Leave the beaver, or at least relocate
December 17, 2020
WAITSBURG—A little sadness hung over the Touchet River this weekend. Reports of a beaver making its residence near Preston Park were short-lived, and on Saturday, the young mammal was found dead and left in the river.
Residents who discovered the beaver reported it midweek last week, and on Saturday, it was reported that the beaver was dead from an apparent gunshot wound. The beaver was relatively small, and observers guessed it to be on the younger side. It was suspected to be building a dam on the northern side of the Touchet River by the old mill site, in the same area that a beaver was trapped and killed in December 2019.
The beaver killed last year was reported to be “¾ the length of a pickup tailgate” and had been trying to dam up a section of the river for over a year. It was unclear what mitigation measures had been taken to prevent conflict.
At first glance, beavers may seem like a pest. They fell trees and drag limbs and branches into the water to build their homes, or ‘dams,’ which can create water flow issues if left unchecked.
So, what is the case in favor of beavers? Looking below the surface (quite literally), beavers take a simple stream and turn it into a complex ecosystem. Bank tunnels created by the beavers create sheltered areas for fish. The dams provide a perfect sunning spot for native reptiles and amphibians, like turtles and frogs. Coppiced trees provide migratory birds an easy nesting spot.
For more than 20,000 years, beavers have been building wetlands and providing the conditions that salmon and steelhead, lamprey, frogs, turtles, and flycatchers require to thrive.
The Touchet River section that has seen beavers for the past couple of years has not been a safe spot for beavers, and local ‘beaver believers’ are asking that city officials make more effort to relocate the mammals, as opposed to killing them.
“Lethal removal is certainly an option, but it’s not the only one. There are quite a few resources out there,” Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Wildlife Conflict Specialist Andrew Kolb said. “Some of them require more permitting than others.”
In order for a beaver to be considered for relocation, property damage must occur. If you suspect you have a beaver, contact the WDFW, and they will get you in contact with a wildlife conflict specialist, like Kolb, to help assess the situation and determine the best option of removal.
Beaver relocation can be tricky and requires an agreement between landowners and wildlife officials. It is unlawful to remove wildlife, wild birds, or game fish without a permit issued by the WDFW director and is typically used after all reasonable mitigation efforts have failed.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife suggests planting trees and other vegetation that beavers avoid, like Sitka spruce, elderberry, cascara, osoberry, ninebark, and twinberry as preventative measures. They also recommend densely planting cottonwood, willow, aspen, spirea, and red-twig dogwood in areas with known beaver populations. These trees will often re-sprout from damaged areas once their root systems are established. Infrastructure should always be assessed before planting trees or foliage.
Installing tree barriers is also an effective deterrent for beavers. Trunks of individual trees can be wrapped in galvanized welded wire fencing, hardware cloth, or multiple layers of chicken wire. The wrappings can also be painted green to help them blend. Corrugated plastic is a good alternative for thinner-trunked trees.
If you have a beaver on your private property, steps can be taken to coexist with the superspecies happily. The Beaver Coalition, a nonprofit organization, based in Jacksonville, Ore., recommends installing equipment like pond levelers and culvert fences to prevent beaver-created flooding and blockages.
Pond levelers are flow devices that keep the pond at a set level by discreetly draining the pond, similar to a bathtub overflow. Keeping the drain discreet is key, as beavers will try to dam up any ‘leaks’ in their environment.
Culvert fences are exactly what they sound like: A solid fence built around a culvert opening prevents beaver access. In a beaver’s eyes, culverts are problematic drains that are quickly targeted for “repair.” Culvert fences create a barrier that beavers cannot penetrate and ensure water flow through the culvert.
For legal information around beavers and detailed information on how to handle a beaver problem, visit http://www.wdfw.wwa.gov.
For more information on beavers, and the work that the Beaver Coalition does, visit them at http://www.beavercoalition.org.