At first, Bill Leikam wasn’t sure what he was seeing when a mysterious creature scampered across his screen as he reviewed trail cam footage shot near a California creek.
“I have enough experience with the wildlife out there to be able to identify every one of them just by their movement — this one had me baffled,” Leikam told the Los Angeles Times. “I’d never seen a critter out there moving like this little guy did.”
As he reviewed the footage from Matadero Creek near Palo Alto south of San Francisco, the truth slowly dawned on him.
“Finally, it hit me in the head,” Leikam, president and co-founder of the Urban Wildlife Research Project, told SFGate. “Could that be a baby beaver?”
Baby beavers haven’t been seen in the creek for 160 years, since they were nearly hunted to extinction by fur trappers, Palo Alto Online reported.
Leikam consulted with wildlife experts and a historic archaeologist to confirm his hunch, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“It definitely has the shape of a beaver, which is pretty unmistakable,” Heidi Perryman, president of Worth a Dam, a beaver advocacy organization in Martinez, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Perryman told the publication it’s reasonable to assume the pup is the offspring of two adult beavers that Leikam spotted near the creek in 2022.
State wildlife officials have been encouraging the return of beavers and their ponds, which they credit for reducing drought problems, boosting climate change resiliency and slowing wildfires, to Northern California, SFGate reported.
“This new beaver family is really important if they survive and reproduce,” Rick Lanman, president of the Institute for Historical Ecology, told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s just remarkable.”