Swaner EcoCenter presentation will ask ‘Are Beavers Friends of Foes?’ | ParkRecord.com

Swaner EcoCenter presentation will ask ‘Are Beavers Friends of Foes?’

Scott Iwasaki

In the past year, the Swaner EcoCenter staff has seen an increase in beaver activity on the nonprofit’s 1,200-acre preserve.

"We have seen quite a bit of activity in the last year on the Preserve along East Canyon Creek," said Brittany Ingalls, Swaner EcoCenter’s conservation coordinator. "We also see them along Kimball Creek as well."

So, the staff felt it would be a great idea to bring in Assistant Professor Joe Wheaton, a Utah State University biologist, to the EcoCenter for a Science Unwrapped presentation called "Are Beavers Friends of Foes," on Thursday, Sept. 24.

Wheaton will discuss the pros and cons of coexisting with beavers, Ingalls said.

"Joe does quite a bit of research involving what beavers do in ecosystems," she said. "They are known to do great things for water quality and wildlife habitats."

Beavers, Ingalls said, are also excellent engineers.

"So, Joe’s research also examines beaver-made structures such as the lodges and dams," she said. "Joe will talk abut how humans can make these same types of structures that are called beaver analog structures and, depending on the weather, the group may get out and learn how to put together one of these structures."

The discussion will also talk about the downside of living near beavers.

"I think people, especially homeowners, often think of beavers as pests," Ingalls said. "In order for beavers to build dams and lodges, they have to remove their building materials from somewhere and in a residential environment like Park City, those materials usually include trees and plants from people’s yards. And that’s obviously not exciting for homeowners at times."

The upside is these materials are used to build dams, which create ponds or slower flowing water, according to Ingalls.

"That, in turn, creates an opportunity for the water to be used to sub-irrigate upstream," she said. "But that also means the ground water raises upstream, which is a good thing for the ecosystem, but not for homeowners."

In the past, the Swaner EcoCenter staff has been involved in mitigation with neighbors whose basements have flooded because of beaver dams, according to Ingalls.

"Because they are such great engineers, beavers can change the course of a river and wreak havoc for human structures," she said.

Even the Swaner staff has had some run ins with beavers.

They and many volunteers spend large amounts of time planting willows along the banks of East Canyon Creek to help anchor the soil and provide shade and habitat for the fish.

"There have been instances where we haven’t been too excited about beavers removing our hard work," Ingalls said with a laugh. "Joe will probably talk about some solutions in how to coexist with beavers through a question and answer period, and the Swaner staff also have some ideas that we will share. So, if people are interested in protecting certain plants or trees, we can give them some tips."

These Science Unwrapped presentations usually take place at the Utah State University campus in Logan, Ingalls said.

"They come up with a topic or theme for each semester, and they offer not only speakers and presenters, but attendees can participate in hands-on activities that fit the themes," she said. "So, it’s always a bonus when we can offer one of these events at the EcoCenter. We’re excited for the presentation and grateful to our partners up on the Logan campus who are willing to come and teach people here in Park City."

The Swaner EcoCenter, 1258 Center Dr. at Kimball Junction, will host Joe Wheaton, biologist at Utah State University, on Thursday, Sept. 24. Families and children are welcome. The cost is free for Swaner EcoCenter members or $5 for nonmembers. Registration is required. To register, visit http://www.swanerecocenter.org .