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Coexisting with beavers?

 
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Looking for input from Permies people: Who among you has experience coexisting with beavers on their property, and what does that look like for you? What are the pros and cons you’ve found? We have a remote property (inland NW US) with a small spring creek; the springs are numerous enough that the creek does not freeze over in winter. When we bought the land two years ago, there were no beavers present. Just the creek itself and an alder and hawthorn dominant riparian zone that extends for two to three hundred feet out from the creek. This riparian zone floods in spring and isn’t ideal for infrastructure, though there are a lot of plants in the zone that I like to forage. And I have plans to integrate more food forest items throughout. Or rather, I did have plans. As of this fall, beavers have moved in, and begun construction of a dam spanning the creek. As you would expect, this has created backup and we now have a pond of sorts, spreading throughout the riparian zone; my favorite nettle patches are now underwater.  I’m not sure how to feel about the beavers, I just don’t know enough about them. Local sorts would and do trap them, consider them a destructive nuisance. I’ve read they can really dismantle a forest while constructing their dams (50 lb of wood downed, per beaver, per day, could that be right?) Our woods are quite thick, and could stand some thinning. And the plants I forage can be encouraged to grow in other nooks and crannies as the new layout emerges, and will, regardless of my efforts. I don’t necessarily buy the idea that beavers are bad news on a homestead, but I’m also quite curious, what we’re in for with these new industrious and toothy neighbors. Any beaver love or hatred tales out there?
 
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Beavers can indeed prove harmful to infrastructure, but they are ecological keystones. It's a tough issue.

If you can work around them and find other nettle patches, I would do so. Their action on the land increases water infiltration. In addition, more protein is generated in aquatic versus terrestrial systems, so if you can benefit directly from the added water, I would do that.

They have specific cues after they've established themselves. Basically, if they hear the sound of flowing water, they take it as a sign that they need to build infrastructure. If you eliminate the sound of flowing water, you should eliminate most of the reason they have to continue to build.

Ranchers, from what I gather, especially in your neck of the continent, hate their activities with a passion because raising the water table has the potential to not only flood pastureland, but also rot away fence posts.

I understand the concerns, but personally, I feel strongly, in this age of yearly catastrophic wildfires, that keeping beaver populations thriving is key. They will put more water in the ground, keeping areas humid that might otherwise dry out and burn. Not only do beavers have a specific strategy and prefer certain species of tree, there's no way they can cause the devastation that drought-caused disease, pest infestation, and wildfire can.

If they could be relocated where regeneration from fire is happening, and where their ecological effects would literally "trickle down," downhill in this case, we could actually see them accelerating an adaptation and regeneration of fire-ravaged landscapes.

Basically, the TLDR here is that beavers are a systemic counter to wildfire and drought. They are an infrastructural nuisance, but getting rid of them has a good chance of causing more problems rooted in drought, including drought itself, tree disease and pest infestation, and yes, wildfire.

-CK
 
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Thank you Chris for the thoughtful reply. We're just observing for now, pretty interested to see how things change (and how quickly) as they shape our little corner of creek bottom. I have plenty of nettle patches and enough land that I don't mind sharing some of it. Wildfire prevention and rehabilitation...I hadn't thought of that aspect, though of course it makes perfect sense. Wildfire is to my mind the scariest destructive force around here; and drought is an issue that contributes to that. Go beavers! Thanks again. PS- When you say that aquatic systems generate more protein, are you speaking to biomass in aquatic vs. terrestrial ecosystems or did I misunderstand your meaning?
 
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I go by the Mollison answer, "The problem is the solution."  A few won't do any harm and can even be beneficial. Too many can do damage and throw things out of whack so they don't have enough food and disease spreads.   So, I manage the population so we can live in harmony.  Beaver meat is better than grass fed beef!!!
 
Chris Kott
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Quite right, Judson, though if relocation of breeding pairs were possible,  it might do a lot of good to the larger system.

As to the protein thing, Rio, I was imprecise. Specifically, I was thinking about human food systems and research on sustainable vertical mariculture being used to replaced collapsed fisheries operations. I will try to find some links to interesting reading material.

-CK
 
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Judson Carroll wrote:I go by the Mollison answer, "The problem is the solution."  A few won't do any harm and can even be beneficial. Too many can do damage and throw things out of whack so they don't have enough food and disease spreads.   So, I manage the population so we can live in harmony.  Beaver meat is better than grass fed beef!!!



