Living with Beavers

Play About KitsBeavers are both fascinating animals to watch and an important keystone species. Yet old attitudes die hard and some people may consider the mere presence of a beaver to be a problem. They may not be aware that these peaceful animals make good neighbors, and removing beavers often creates more problems than coexistance.

Removing beavers tends to be a short-term fix as others will normally migrate into the empty habitat. Beaver kits need to stay with their parents for two years, and any removal of adults risks leaving dependent youngsters behind. Orphaned beaver babies have been known to swim up to humans for help, and, if then taken to a wildlife rehabilitator, that person must devote considerable time, energy and expense raising them over two years.

When beavers are taken away, their dams will disintegrate without constant repairs and the pond will be drained. Some pond residents, such as herons, will be able to migrate, but many fish and other creatures will die. Neighbors of such destroyed ponds are often dismayed by loss of life and muddy mess left behind.

Most beaver removals are done by kill-trappers, which creates another slew of problems, because no trap is entirely selective. Dogs are routinely killed in the Conibears commonly set for beavers, children can be injured, and rare species, such as Bald Eagles, have been victims. This device is difficult to open, unless you know the technique, and there've been lawsuits from families who've had to watch their beloved pet being crushed to death. Although the Conibear was originally designed for a "fast kill", a  study done with experienced trappers showed that most beavers are not caught in the right position for a fast death.

Other studies have shown that drowning traps are not humane for beavers, because they can hold their breath for ten minutes or more. Snares have eviscerated victims, and even those with catches can injure beavers, or drown ones that become entangled in the wires. Any trap that holds an exposed animal leaves them vulnerable to predators and must be checked frequently. Live traps are preferred as the victim is protected from predators.

Live trapping is labor intensive, and should be done by a trained individual to ensure that an entire family is caught and then relocated unharmed (beavers can die rather easily from hyperthermia if left for hours in a cage-like trap during the daytime) in suitable habitat. If beavers must be removed from a site, often a news story will lead to landowners, who desire beavers and have the right habitat, coming forward.

Currently projects in the Southwest and Northwest are relocating beavers from damage sites, where they would be killed, to areas where they are needed to regulate water flowages.