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A Wild Kingdom Right in the Middle of San Jose

| April 25, 2013
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Who knew? Downtown San Jose is booming with exotic wildlife. Earlier this month came news that beavers had returned to the Guadalupe River after a long absence. Now … an update on the falcons that are making their nest on top of San Jose’s City Hall.

This week biologist Glenn Stewart rappelled over the top of 18-story San Jose City Hall into the nestbox of the city’s peregrine falcon family — stars of the FalconCam. Stewart was on a gender-hunting mission. The goal was to band the new baby birds and also figure out if they were females or males (tiercels).

Turns out it’s a boy, and a boy, and a boy. Now the city is looking for three names for their baby tiercels. And they’re opening it up to a contest among kids ages 5 to 18 who live or attend school in San Jose. Those interested can submit their choices, or essays, poems, artwork or songs by midnight on April 26.

To get inspired, there are plenty video clips of the young family on YouTube.

Like the falcons, San Jose’s beaver family includes little ones. And they also have their own video feed. The Guadalupe River Park Conservancy set up a trail camera to monitor their activity in the river, just across from HP Pavillion.

While the falcons have been in the area since 2007, the beavers’ arrival in San Jose this year signals an important milestone for the ecosystem. Beavers had been native to the area, but fur trading decimated their population, and none had been known to live in the area for 150 years.

KQED’s QUEST wrote extensively about their return. The beavers recolonized Martinez in 2007:

Since the beavers have settled in Martinez, the ecosystem has flourished, seeing at least 13 new species.

“The next year, the river otter returned, no doubt to hunt the now plentiful fish in the beaver ponds. Then the year after, the mink returned,” said Rick Lanman of the Institute of Historical Ecology in Los Altos. “All manner of birds and fish have returned, and we don’t even know how many species of dragonflies and damselflies.”

Beaver supporters praise the benefits that beavers bestow on the environment. The “ecosystem engineers” are a keystone species, and they raise water tables, create wetlands, clean water, slow water down and restore topsoil.

Of course they also have their detractors:

Armed with two industrial-grade incisors, beavers are often considered a nuisance. They cause problems with agriculture, damming irrigation canals and chewing trees. They also wreak havoc in urban areas, gnawing landscaping and flooding fields.

For now, this beaver family seems to be providing entertainment and education for the city. Leave it to them.

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Category: Animals and Wildlife, Environment, San Jose, Science

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About the Author ()

Rachel Dornhelm got her start in radio at WHYY. After anthropology graduate school, Rachel lived in Uzbekistan working with youth near the drying Aral Sea. Rachel returned to radio full-time in 2001. Her work has appeared on WNYC, WBUR, Marketplace, NPR news magazines and KQED. Reach Rachel Dornhelm at rdornhelm@kqed.org.

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