Aw you beat me to it, I was gonna say eat them if they get out of hand!

 
Judson Carroll
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Ben House wrote:

Judson Carroll wrote:I go by the Mollison answer, "The problem is the solution."  A few won't do any harm and can even be beneficial. Too many can do damage and throw things out of whack so they don't have enough food and disease spreads.   So, I manage the population so we can live in harmony.  Beaver meat is better than grass fed beef!!!



Aw you beat me to it, I was gonna say eat them if they get out of hand!



The nice thing about beavers is that you can use totally humane traps - instant kill, body grip traps that are like huge mouse traps or snares, because they don't fight snares.  They just sit down like a dog on a leash.  A drowning set could be considered mostly humane.  But, even just a leg hold that doesn't hurt the foot really doesn't seem to bother them.  They just sit there calmly.  It is amazing, really.
 
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When I lived in MN, I got along with them. I did, once, see many miles of state highway flooded by a well placed dam. I am sure there was a good deal of personal  property damage done.
 
Judson Carroll
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Oh yeah, anyone who needs to learn how to trap beaver humanely and for the meat (not letting it spoil) check out my old friend, The Meat Trapper (Tim) on youtube, patreon, etc.  HE will walk you through it, show you how to dress the meat, cook it, etc.  He doesn't suffer fools gladly.  But, he is a super nice guy who will take all the time an effort necessary to help a sincere person learn.  As you can imagine, he takes a lot of crap on line.  But, he has a teacher's heart.
 
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Rio Rose wrote:

When you say that aquatic systems generate more protein, are you speaking to biomass in aquatic vs. terrestrial ecosystems or did I misunderstand your meaning?

Water based plants and animals require less structure to hold them in shape (fish bones are much smaller than mammal bones as a ratio of mass for example). Moving suitable plants into the new water systems can generate large amounts of biomass which can be harvested sustainably for composting, animal feed (humans are animals), or products like bio-diesel. If your land gets run-off from poorly managed lands, the right combination of reeds and cattails can clean a lot of toxic stuff out of the water. These are just a few of the benefits that can result from beavers working with you.
 
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As mentioned, fire prevention is one of the most useful side effects of beaver habitation; but flood control is equally if not more critical, depending on each circumstance.

The ponds created will make the property much more friendly to all wildlife, such as duck or deer that could be harvested for meat. Stocking the pond with suitable fish could provide yet another source of protein.

Yes, they will harvest alder (a favorite food) but as these trees grow relatively quickly, this should not be an issue.

It is well worth taking the time, now, to note the lower elevations around the current "pond". This will give you a blueprint for where water will go as the dam is raised. By creating low piled dirt, rock or tree "walls" before the water reaches certain areas you can control the "spread" of water to a certain degree. This allows you to protect areas from being consumed in the pond, be they roadways, garden zones or other valuable infrastructure. IF critical infrastructure is in peril, the installation of a beaver baffler will solve the issue. Essentially this is a long pipe (at least 20 feet) that pierces the dam; with the outflow well beyond the dam wall it is not viewed as a breach requiring dam repair.

A little beaver 101: kits stay for two years, before being given the boot. The first year as babies, learning and growing; the second on Jr. Dam maintenance and babysitting, honing their skills for when they leave to seek their own dam/pond building projects a finding a mate.

Average full grown beaver weighs in about 30-40lbs, and like humans, their fur/skin is "attached" unlike a dog or cat where it is only attached snout, paws and anus - you cannot "scruff" a beaver.  

Harvested appropriately (the two year olds), their meat is supposedly excellent, and their fur, one of the best. The scent gland is VERY valuable, and highly prized in the perfume trade.
 
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I don't know how long you and your kin expect to be on the land.  But the longer-term patterns of beaver habitat are enormously beneficial.  Not only do you have a pond/lake where none existed before -- which will attract all kinds of wildlife, much of it tasty -- but a beaver wetland builds amazing soil.  At some point, the beavers run low on food and abandon their dams, or if they are there long enough, eutrophication sets in -- the process by which a small lake turns into a swamp and then a marsh and then a wet meadow and then finally the most productive grassland imaginable.  Ultimately the beaver dam location will be dry land again, only now it will be the richest possible agricultural land with deep layers of thick black high-organics soil.  

