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Beavers: Problems and Opportunities

by James B. “Jim” Kea
Area Extension Forestry Agent – now retired
Thursday, February 9th, 2006

After being practically eliminated from the state from 1900 to 1951, beavers are found in significant numbers in over 80 counties. A law prohibiting beaver trapping in 1929 was repealed in 1963 when a state-wide beaver trapping season was established.
Although trapping is now legal, the reduction in worldwide demand for short-haired furs has given the prolific beaver the opportunity to reoccupy most streams and many ditches in the state.

Although beavers and the wetland habitats they create often produce beneficial results, overpopulation or even a single beaver may conflict with human activities. Beaver ponds create habitat for ducks, otters, fish, reptiles, raccoons, herons and numerous other wildlife species including mosquitoes and yellow flies. The water dammed up can reduce flooding downstream and increase flooding upstream. Water trapped in the pond will also loose some sediments and nutrients that can overload downstream areas.

When control is desired or needed, several options are available to the landowner or manager. Professional trappers or the landowners can trap during the regular trapping season or out under a permit. Beavers may also be shot by landowners or lessees during the closed season when the beavers are in the act of damaging or destroying property. Depredation permits maybe issued by a Wildlife Resources Commission Wildlife Biologist for other special circumstances, usually without any problem. Traps or, in some counties, snares can be used with the permits. Snares allow for the release of wildlife not targeted for control such as otters. Snares are also inexpensive (less than $1).

Trappers operate either for so much a beaver or on a contract basis. Beaver tails are usually exchanged for bounty. Contracts usually call for control over a one or two year period. Contracts usually insure that all beavers, not just the stupid ones, are trapped and any replacements from downstream are also trapped. Good trappers in either case will trap out a pond until all current resident beavers are trapped. Lists of trappers are also available from your district wildlife biologist.

Several options are also available to the control water level in the pond without destroying the beaver. Several pipe structures can be inserted in the dam to allow water to go through the dam without the beaver finding them. Although this is easier said than done, it can be done.

Beavers are legally unique. If a landowner constructs a pond similar to a beaver pond, a permit would be required and the landowner would be liable for flooding upstream. Beavers are exempt from permits and liability. If the owner of the land under the beaver dam refuses to allow destruction of the dam, upstream landowners may have little recourse to stop flooding.

Beaver meat is good to eat when cooked similar to beef or venison. It is a lean red meat, high in protein. For recipes and information on wild game: Wild Game Recipes

Revised 2/16/2006, 10/13/2011.