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A West Linn couple has watched as a family of beavers transformed their backyard

COURTESY PHOTO: RYERSON SCHWARK - A family of beavers have transformed the backyard of Ryerson Schwark and Jennifer GibbonsThe backyard of Ryerson Schwark and Jennifer Gibbons in West Linn's Robinwood neighborhood looks a lot different today than it did when they moved in 20 years ago. While this is partly due to their recent efforts to remove invasive species from their property, several beavers bear most of the responsibility for the changes.

Schwark and Gibbons' home on Trillium Drive backs up onto a small open space surrounding Trillium Creek. When they moved in, the area around the creek was more or less a drainage ditch that frequently flooded.

Today, the area is a wetland home to not only beavers but wood ducks, deer, the occasional heron and more.

"We decided to leave it (the beaver dam) alone and it was shocking to us how wonderful the transformation was," Schwark said.

The couple's first encounter with a beaver on their property was several years ago when a lone, large female beaver built a dam on the creek. The beaver fell several trees onto their neighbor's property, so Schwark called the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

"When they trapped her, she weighed 98 pounds," Gibbons said.

The other culprit that has transformed their land over the years is ivy.

"When we came, this whole thing was full of trillium, and over the years the ivy choked it out," Schwark said.

Schwark and Gibbons began removing the ivy and other invasive species, hoping that the area would remain a refuge for the beavers and other animals — but they couldn't do it alone. They've hired landscapers and native species specialists to help, but with limited funds, they'd like help from the city as well. Gibbons said the native species specialist they hired told them that native insects will only eat native plants. As the base of the food chain, it's crucial for other animals that insects have native plants to eat in the area.

"I would like to see this area preserved, having watched how much it's helped the local wildlife," Schwark said.

Despite the trees falling at the teeth of the previous beaver in their yard, Schwark and Gibbons have enjoyed watching their property become an oasis for beavers and other wildlife.

"It's interesting to me that we're smack dab in the middle of suburbia and we have a beaver dam," Schwark said.

But beavers aren't unheard of in West Linn.

Over the years, beavers have found homes in other parts of the city. According to Parks and Recreation Director Ken Warner, beavers have occasionally built dams at Robinwood Park, Mary S. Young Park and the old Blue Heron Pond. They've also been found around homes near the McLean House. The West Linn Parks and Recreation Department even had a Beaver Ambassador program for a few years, which taught people about beavers and other native species.

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