Some of my favorite childhood memories involve visits to beaver ponds.  Sometimes just to watch the beavers and kits, sometimes to hunt waterfowl, sometimes to fish, sometimes to sit in a makeshift blind or on a fallen log in the bushes with a rifle and wait for (in my case) moose to come drink on the far side of the pond.  I honestly can't imagine anything I'd rather do with land under my control than allow beaver to make a pond on it.
 
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Trapping is my method of coexisting; my property is very flat for this region, and a big chunk of field begins to flood very quickly whenever they come along and start building up the numerous semi-derelict dams.

The road to access my southern field is still impassable after they flooded it last winter...

My beaver like alder and willow, but they also kill every other sort of tree at their whim; crabapple, cedar, pine.. even old cedar fenceposts?? Nothing is safe. Some of it they don't eat or even use for dams, kind of like they are killing it to make room for more of the tasty stuff...

Older evergreen forest see a lot less activity, but it will be very difficult to establish this near the creek, as they can down and/or drown saplings very quickly.


I would be much less bothered if I could 'fix' their adventures in creek-amendment, but with it being a fish-bearing creek, there is an ocean of red-tape and daunting potential penalties. I have the choice of keeping the beavers mostly out, resigning myself to losing most of my arable land, or... putting in a beaver baffle every 40ft...?

I lived on a farm which had made the 2nd choice... it was not a very successful farm, partially because we were working with a small fraction of the previously available land.

A baffle is appealing in theory, but in my case there are currently at least a dozen dams in various states of neglect, and every occupied pond means soon enough some more beaver building up yet another dam... and I gave myself a hell of a headache trying to sort out the different sorts of permission I would need to put a couple of those into the most popular dams.


I am not entirely satisfied with the current state of affairs, and perhaps someone else could do better... I am, however, quite confident that 'let the beaver be' is a vastly worse plan here, and that my quality of life has a direct inverse correlation with the volume of my interaction with fisheries specifically, and regulatory bodies in general..



In a more permie world, I can envision waterways tweaked to allow beaver occupation and flooding in a rotation, maybe 15-20 years; the resulting fields would be amazing, the beaver, trout, and other pond-loving creatures would be a yield, wildlife would benefit from the varied landscape, and all sorts of fun riparian options could be explored... in the current world, this certainly does not make sense to the nice people with guns and helicopters who protect our fish, in order that we may exterminate them by other means. The fish, that is.

The norm around here on working farms, is often for creeks to have been channelized, and run through fields without nearby trees. This is probably the most practical option from a farmer's perspective, though not at all optimal from an environmental standpoint... and in any case, not an easy thing to accomplish now.



Ironically, I am spending quite a bit of time and money on earthworks to do what the beaver would do for free; store and infiltrate water. It's one of those things were you gotta laugh, or you'll scream in frustration.

I can't touch the creek water for farm use, regardless of how much of it the beaver store. I'm not even sure if the fire dept can touch it, for that matter. And I can't prevent their storage from flooding my fields without preventing them from storing much anything. So I need to build a separate system, for water I can actually use... while I kill off the beaver to stop *their* system flooding out the field that I will irrigate with the water in *my* system. *sigh* The devil is very much in the details...




As far as fire prevention goes... my neighbour lit a huge burnpile and went home, a couple years ago. The wind kicked up, and the forest caught; half a dozen acres burned, fortunately the fire dept is pretty close. The area was swampy brush, wet as hell in the winter. In summer, the dense willow/alder/cottonwood scrub burned like mad, apparently. This is exactly the sort of stuff the beavers like best, and what surrounds their ponds on my creek, plus a bunch of dry flammable standing dead stuff, mostly alder and cedar, that the flooding has killed.

So... I do have to wonder about the fire prevention aspect... anyone have more details?
 
D Nikolls
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Dan Boone wrote:I don't know how long you and your kin expect to be on the land.  But the longer-term patterns of beaver habitat are enormously beneficial.  Not only do you have a pond/lake where none existed before -- which will attract all kinds of wildlife, much of it tasty -- but a beaver wetland builds amazing soil.  At some point, the beavers run low on food and abandon their dams, or if they are there long enough, eutrophication sets in -- the process by which a small lake turns into a swamp and then a marsh and then a wet meadow and then finally the most productive grassland imaginable.  Ultimately the beaver dam location will be dry land again, only now it will be the richest possible agricultural land with deep layers of thick black high-organics soil.  

