Martinez has celebrated its local beaver population for years since they were first seen living in Alhambra Creek. But the discovery of a deceased beaver on May 11 has fans concerned about what caused its demise. (Photo by Sam Richards/Pagransen)

A beaver found dead this past week in Alhambra Creek in downtown Martinez is prompting efforts by a local preservation and tracking group to see whether that beaver was part of a resident family, or an individual in the area short-term, a spokeswoman said.

A beaver had been photographed swimming several days earlier, said Heidi Perryman, president and founder of Worth a Dam, a Martinez-based advocacy group.

“So the question is, is it the beaver that was photographed? Or his partner? Or a stranger?” Perryman said. “We will look for a live beaver and try to see if we have an answer.”

Proving that the beaver is related to others in the area, she said, won’t be an exact science. Even if a living beaver is found in Alhambra Creek, the dead one is almost certainly too far degraded to provide reliable test information, Perryman said.

There is currently no known beaver family living in the creek, Perryman said Tuesday.

Martinez had become nationally known as a home for beavers in an urban environment among the restaurants, brewpubs and county buildings since the first ones were seen in the creek downtown in 2006.

This came after people noticed that trees were being gnawed down, the creek was flowing slowly and, eventually, a dam made of sticks was discovered near where the Contra Costa County Elections building, at Marina Vista Avenue and Castro Street, opened.

The aquatic rodents weren’t universally embraced, however, as their dams presented a flooding threat to the downtown area and its small businesses.

The public discussion of whether the beavers should be allowed to remain or be moved out of the creek were lively. Eventually, a device called a “beaver deceiver” that allowed water to flow around the main dam at Marina Vista and Castro, was installed there to minimize the flooding threat.

The beavers became a cause celebre in Martinez and beyond. Beaver T-shirts and bumper stickers were sold locally, and the Martinez Beaver Festival has been held each summer downtown since 2008.

At least one beaver family called the creek home until sometime in 2017, Perryman said, though various individuals have come and gone from the creek since then.

She said this is the time of year when beavers start raising families, and generally are not looking for new homes. She or others will check this beaver for signs of obvious injury, Perryman said, and learn what they can.

“And if there’s still a live beaver, we’ll keep watch to see if it’s the only one,” she said.