Date of Award:
Master of Science (MS)
Julie K. Young (Committee Co-Chair), Phaedra Budy (Committee Co-Chair)
Julie K. Young
Wildlife translocation, or moving wild animals from their original home to a new location, is a common conservation practice; however, translocation programs have variable success rates. Beaver translocation is often used in stream restoration projects due to beavers’ role as ecosystem engineers—beavers enhance riparian habitat by building dams that hold water and create more diverse channels. Beaver translocation success is often limited by high mortality and long distance movement after release, and improvement in translocation methods is needed. My objective was to evaluate two methods of improving beaver translocation success in a degraded desert river in east-central Utah: beaver dam analog (BDA) installation and behavioral testing. Over two years before BDA installment, 39 nuisance beavers were captured, tagged, and translocated to the Price River. After 70 BDAs were installed, another 73 tagged beavers were translocated over two years. In the last two years of the study, I conducted behavioral testing while beavers were temporarily held in captivity. Over all four years, I monitored survival and movement of beavers and surveyed BDAs and natural beaver dams. Apparent survival (a combination of true survival and staying in the study area) was similar before and after BDA installation. Higher stream flow was linked to lower apparent survival. Mortality was generally caused by predators, and many beavers left the study area. At the end of data collection, no translocated beavers remained alive and in the study area. I observed beaver activity on two BDAs. Over the course of the study, there was a decrease in the number of natural dams due to extreme monsoon flooding in the final two years. We found relationships between beaver behavior and survival as well as distance traveled. More tame, less aggressive beavers survived longer, whereas bolder, more aggressive beavers moved farther. Our results suggest that while BDAs may not improve beaver translocation success in desert rivers, behavioral testing should be investigated further as a useful tool for prioritizing beavers for translocation. Translocation is a humane solution to human-beaver conflict, and with improved methods, it may be a valuable restoration practice in desert river ecosystems.
Sandbach, Christine E., "Evaluating Beaver Translocation Methods for Desert River Restoration" (2023). All Graduate Theses and Dissertations, Spring 1920 to Summer 2023. 8870.
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