Some of my favorite childhood memories involve visits to beaver ponds.  Sometimes just to watch the beavers and kits, sometimes to hunt waterfowl, sometimes to fish, sometimes to sit in a makeshift blind or on a fallen log in the bushes with a rifle and wait for (in my case) moose to come drink on the far side of the pond.  I honestly can't imagine anything I'd rather do with land under my control than allow beaver to make a pond on it.



The ponds are beautiful, and I certainly feel like an asshole for pitting myself against them. I guess I'd rather be an asshole than a nice guy with a flooded-out farm...

The first beaver pond I found, a few weeks after I bought my property, I was filled with happiness. It was gorgeous, and very peaceful.

Ya, I had *no* idea how much frustration I was in for...


The cycle you describe would be amazing, and very permie!

But, once it is a wetland, fisheries comes along and puts it on their map, and now it is an Official Wetland. A third of my neighbour's place is Official Wetland, fairly untouchable and getting ever more so.

I am not so sure about grassland here; things seem to go straight to forest from marsh, best I can tell. As far as I can tell, because the alder/willow regrows very quickly, there is no need for an extended absence of beaver, so they can move back in and raise the old dam, in a matter of a year or two, if they ever left voluntarily. Because the land in this little valley is very flat, they don't make large ponds, but end up creating an amazing habitat with small pond surrounded by large flooded areas with lots of standing water and channels, yet also lots of ground just above water, which grows alder and willow and brush like mad. Endless food.

The resulting scrub is effectively impenetrable without a bulldozer. 10-20ft tall, far too thick to push through, too thick to see the ground, and then without leaving the brush you're suddenly in 4ft of water with 4ft of mud under it...

If they are absent for longer, the dam will break down enough to lower water levels a bit, and most of the area will go straight into young forest..

It is absolutely great fertile land; pretty well all the good fields here were once beaver ponds; the old-timers tell me that you could pull hay off them for at least a couple decades without ever fertilizing...
 
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Pros:  
They WILL thin out your forest.  
They will create a pond (if you wanted a pond, you're about to get one).  
They will totally change the hydrology of your land—usually, for the better.  
The wetland that they create will attract significantly more game to your land.
Fish habitat.  Duck habitat.
They are pretty dang cool, and the kits are as cute as you will ever see.

Cons:  
They will chew down any tree that's not protected -- say good bye to your orchard unless you wrap the trees in old chain-link fence.  
Land that you might have used for gardening or grazing will now be underwater.  
As someone mentioned above, you may find yourself the caretaker of an unwanted wetland.


Once they abandon their site (which may or may not happen, but often they do when they've run out of trees to cut down), you'll have the opportunity to get in there with a dozer or excavator and deepen the pond.  Having a pond on your land is great for fishing, watering livestock, and drawing other wildlife to your property (deer, turkeys, ducks, etc.).

I'd say live-and-let-live.  We need 100,000,000 more beavers out there on the land, sequestering water and rehydrading the landscape.  
 
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Marco Banks wrote:I'd say live-and-let-live.  We need 100,000,000 more beavers out there on the land, sequestering water and rehydrading the landscape.  



To me, this outweighs all other considerations. Enlightened policy would recompense people who bought land in good faith under the old paradigm that it's "mine" without need to preserve any of the ecosystem services it provided for the greater commonweal; but enlightened policy or not, those ecosystem services are vital (in a literal sense, necessary to life).  My sympathy for people concerned about their trees and pastures is balanced by my feeling that it was never a great idea to let people claim and hold those things exclusively at the expense of what they displaced.
 
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FWIW..

If the land is usable now I wouldn't "co-exist"

Wetlands are a touchstone for the manipulative, whereas a workable meadow that supports you and your family are of no interest to the powers that be.
We are on the cusp to a revival of minding your neighbors business, and keeping your business as interesting as watching paint dry, is to your benefit.

If you want a wetland, place a dam any place you choose .... and the county / state / EPA /etc will allow.
Document that it is artificial so you have a chance to remove it if needed in the future.

If you find beavers, get whatever permits are necessary and fill your freezer, beaver tail is as delicious as moose nose, or beef brisket.
Harvest the pelts and have them processed, few furs are as luxurious as beaver.

If there are still beavers when you've reached your limits, aggressive dogs have their purpose.

