Beavers, otters, snakes, leopard frogs, bats. Those are just some of the animals wildlife biologists were on the lookout for during a recent trip down the Colorado River.
The main point of the trip, however, was to map the beaver habitat at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
A beaver swimming in the river is caught on camera. A group of biologists went down the Colorado River to map the beaver habitat.
“The focus of the trip was beaver habitats along the Colorado River that have never been thoroughly mapped, surveyed or inventoried,” said Elaine Leslie, wildlife biologist for Grand Canyon National Park.
“We brought together all these biologists when the water level was low,” she added. “This was an ideal time because they rarely build ... above the water.”
With reduced water flows down the river, the beaver homes could be easily spotted. But this trip just wasn’t cruising down the river, kicking back and looking for beavers. There was plenty of work to do.
“We mapped every single old, active, inactive beaver habitats along the corridor,” Leslie said. “We mapped bank vegetation in order to get baseline population trend.”
The trip began May 31 at Lees Ferry and continued on to Diamond Creek. In the coming weeks, the biologists will go from Diamond Creek to Pearce Ferry.
“It was great. For bringing a lot of biologists together, everyone worked hard and in unison,” Leslie said about the trip. “Now we’re in the process of writing it up and analyzing it and their reports will come out.”
Besides the beaver research, the group also noticed otter tracks, which is a rarity along the Colorado River.
“Last year, with another grant, we did a trip where we identified and confirmed otter tracks along the corridor,” Leslie said. “Otters have always been in the park, but there are lower numbers.”
Leslie said there have been rare observations of the otter since the 1960s.
The otter has a connection to the beaver because otters rely on old beaver dams for their homes.
“We also monitor the bat population and do rattlesnake DNA work,” Leslie said, who added that there are 10 different types of snakes among the Grand Canyon population and that they are being genetically mapped.
“Also, we’re continuing our leopard frog search,” Leslie said.
The leopard frog is a state-listed endangered species.
The trip was possible through a small Grand Canyon Association grant along with financing and volunteering from a number of agencies, such as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Game and Fish Department, Colorado Division of Wildlife, New Mexico Game and Fish Department and National Park Service biologists from across the country.
There were also university experts and retired Bureau of Land Management biologists involved with the trip.
“They all volunteered their time,” Leslie said. “That’s an incredible donation. The boatmen also donated their time.”