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Beavers Sighted in the Rouge River: What Does It Mean?

Why a sighting of this dam-building creature is good news for the river.

On July 15, 2012, Rick Simek of the University of Michigan-Dearborn's Environmental Interpretive Center snapped a photo of a beaver in the Rouge River in Dearborn.

Big deal, right?

But what might seem like a normal occurrence could actually be a sign of the increasing water and habitat quality of the Rouge watershed.

According to a piece written by Simek in the EIC's spring newsletter, beaver trapping led to the local extinction of the species in Metro Detroit in the 1830s, with "no traces of the species left by 1877."

Though several other reports of beaver sightings and markings had been reported in recent years in the Rouge and other nearby rivers, Simek's photo is proof of the beaver's return to the Rouge River — which runs through Birmingham on the city's west side — more than a century later.

And it's good news for the Rouge, too.

Beaver dams — according to the national group Beavers, Wetlands, and Wildlife — are known to improve the natural habitat for other animals, as well as the local water quality.

Simek writes in his piece in the EIC newsletter,

"It remains to be seen whether this unique member of our natural heritage will last very long here in our time. That depends on a number of factors including Rouge water quality and habitat availability. From now on, however, it might be good to give any furry animals you see swimming in the Rouge a second look. I certainly am glad I did."

Read the whole article in the Natural Explorations spring 2013 newsletter.

Michael B. Stewart January 25, 2013 at 11:58 AM
My house backs up to the Rouge River overlooking Linden Park and I saw two beavers swimming down the Rouge River last spring when walking through the park. The even stopped and played a little. I was very excited. I thought they were just passing through.
Mary Ellen January 25, 2013 at 01:40 PM
You often see a family of deer back there. I've seen cranes, owls and turtles swimming.

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