As a kid I lived on the High Sonoran Plains, we were fully 60 miles from anything that could be called a forest, just endless miles of sage.
My grandfather had built an acre sized lake fed by an artesian well he'd had drilled, and stocked it with bass and bluegill, an overflow flowed over at two points leading twin streams across the desert that he used to grow melons and corn.
Even out there the beavers eventually found us and commenced cutting down trees we had deliberately placed for shade and then started on fruit trees, as a final insult they built a dam at the end of a cornfield and flooded the field so badly everything had to be harvested by hand and could not be reseeded for a year until the field eventually dried out.

One thing about creating a new dam, is that often soils loosen and root masses become inadequate to support the existing leverage the trunk already had.

YMMV but if your in a position to donate significant portions of land to interests other than your own, beavers are subtle way to get it done
 
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Permies people, you are awesome. Thanks for weighing in and sharing your stories. In this age of one-liners it’s a pleasure to process some complete thoughts and insights, great 101, cautionary tales…down the rabbit (beaver?) hole we go! Also, sustainable vertical mariculture? Whoa. I have much to learn.

Our upstream neighbor utilizes hydro power, and the new ‘pond’ I believe may back up into and affect his system. He turns it off in winter and I’m guessing is unaware of what’s happening down on the creek. Come spring, the beaver issue may be bigger than just us, and if so I am glad to know of the existence of baffles. I will need to look into to regs, but around here oversight is almost nonexistent and regulations light; it’s ones own integrity that dictates behavior. Both a blessing and a curse. On the blessing end, no one is declaring official wetlands on private property here, not by a long shot. On the curse end, some existing regs, like, say, hunting seasons, are taken by many as mere suggestions.

I was glad to hear beaver are tasty, and can be humanely trapped, should it come to that. On this journey to self sufficiency I’ve been teaching myself to hunt, and in the last three years have gone from hilariously unsuccessful to starting to resemble the real deal. I started with snowshoe hare and moved on to grouse, and this year I stalked, shot and processed my first deer. I’ve found the whole experience to be empowering and humbling all at once. And really yummy.

This property is incredibly wild and tangled. It had some human intrusion at some point, though most of the evidence has long since been swallowed. We think it’s been maybe forty years, possibly more, since the last axe fell in here. However long it’s been, plants and trees have grown up to such a degree much of it is impenetrable, and everything could stand some serious thinning. Trees and shrubs are enormous, and many are dying back. There are chokecherry trees only the winged ones can harvest from, bigger than the guide books say they should get, and the lowest rose-hips dangle over my head. Quite frankly, we can use all the help we can get to get this tangle a bit more manageable, a whole other thread. Hopefully we can keep the beavers around for awhile in a mutually beneficial situation.

D Nikolls, hope you eventually find a better balance. How many beavers do you trap a year and what do you do with them? If you eat them, do you second the better than grass fed beef opinion?
 
D Nikolls
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Rio Rose wrote: I will need to look into to regs, but around here oversight is almost nonexistent and regulations light; it’s ones own integrity that dictates behavior. Both a blessing and a curse. On the blessing end, no one is declaring official wetlands on private property here, not by a long shot. On the curse end, some existing regs, like, say, hunting seasons, are taken by many as mere suggestions.



It's definitely a two-edged sword... there is plenty of evidence throughout the bush of really disgusting practices; oil change on your dozer? Drain it into the dirt, leave the old filter, empty oil pails, grease tubes where they fall, and carry on! Or just chuck it all in the creek.

Some people still use old tires as fire-starters, burn their round-bale wrappers... the list is endless. And, the more restrictive and complicated regulation is, the lower the rate of compliance... and all that stuff, enforcement is damned unlikely.


Either way.. Ugh. People.


Rio Rose wrote: D Nikolls, hope you eventually find a better balance. How many beavers do you trap a year and what do you do with them? If you eat them, do you second the better than grass fed beef opinion?



Thank you, so do I..

This is early in winter 3. We caught 7 the first year, 3 the 2nd, none yet this winter. There is a lot of excellent habitat both directions on the creek, so I expect I will probably see a continuous flow of fresh beaver...

I was lucky and made friends with a pair of trappers.. I do the grunt work; watch for sign, create access, daily checks on all traps. They have the gear and license, do the actual trapping, and keep the results.

They tell me it's tricky to cook, but mostly we were getting beaver that I suspect were well past the 2 year mark..



The best part of all this, checking traps can be a bunch of nice walks I wouldn't have made time for otherwise.

The worst part... tie between numerous trips wading 150ft of chest deep water, sometimes with 2 inches of ice on top and rutted slippery mud/grass on the bottom... or the time we trapped a river otter.
 
