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Roseville's beavers shape landscape

City considers impacts when deciding whether to remove dams
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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A few years ago, a pond existed behind Woodcreek High School to the delight of Roseville residents.

And who did they have to thank? The Roseville beaver population. But these creatures often wreak havoc on the natural ecosystem, or go against city planning, by building dams.

"When I moved here to west Roseville in 2006 there was a wonderful wild land area (behind Woodcreek High School)," said Cynthia Schiada. "It had a huge pond and wetlands area where hundreds of geese, swans, a beaver, turtles, muskrats, egrets, coyotes roamed. In the last few years it has dried up. No more wildlife. No more birds. No more anything."

But the city of Roseville never intended for that area to hold a pond, said Open Space Manager Brian Castelluccio. The space behind the high school is a preserve and beavers had created a dam in Kaseberg Creek.

Due to mitigation requirements from developments that established preserves and the absence of natural predators in an urban environment, the city has several factors to consider when determining whether to remove a beaver dam.

"The dam (in Kaseberg Creek) went unchecked for some time and the area was inundated with water," Castelluccio said. "As a pond formed it began to hinder vernal pools in the area."

The city removed the dam a couple years ago but not before people got used to seeing the pond and all the birds and other wildlife it attracted.

"The preserve was set aside to protect the vernal pools, so I was obligated to remove the dam," Castelluccio said.

Roseville started its open space division only about five years ago, which meant prior to that time, beaver dams were often left undisturbed. This can cause problems, such as the proliferation of invasive aquatic plants, such as water hyacinth.

"The dam brought some bad things, so we brought it back to a more natural state," Castelluccio said.

His division doesn't conduct beaver counts, but Castelluccio estimates "hundreds of them" live here. They can mainly be found in two watersheds, Dry Creek and Pleasant Grove, where tree material is available for building dams.

The city isn't responsible for wildlife control - that's done by Placer County and the California Department of Fish and Game - but staff still works to balance beavers' needs and other considerations. Roseville may have lots of open space but the areas aren't pristine wilderness, so there are no natural predators, which means the natural balance has already been altered.

Castelluccio said beavers are particular about tree material and the animals will drag bark 100 yards to their ideal spot in the water to make their home. He said the city removes dams on a sporadic basis.

Roseville has begun to monitor beaver dams with GPS to determine if the animals return to prime locations. There are 70 miles of creeks in the city and 2,000 acres of preserves.

When determining whether to remove a dam, the city looks at potential problems. Do they flood bike trails or roads, cause erosion of bridges or harm infrastructure? Do they pool up water causing oak trees to go underwater and die?

"In an urban environment, we take all those things into consideration," Castelluccio said.

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.

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Creek Week is an annual program organized by the Dry Creek Conservancy to promote resident education and stewardship of local watersheds.

Dry Creek Conservancy hosts 2012 Creek Week activities:

What: Kaseberg Creek restoration project

When: 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 21

Where: Meet at the footbridge behind Martha Riley Library at 1545 Pleasant Grove Blvd. in Roseville.

Info: Weeding, mulching and other maintenance. Sturdy shoes, long pants, and a hat suggested. Gloves will be provided. To R.S.V.P., email dcc@surewest.net or call (916) 773-6575.

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What: Native birds and wildflowers

When: 9-11:30 a.m. Sunday April 22

Where: Meet at John G. Piches Park, 1471 Stone Point Drive in Roseville

Info: Join local naturalist Scott Dietrich for a walk through Miners Ravine to see birds and wildflowers. The lilies and the lupines should be showcasing their best colors and local and migratory birds such as warblers and flycatchers will be singing. Wear appropriate shoes, bring water and binoculars. All ages welcome. For more information, contact Scott at (208) 4976 or SDietrich@roseville.ca.us.

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What: Miners Ravine Nature Reserve restoration

When: 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 28

Where: Meet at parking lot at 7530 Auburn Folsom Road in Granite

Info: Care for more than 550 native plantings, including weeding, adding mulch and installing drip irrigation. Sturdy shoes, long pants, a hat, water and snacks suggested. Gloves will be provided. To R.S.V.P., email dcc@surewest.net or call (916) 773-6575.

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What: Miners Ravine Nature Reserve walk

When: 9 a.m. to noon Sunday, April 29

Where: Meet at parking lot at 7530 Auburn Folsom Road in Granite Bay

Info: Join ecologist and birdwatcher Chad Aakre at this 22-acre nature reserve to learn about cultural and recent history of the reserve, take a walk to look for birds and wildflowers, and hear plans for ongoing management and habitat restoration. Bring sturdy shoes, water, snack and mosquito repellant. To R.S.V.P., email dcc@surewest.net or call (916) 773-6575.