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SELAWIK: Addressing Local Concerns through Science -Mapping Beaver Activity
Alaska Region, December 5, 2006
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Beaver have spread throughout the Selawik River drainage in recent decades, building dams like this one across small waterways.  Photo by Nate Olson, October 2006.
Beaver have spread throughout the Selawik River drainage in recent decades, building dams like this one across small waterways. Photo by Nate Olson, October 2006. - Photo Credit: n/a

The IƱupiat of northwest Alaska have seen dramatic shifts in some animal populations over the past decades.  In Selawik, for instance, moose and beaver are now commonplace in areas where they were unheard of 50 years ago. Beaver have spread so widely that local residents worry about their impact on fish and on water quality.

To address these local concerns and to monitor beaver activity, Selawik Refuge staff recently completed an aerial survey to count beaver dams, lodges, and caches in high-use subsistence areas adjacent to the community of Selawik.  Biologists chose areas to survey that contained critical feeding and spawning habitats for whitefish as well as key fishing sites for local residents who depend heavily on whitefish, pike, and sheefish to feed their families.

The aerial survey allowed Refuge staff to obtain a good spatial picture of beaver distribution in the Selawik River delta.  Many beaver structures were observed, but none appeared to impede whitefish mobility or spawning in the main rivers and streams.  Areas with the greatest concentration of beaver activity included Singauruk Creek, upper Fish River, and Mangoak (Napaaqtulik) River.

The beaver survey was an excellent first step in working with the community to address their wildlife concerns.  The results will be useful for identifying future research on the impacts of beaver dams on fish.  In addition, repeating the survey at regular intervals will allow the Refuge to monitor trends in beaver activity and distribution.


Contact Info: Kristen Gilbert, 907-786-3391, Kristen_Gilbert@fws.gov



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