Enlarge Icon

Leave it to beavers, seriously

Seattle city planners had an idea for Magnuson Park: To support wildlife, they would create a few ephemeral wetlands – habitats that would be wet in the spring and dry up in the summer.

Seattle city beavers had another idea.

You see, beavers really are eager builders. They can’t stand the sound of running water. It’s a nagging, innate thing they have to fix.

“People have done some really cool studies where they’ve even taken a radio with the sound of running water and put it in a field. Beavers will come out and build a little circular dam over the top of the radio,” said Ben Dittbrenner, executive director of Beavers Northwest.

So, yeah, the beavers in Magnuson Park threw out the plans and threw up some dams. They took over part of the park and changed the hydrology of the entire site. Those ephemeral ponds became permanent.

But Dittbrenner said the park planners have been open minded about the change.

“Instead of trying to trap the beavers out and activity fight them, they have been working with the beavers and adapting to what they’ve been doing. It is kind of a cool story of how humans and beavers are working together to find some middle ground that works for nature and for the needs of the park and everyone else,” Dittbrenner said.

But beavers are not always welcomed by everyone. Because as much as they create habitat, they can disrupt it too — for humans.

It’s complicated.

On this episode of The Wild, host Chris Morgan chews on the ways beavers can be unlikely heroes for our ecosystems with Dittbrenner and Ben Goldfarb, author of “Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter.”

Subscribe to The Wild podcast wherever you get your podcasts. And don't miss our past episodes:

Learn more about the people and resources featured in this episode:

Beavers Northwest

The Wild is a production of KUOW in Seattle in partnership with Chris Morgan Wildlife. It is produced by Matt Martin and edited by Jim Gates. Fact checking by Apryle Craig. Our theme music is by Michael Parker. Produced for the web by Kara McDermott.

Explore where we have gone to report on this season of The Wild. You can zoom, move around and click on the icons for more tidbits: