U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



The Journal of Wildlife Management 85(7):1462–1475; 2021; DOI: 10.1002/jwmg.22102


U.S. government work


American beaver (Castor canadensis) have been translocated for population restoration, reduction of human‐wildlife conflict, and enhancement of ecosystem function. Yet few studies have assessed dispersal of beaver, making it difficult to determine at what scale translocations are appropriate. Genetic studies can provide inferences about gene flow, and thus dispersal. We used a landscape genetic approach to evaluate whether landscape features influenced gene flow among beaver in the Coast Range of western Oregon, USA, using samples collected April–September 2014. We collected genetic samples from live‐captured (n=232), road‐killed (n=2) and trapper‐provided (n=58) tissue samples and genotyped them at 10 microsatellite loci. We mapped records of beaver translocations into or within the study area during the twentieth century to consider the effect of those movements on genetic structure. We used population assignment tests to delimit genetic clusters, evaluated correspondence of those clusters with watershed boundaries and translocation history, and then estimated differentiation between clusters and between watersheds using model‐based and model‐free approaches. We evaluated how individual genetic differences varied with geographic distance, and investigated related pairs within clusters. We developed landscape resistance models incorporating slope, distance to water, and watershed boundaries at 2 scales, and estimated effective distances between sample locations with least cost path and circuit theoretic analyses. We evaluated the correlation of individual genetic distances with effective distances using a pseudo‐bootstrapping approach. Landscape genetic models did not explain spatial variation in genetic structure better than geographic distance, but hierarchical genetic structure corresponded with watershed boundaries and suggested influences from historical translocations. Pairwise individual genetic distances were positively correlated with geographic distances to 61 km; highly‐related pairs mostly were detected <1 km apart (median=1.0 km, x¯ =14.6 ± 2.3 [SE] km, n=77). We concluded that slope and distance to water did not strongly limit dispersal and gene flow by beaver in this system, but concordance of genetic structure with watershed boundaries suggests that dispersal is more common within than between watersheds. Genetic differentiation of beaver within this topographically complex system was much greater than reported in a study at similar spatial scales in relatively flat topography. We recommend that translocation efforts of American beaver in topographically complex landscapes occur within watersheds when possible but conclude that dispersal can occur across watersheds. © 2021 The Wildlife Society. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.