social factors affect the decision to coexist with beavers, I conducted a case study of a high-profile event culminating in beaver coexistence which took place from November 2007 through April 2008 in Martinez, California. This was one of the first cases in recent California history where an urban community chose to coexist with beavers rather than remove them. I reviewed documents, transcribed recordings of city council meetings, and conducted 23 semi-structured interviews with individuals who could provide insights relevant to the Martinez events, including an understanding of the factors that contributed to the community’s decision to coexist with beavers and the legacy of the Martinez decision. I thematically coded these materials for recurrent patterns and themes. Key findings included: (1) the local history and experiences of those that lived in the area contributed to a sense of place which influenced Martinez’s decision to coexist with beavers; (2) the urban location and associated easy accessibility of the beavers and dam helped foster a relationship with the beavers; and (3) coexistence is more likely to occur when people can experience wildlife through non-conflict-oriented interactions before conflicts arise.

Citation Style

APA

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