The book, The Otter Spirit
The book, Weathered Wood
The book, Conversation with a Beaver
    Preface to Conversation with a Beaver

    Questions answered in Conversation with a Beaver
    Sampling of photos in Conversation with a Beaver
Art Gallery

About Judith K. Berg
External Links

Preface to 
Conversation with a Beaver

          During the period 1992 – 1997, I performed a study of river otters in the headwaters of the Colorado River in the Rocky Mountains . On completion of that project and its final report, I wrote my first book, The Otter Spirit: A Natural History Story. This was intended to be my one and only book. However, with the continuing and worsening destruction of the Natural World by Homo sapiens, I could not just walk away in good conscience.


          Because river otters are such a mobile species, I was provided the opportunity to concurrently observe and document the behavior of another species during my project, the beaver. Fortunately, beavers are more sedentary. Beavers and river otters resided within, or moved through, many of the same locations throughout my study site’s 40-mile stretch of watershed. In fact, it is shown, through my research and that of others throughout the country, that good river otter habitat is often produced by the activities of beavers.


Additionally, some of the most active periods of both species are during crepuscular (dawn and dusk)/nighttime hours. Thus, at least primarily during crepuscular hours, and more rarely on moon-lit or clear, starry nights, I spent time in beaver-created environments. This afforded me the opportunity to observe both beavers and otters. My predominant study site, as described in the journey you’re about to take with me, was my favorite. Because a diverse group of other faunal species also benefited from just this one beaver family’s natural masterpiece, I observed them as well.


To set the context of my study site, it was in the Kawuneeche Valley , on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park, and nearby portions of the Arapaho National Forest , in the state of Colorado. The beaver sites mentioned were primarily along areas of the headwaters of the Colorado River, its drainages, and Monarch Lake. The terrain was mountainous, with valley habitat, ranging in elevations from about 8,000 to 9,000 feet. The riparian vegetation in my location was classified as shrub/grass, with the main shrub being willows, with lesser amounts of alder and dog birch, and many associated grasses. There were stretches of lodgepole pine, with either sparse or dense understory components. Snow began to accumulate by mid-November; the area was primarily snow-free by the end of May. Temperatures throughout the seasons during my research ranged from about -30 to +80 degrees F.  


My approach to this beaver story is creative non-fiction; we will journey into their world through factual science and creative imagination. The science is based on my direct observations and the results of many beaver researchers throughout the country. Citations are contained in the “References” at the end of the story. The creativity is based on transitioning into the beaver’s world through fact-based imagination. By addressing the story in this manner, I intend to intimately involve you, the reader, with beavers. I also ask you to think about how this one species contributes so much value to the Natural World and, yes, to you as well. The story provides your guidance.


Now, come and journey with me to learn about the life history and many contributions of the beaver. Then, hopefully, you will not only observe and think about their role in the web of life, but also commit to respect, protect, and preserve their lives and their home environments. In this way, you will be helping many other species as well, including your own.


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