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Haemig PD  (2012)  Beaver and Reptiles.  ECOLOGY.INFO 15

Beaver and Reptiles

Note: This online review is updated and revised continuously, as soon as results of new scientific research become available.  It therefore presents state-of-the-art information on the topic it covers.

When beaver (Castor canadensis and Castor fiber) thin forests by cutting down trees, and when they build dams that create impoundments (ponds), certain groups of reptiles are benefited.  For example, in the Piedmont of South Carolina, lizards were twice as abundant along streams with beaver impoundments than along streams without beaver impoundments (Metts et al. 2001).  Turtles were six times more abundant along streams with beaver impoundments than along streams without beaver impoundments (Metts et al. 2001).

However, if one excluded terrestrial turtles (i.e. Eastern Box Turtle Terrapene carolina) from the analysis, the data would show that aquatic turtles were 84 times more abundant along streams with beaver impoundments than along streams without beaver impoundments (the terrestrial Box Turtle, which enters water only occasionally, was captured with equal frequency along both impounded and unimpounded streams. See Russell et al. 1999; Metts et al. 2001).

Although, generally speaking, lizards and turtles are benefited by beaver, some species of snakes are harmed by beaver.  Let us look now at which specific lizards, turtles and snakes are benefited and harmed by beaver engineering.

Reptile Species Benefited by Beaver Engineering

The following species of reptiles in the Piedmont of South Carolina were more abundant along streams with beaver impoundments than along streams without such impoundments (Metts et al. 2001):

Five-lined Skink (Eumeces fasciatus)
Ground Skink (Scincella lateralis)
Fence Lizard (Sceloporus undulatus)
Northern Brown Snake (Storeria dekayi)
Eastern Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta)
Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)
Common Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus)

The 3 lizards and one snake listed above may be more common along impounded streams because they prefer early-successional vegetation (Russell et al. 1999; Metts et al. 2001).  Forests surrounding old beaver ponds usually have alot of this kind of vegetation because tree felling by beavers causes the forest to regenerate.  The 3 turtle species prefer slow-moving or standing water with abundant vegetation (Russell et al. 1999).  These 3 turtles also hibernate "under logs, stumps and lodges of beavers and muskrats," and the Painted Turtle uses floating logs for basking (Russell et al. 1994).

Reptile Species Hurt by Beaver Engineering

The following 2 species of reptiles in the Piedmont of South Carolina, both snakes, were more abundant along streams without beaver impoundments than along streams with such impoundments (Metts et al. 2001):

Southern Ringneck (Diadophis punctatus)
Worm Snake (Carphophis amoenus)

Both species are "small woodland snakes associated with moist and/or cool microclimates" (Metts et al. 2001).

References

Metts BS, Lanham JD, Russell KR  (2001)  Evaluation of herpetofaunal communities on upland streams and beaver-impounded streams in the upper piedmont of South Carolina.  American Midland Naturalist 145: 54-65

Platt SG, Russell KR, Snyder WE, Fontenot LW, Miller S  (1999)  Distribution and conservation status of selected amphibians and reptiles in the Piedmont of South Carolina.  Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society 115: 8-19

Russell KR, Moorman CE, Edwards JK, Metts BS, Guynn DC  (1999)  Amphibian and Reptile Communities associated with beaver (Castor canadensis) ponds and unimpounded streams in the piedmont of South Carolina.  Journal of Freshwater Ecology 14: 149-158

Skelly DK, Freidenburg LK  (2000)  Effects of beaver on the thermal biology of an amphibian.  Ecology Letters 3: 483-486

Snyder WE, Platt SG  (1997)  Anuran records from the Piedmont of South Carolina, USA.  Herpetological Review 28: 53

Information about this Review

The author is:  Dr. Paul D. Haemig (PhD in Animal Ecology)

The photograph at the top of the page was taken by Karen Luvssun (USA). It shows a group of turtles, one of the reptile taxa that benefits from beaver engineering.

The proper citation is:

Haemig PD  2012    Beaver and Reptiles.  ECOLOGY.INFO 15.

If you are aware of any important scientific publications that were omitted from this review, or have other suggestions for improving it, please contact the author at his e-mail address: 

director {at} ecology.info  

© Copyright 2003-2012 Ecology Online Sweden.  All rights reserved.

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