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Rio Rose wrote:
This property is incredibly wild and tangled. It had some human intrusion at some point, though most of the evidence has long since been swallowed. We think it’s been maybe forty years, possibly more, since the last axe fell in here. However long it’s been, plants and trees have grown up to such a degree much of it is impenetrable, and everything could stand some serious thinning. Trees and shrubs are enormous, and many are dying back. There are chokecherry trees only the winged ones can harvest from, bigger than the guide books say they should get, and the lowest rose-hips dangle over my head. Quite frankly, we can use all the help we can get to get this tangle a bit more manageable, a whole other thread. Hopefully we can keep the beavers around for awhile in a mutually beneficial situation.



I love this attitude!  Yes -- let the beavers do the heavy lifting for you!

Two key principles of permaculture come to mind:

1.  Seek biological solutions to ecological problems (rather than chemical or mechanical).  A mechanical solution to your wild and tangled land would be a bulldozer and excavator.  A chemical solution would be to start spraying Round-Up.  Beavers are an excellent biological solution, and they will leave the land much better than before.

2.  Cooperate with nature rather than fighting it.  Count yourself incredibly lucky to have those little guys on your land.  They are the best friends that money can't buy.
 
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Around where I am (Canadian Shield, Frontenac, Ontario), beavers are a permanent inhabitant. If somewhere is a topographically and hydrologically attractive place for a beaver pond, one will be built there. If that specific place is highly important to you, you can destroy the dam and/or trap those specific beavers. However, 2-year old beavers leave their parents' dams and find new places to set up residence, so if your place is attractive, and you make it vacant, within a year or two, new beavers will move in.

The main challenge with beavers I find is their "greediness" to keep on increasing the level of their dams. Especially in spring and fall, they are attracted to the sound of running water over their dams, and plug any holes and/or build the dam higher to retain more and more water. That's why you sometimes find monstrous dams with an 8' height difference. Their patience is going to be bigger than yours, so if you make a breach in a dam, you may succeed in lowering the water level a bit, but in one night or two, beavers will fix it (if not the same day), usually stronger than before.

You will find all sorts of "beaver baffler" type solutions available for sale, or instructions for self-build instructions available on the internet. The idea is you put in a drain and somehow mask the drain inlet from the beavers.
In our experience, they don't work for long. Beavers are not smart, but they have tremendous work ethic and their focus on finding running water will eventually let them win. They will clog the inlet, and continue "improving" the clog over weeks so that it's useless for its intended purpose.

Our solution, on the handful of ponds we care about capping the level (would flood road, etc.) is as follows.

  • Dig a trench through the dam once
  • Insert a 6-8" diameter culvert pipe, or whatever you have. Roughly anchor it in place sticking out about a foot into the pond.
  • Cap the top end with a pot lid, piece of plastic, metal, whatever closes it
  • Let the beavers fix the breach, sealing in the (closed) culvert
  • Whenever the water is too high, you come by in the morning and open the cap
  • Let it drain all day, but you come by in the evening and close it again
  • Beavers will come in the night and find nothing to plug.
  • Repeat as necessary


  • This works well when you're in residence, since you're using beaver psychology against them. They do the work of sealing in your culvert, but there's no running water at nighttime so they don't plug your drain -- you plug it, and water pressure holds your plug in. You can now have more patience than the beavers, in terms of how many days you open it up. They may put in a stick or two during the day, but won't clog things up badly. And overnight they may put a bit of mud around the culvert end, but nothing one pass of a spade won't fix. Of course, there's a bit more labour for you, but the opening and capping of the pipe is a matter of seconds, while cleaning out a beaver (non)baffler thoroughly clogged with branches and mud can be a 1/2 day job.

    None of this addresses their vegetation-changing habits of course, covered elsewhere in this thread. In our area, that's part of the natural progression, we don't worry about that. This is about preserving roads, etc. from creeping flooding by beaver ponds growing year after year.

     
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    My current strategy for coexisting with beavers is as follows.  It's a young strategy, but it's working so far:

    1) Research.  

    Learning even a little more about beavers has helped me avoid the extremes of "control/trap/relocate/kill" as well as the hippie extreme of "Let them rule the watershed, man."
    Even a little bit of knowledge has been helpful.  

    "Oh, they won't eat any fish."  
    "Oh, they will actually help maintain this dam."
    "Oh they will limit population growth based on food availability."


