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Saturday, 21 October 2017

Living with Wildlife: Beavers, Nature's Engineers
Written by MFOA   
Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Living with Wildlife, Beavers

Beavers were almost eliminated from three continents before people realized the value of "nature's engineers." According to Beavers: Wetlands and Wildlife, hydrologists blame the uncontrolled trapping of beavers in the 1700s and 1800s, followed by intensive drainage for agriculture, for most of today's major environmental problems in North America, i.e., water pollution, damage from flooding, droughts, erosion, species extinction.

Although beavers are known to cause property damage when they build dams in places that are inconvenient for humans, the ecological and environmental benefits provided beavers greatly outweigh any "nuisance" issues caused by them. Landowners are often not aware of the value of these wonderful animals or of the alternative humane management options available to them. There are many effective methods of managing beavers that are humane, provide long term solutions and enable peaceful cohabitation without the negative ecological and environmental consequences of "management" through killing.

Beavers are our allies in combating climate change and other major environmental problems. Because their dams create mini-reservoirs that keep water on land longer, they can alleviate both droughts and regional floods. They are nature's way to restore fresh water wetlands, our most valuable ecosystem. In addition, these slow-leaking dams create water nurseries for fish and many other organisms. They promote filtration of silt and other toxins from waterways, resulting in healthier downstream habitats and reducing the costs of producing clean drinking water for humans.

The wildlife "management" practice of trapping/killing nuisance beavers is inhumane and is not a long-lasting solution, potentially creating more problems long term.

  • Trapping is inhumane, dangerous, and non-discriminating. "Kill" traps intended to provide a fast death often do not catch the beaver in the right position to kill it instantly. Drowning traps are inhumane as beavers can hold their breath for 10+ minutes. Snare traps can eviscerate victims.

    Trapping beavers is cruel from beginning to end - a horrific death to an innocent animal. Animals other than beavers (pets, wildlife, protected species such as eagles, and sometimes even children) can fall prey to traps, leading to injury and even death to unintended victims.

  • Trapping/killing adult beavers leaves behind vulnerable kits. Beaver kits are born between May and June; they stay with their parents for two years to learn survival skills. Trapping "nuisance" adults often leaves helpless kits behind, resulting in death due to predators and lack of survival skills, or in the best-case scenario, rescue for wildlife rehabilitation.

  • Beaver removal is rarely a lasting solution and may impact the environment. Once beavers are "removed" from a pond, others in the area tend to resettle the empty habitat within a year or two. If dams do remain vacant, they will disintegrate. The pond will be drained; fish, amphibians and reptiles will die from loss of habitat. Wetlands and associated environmental and ecological benefits will be lost.

We can co-exist with beavers by utilizing humane, ecologically and environmentally friendly alternatives which tend to be successful, long-term management strategies.

Protect trees by:
    • Spraying the bark and foliage with a taste repellent, such as Ropel and Deer Away.

    • Installing barriers around tree bases by wrapping them with heavy wire fencing 2" x 4" and 3' high, placed 6-12" out from the tree so the beavers can't get their teeth into the bark. Anchor the fencing to the ground to prevent them from crawling under; adjust the wires every few years to make sure you don't girdle the tree.

    • Coating tree trunks with a sand/paint mixture to prevent beaver gnawing as they dislike the gritty feel of sand in their mouths.

    • Planting other trees. Wildlife 2000, a Colorado-based beaver management group, plants beavers' favorite trees next to the water, the theory being that if you give them what they really want, they'll leave your trees alone.

Protect against flooding by:

Funding is available to help landowners offset the costs of implementing humane beaver management strategies. The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program provides financial and technical assistance to help conserve agricultural lands and wetlands and their related benefits. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Partners for Wildlife program can provide funding or materials for flow devices to qualified agencies or organizations.

Wetlands are decreasing worldwide; the importance of their preservation is becoming a priority. We need to focus on conservation strategies that preserve our precious animals, their habitats and our environment. Learning to co-exist with beavers is one effective way we can preserve our shared wetlands and critical ecosystems for ourselves and future generations.

 

Sources:

www.beaversww.org

www.hawriver.org

www.apnm.org/campaigns/beavers/BeaverLandOwnersGuide.pdf

www.maine.gov/ifw/wildlife/human/lww_information/beavers.html

 
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