Beavers return to Belle Isle

Jun 4, 2012

After years of rumors, it’s official - beavers are back on Belle Isle.

It’s been about 100 years since the animals left the 985-acre island on the Detroit River, driven away by trappings and human development. In recent years, any time someone thought they spotted a beaver in the area, park officials always deemed the animal a muskrat or raccoon caught in a case of mistaken identity.

That is, until last week when a park visitor snapped a cell phone photo of a beaver swimming in the Blue Heron Lagoon.

John Hartig of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge told The Detroit News that the Belle Isle beavers may have come from a family of beavers spotted at the nearby Conners Creek Power Plant four years ago.

Belle Isle Park Manager Keith Flournoy praised the return of the beavers as a sign of successful wildlife restoration efforts on the island.

The Detroit News reports:

It's a morale boost for staff and volunteers who have worked on habitat restoration projects for native plants and animals on the island, he said. They already have a handful of wild deer, foxes and two coyotes. And they are amid spending a $2.3 million federal grant to protect fish spawning areas surrounding the park.

"It's about more than just picnic areas," said Flournoy, who said the beavers add to Belle Isle's "living science classroom" for teachers and students who visit.

Robert Burns, the Detroit Riverkeeper who monitors the water quality, said that mink have already made a strong comeback and adding beaver is a "positive gauge."

"They were basically pushed out of here," Burns said. "It is one more indication that things are getting better in the Detroit River."

According to Flournoy, the dens are in remote areas that should be safe from human disturbances.

- Suzanne Jacobs, Michigan Radio Newsroom