In western Washington, the Tulalip Tribes bet big on beavers.
It’s before dawn on a late August morning, the Washington sky blanched with smoke drifting from distant wildfires, and Molly Alves and David Bailey have caught a beaver.
The two biologists haul the ornery package of fat and fur, still penned into the trap that closed around him overnight like a giant clam, up the banks of a meandering, tea-colored stream. The drainage is cluttered with Himalayan blackberry and Japanese knotweed, whose rhubarb-like stems the beaver has commandeered to build his lodge—a native mammal thriving amidst invasive plants. The beaver, his lustrous fur shimmering in the pale light, flaps his tail and gnaws at the trap with burnt-orange incisors. His forepaws grasp the wire mesh, a prisoner straining against his cell walls.
“That is a very feisty sub-adult,” Bailey grunts as he and Alves lug the beaver toward the road. “When they’re trying to nom on the trap like that, it means they’re pretty stressed.”