72°F
weather icon Clear

No clue why dead beaver far from Lake Mead

Travel through Nevada long enough, and you’ll see some remarkable things.

A few years ago, folks in Goldfield awoke to news that a young black bear had wandered into their high desert community. The bear, experts believed, had gotten disoriented and had walked all the way from Utah to Goldfield, perhaps believing it might be served at the Santa Fe Saloon.

On a long walk this past weekend on part of the scenic River Mountains Loop Trail just outside Boulder City, I came across one of those remarkable and admittedly strange things: a dead beaver.

The loop trail is easily one of Southern Nevada’s treasures. The paved path stretches 31 miles across the upper end of Hemenway Wash, through rolling hills covered in greasewood and cactus. Along the way the trail offers stunning pastel views of Lake Mead that change in sun and shadow throughout the day.

The beaver was about a quarter mile down from the Pacifica Way Trailhead. That’s about a three-mile walk from the lakeshore.

Although my reading of the region’s early history is admittedly spotty in many places, I always believed the animal was essentially trapped out of existence on the Colorado River a century ago.

That must have been news to the beaver, which appears to have wandered a long distance in search of forage. It was within a few hundred yards of custom homes.

It turns out I’m not the only one surprised to spot a beaver at Lake Mead. In 2011, bass angler Don Hilton posted a Youtube video of a beaver hut at Lake Mead. And in 2012, a fisherman spotted one at the lake and was so astounded he blogged about it on bigfishtackle.com.

Under the moniker “Ihuntforfish,” he wrote that he saw, “a giant shadow swim past. I thought it was the biggest leatherback turtle I’d ever seen. It swam under some trees beside me, and I started tossing corn at it to try and pull it in. Well, 10 minutes go by and it swims back out from the trees and pops its head out of the water … it’s a huge beaver, and it’s swimming straight toward me.”

It was swimming toward him because the fisherman was standing on his home. In fact, he stepped through a weak spot in the beaver’s hut, and was briefly an unannounced visitor.

“I’ve heard of beavers once being at Lake Mead, but never knew they were still part of the ecology,” he wrote. “Anyone else ever had a beaver encounter at the lake?”

As a matter of fact, Doug Nielsen of the Nevada Department of Wildlife has his own Lake Mead beaver tales. Many readers will know Doug from his popular outdoor column in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

In the two decades Nielsen has been with the department, much of that spent on the lake, he’s encountered the animals on a dozen occasions. And, yes, he was also shocked the first time he spotted one back in the early 1990. He worked as a game warden at Lake Mead and would on rare occasions see them, but only in isolated areas far from most of the angling and water skiing crowd.

“I was completely caught off guard,” recalls Nielsen, who is the department’s conservation educator. “It was just after I’d started with the department. We were near Bonelli Bay. I was absolutely shocked by it. The biologist I was with laughed at me and said, ‘Oh, yeah, there are beavers in here.’

“I can confirm there are beavers in Lake Mead, but to have one that far from the water is really unusual.”

What would have caused it to wander that far from the lake?

Hunger, perhaps. But Nielsen also wouldn’t rule out a human element. Maybe some well-meaning folks thought they were doing the animal a favor by moving it to a more comfortable habitat. And there’s always the possibility someone trapped it, and that had second thoughts.

“I don’t see anything in that wash that would lead a beaver to leave Lake Mead,” Nielsen says. “Why he would strike out up that that wash, I have no idea.”

Nevada native John L. Smith also writes a daily column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Contact him at 702 383-0295 or at jlnevadasmith@gmail.com.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Vote to open causes predicament for businesses

The Nye County Board of County Commissioners’ vote last Tuesday to open up the county 100 percent and to essentially remove the mask mandate creates a predicament for businesses.

Letters to the Editor

Hopefully we will come to other side a better people

Letters to the Editor

Reader: Do you miss Trump yet or like socialist agenda?

Letters to the Editor

If it is so bad here, why does everyone want to come?

Letters to the Editor

We all need to be really careful what we wish for

Richard Karpel: Time to put teeth into Nevada’s public records law

Unbeknownst to Nevada officials, the state has been conducting a natural experiment in public policy for many years now: What would happen if one of the state’s two main open-government laws had an enforcement mechanism and criminal penalties for government officials who violate the law, and the other one left malfeasors completely unmolested?

Letters to the Editor

Pahrump not ‘dark skies’ place anymore says resident

TIM BURKE: Take a lesson from ‘Hamlet’: Don’t procrastinate

To be, or not to be, that is the question” was penned by William Shakespeare in Hamlet. “To take or not take the coronavirus vaccine, that is the question,” is what many Pahrumpians might be asking themselves now.

TIM BURKE: Social events in state making their return in 2021

Events have slowly begun to return as the pandemic continues to wind down. In Las Vegas, the NASCAR Weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway just completed with fans in attendance.

Letters to the Editor

There is clearly some anti-American stuff going on