What happens when busy little beavers build a dam over a creek that begins to flood the road to your home? Fortunately for the beavers, a property owner on the Yaquina River loved the beauty and tranquility of the pond and its wildlife so much that he contacted the Mid-Coast Watershed Council (MCWC). The Council has been promoting the idea that it’s better to live “with” with beavers” rather than kill or trap them, because they promote good habitat for coho salmon, cutthroat trout, water quantity and quality.
“We spend hundreds of thousand of dollars on restoration projects for salmon,” says Fran Recht, of Pacific Marine Fisheries Commission habitat program, “where beavers can do many of the same things for free”. Recht says that beaver populations have declined greatly in rivers and streams along our central coast, so it makes good sense for humans to get along with beavers rather than remove them. “Dam building beavers are especially helpful for salmon, but even the bank dens provide rich habitat of slower moving water that juvenile salmon can grow from” says Recht.
With a simple pond leveler device made with donated materials from a private landowner and a small piece of caging from the Lincoln Soil and Water Conservation District and a few hours of paid labor, the problem was solved. Once in place the pond level was still high enough for the beavers to hide in, but not so high that it floods the road.
“Beavers may be industrious engineers”, says Wayne Hoffman, of the MCWC, “but we’re smarter. We can enjoy their benefits while easily solving problems they cause. Among them: Beavers clogging culverts can be prevented by using a trapezoidal barrier of stakes upstream from the culvert that don’t block salmon migration. If trees are being gnawed, simply wrap the base of their trunks with chicken wire. And as we’ve seen, the pond leveler works well too, though care has to be taken not to let too much water drain out.” He also noted that landowners can help beavers by planting streamside vegetation such as willows, vine maples, cottonwoods for food and alders and conifers for building materials.”
For those wanting help in dealing with beavers while allowing them to thrive, contact the MCWC at 541-265-9195.