Garret D. Langlois, doctoral candidate in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources’ Department of Natural Resources Management, was recently lauded for his published findings on the recolonization of beavers in Lubbock.
In his manuscript, Langlois, along with his mentors and co-authors Robert Cox, Philip Gipson and Richard Stevens, detail research about the presence of beavers in Lubbock. According to the manuscript, beavers have been absent in the Llano Estacado, a region that extends from Amarillo down to Odessa and out to New Mexico, for 5,000 years.
But in 2015, a beaver carcass was discovered near Canyon Lake 5 at Mackenzie Park. A research team Langlois was part of published a paper on this finding the following year.
“And we did ultimately publish that paper, but it wasn't settled for me,” Langlois said. “I wanted more evidence, you know, even just for myself.”
Thus, in 2018, Langlois began what he called a passion project outside of his studies in behavioral ecology to find evidence of beavers in Lubbock. At this time, he was a graduate student in Robert Cox’s Art and Science of Restoration Ecology class.
Cox, a professor of natural resource management, said he noticed Langlois’ pursuit of the beavers.
“And so Garret (Langlois) really spent a lot of time there, and really, he was — every student in that class was outstanding, and Garret was outstanding among the outstanding students in that class,” Cox said. “And as part of that, as part of his explorations there at the park, he began to notice that there were signs there may be beavers present, and so once he had that idea, it was fun to watch him.”
Langlois said he first noticed chewed-up tree stumps around the Canyon Lakes in east Lubbock, which he hypothesized was the doing of the beavers. In March of 2018, he set up cameras around the lake to get footage of the animals.
Langlois, who grew up in Massachusetts and Vermont, said he had learned how to spot the presence of beavers as they began to populate his surroundings as a kid.
“Because I saw them as I grew up, they started spreading through New England and becoming more common in New England,” Langlois said. “And so I got more, I think, I got more habituated with their signs, with looking for them, with identifying beaver.”
After months of searching for the beavers to no avail, he took down the cameras. But on July 8, 2018, the cameras documented a pair of beavers swimming together in Canyon Lake 6 at Mae Simmons Park at night.
Langlois brought this evidence back to his mentors, and after more research, the four published the manuscript “The North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) is Recolonizing the Llano Estacado” in August.
Cox said it is rewarding to watch students like Langlois develop in their studies.
“It's not through some mentoring of mine or anything, you know, that he was able to accomplish that, he just — he's a scientist that loves to creatively explore science,” Cox said.
The paper says beavers have been living in the Canyon Lakes for a while, Langlois said. Evidence shows they have been coming upstream from the east through tributaries of the Brazos River.
The paper also cites reports of local beaver encounters, but Langlois said people who claim to have seen beavers before the article was published have missed this part, which is disheartening for him.
“I'm actually validating them in the manuscript,” Langlois said. “I cite records from naturalists and local fishermen. When I say, ‘No, no, I agree with you, you did see the beaver.’ What I'm doing is I'm demonstrating it scientifically.”
Despite the public excitement surrounding the presence of beavers in Lubbock, Langlois said it is best to leave the animals to their own devices. Humans do not need to do anything to interfere with beaver life, he said.
However, beavers can be a great topic of study for all ages, and going out to study beavers or their habitats can encourage hands-on learning and teach people to value wildlife, Langlois said.
“The beavers of Lubbock are a natural area — or, excuse me — natural subject to learn about, and there's a ton of resources out there about why beaver are important at all different educational levels, as to why,” Langlois said. “And I think if that were to happen, people would really, people would value having them here because they would feel connected.”