    And as you probably already know, there is a wealth of information freely available online for beaver coexistence.  If you are looking for something to download and read at your leisure, I recommend browsing through:

           "Working With Beaver for Better Habitat Naturally" by Sherri Tippie. Or for a longer read:
           "The Beaver Restoration Guidebook" from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  Both PDFs are freely available online.

    There are some diagrams in there which may help you later on down the line, specifically regarding beaver exclusion devices and also protecting trees.

    2) Patience.  Observing them in context of the property.

    I'm fortunate to have a good time horizon in that I'm not in a rush to achieve ALL design goals off the bat.  I can wait a little, learn a lot, and then make better designs and structures, incrementally.  As others have stated, beavers are great for the ecosystem as a keystone species.  Personally, I've noticed that the forests nearest beavers are indeed the most open and easiest to walk through.  The beavers are industrious and do a splendid job thinning the forest.  The trees seem healthy and large.  As I walk along, I take mental or written notes, and my mind makes assessments.  Where do they seem to eat?  Where don't they operate?  Where are they damming?  Where aren't they damming?

       "Many stumps they've created are now sprouting mushrooms" -> hmm...maybe I can inoculate beavers stumps with a more desirable species?  I'll have to try that later.
       "Wow, they really strip the bark clean on the fallen trees.  And they buck the branches pretty straight as well." -> Ahh...perhaps I'll steal these logs and branches and use them for fencing over here!
       "Wow, they leave a lot of evenly sized wood chips at the stump" -> Ahh...I'll use this in my woodstove to make morning coffee!
       "Uh oh, some larger trees have been girdled." -> Hmm...I wonder if it'll die and be a widow maker, or grow stronger?  What can I do with that huge tree if it dies?  Guess I better not build anything in that area.
       *POW!*  --> Woah!  They slap their tails when they're feeling territorial / to alert their family that I'm here.  Do I want them to fear me or not?
       "Oh look, the mama and her kit are grazing clover or something."  *pauses to watch for a while*  -> Why is this beaver kit so darn ADORABLE!?

    Seriously, they are adorable:



    In addition to observing them, this is where having a good knowledge of the contours of the property will come in handy.  As they choose spots to dam, you'll be able to guess what a prospective pond will look like if the beavers continue.  If the area the beavers are damming seems too vast, perhaps some manmade earthworks later on can contain their efforts to a more manageable or productive size?

    3) Interacting. Establishing and maintaining boundaries.

    At some point, the beavers will do something we don't like.  That something is probably either building a dam, or eating some trees.  After all, that's what beavers do.  And at this point, the temptation to control/trap/relocate/kill is strongest.  First, be thinking about down stream effects, not just the effects on your own site.  "Is it safe to knock out their dam?"  "How big can the dam be before it is unsafe to breach?"  "Is their behavior noticeably depriving a farmer/rancher/neighbor downstream of water flow?"  

    If one deems it safe to knock out a dam, the beavers will likely try to rebuild it quickly...like, overnight if possible.  As stated earlier, they hear the sound of rushing water and get to work.

    Alternatively, for a quick drain of a very small beaver dam, you can try the method of shoving some piping or conduit through it for some drainage.  Be aware that the end of the pipe can clog with mud if it doesn't have an end cap when pushing it through.  Additionally, the pipe could also get stuck over time if you change your mind about removing the dam.  The beavers may also put a stick in your pipe, much like a hippie's flower in the barrel of a rifle.  Since dams are often made with big logs and stones and other impenetrable things, the conduit method might not work.  Additionally, if any open piping that breaches the dam is near the bottom of their newly constructed pond, expect it to get filled with mud.  

    Once you get to a safe dam level, and it looks like they intend to rebuild (which they probably will), then that's when you bust out your awesome knowledge of beaver exclusion devices, and take it up a notch.  

    A few notes:
    1) Some of the devices in the reference PDFs above are rather large, but the concept can be scaled down for a smaller prototype which can last a couple years at least.  Basically, a beaver exclusion device can be a long pipe through the beaver dam, extending many feet upstream, with a cage around it so beavers can't kick mud or sticks into and clog the flow.  Ideally, have a 90* bend in the pipe to serve as a "monk" as Sepp Holzer would to adjust water level height, assuming you want to keep the beaver's new pond at a specific level.  Additionally, the pipe opening needs to be many feet away from the dam so it doesn't get covered up.
    2)I have noticed that beavers may try to chew through corrugated plastic piping.  
    3)Remember that your diversion piping will want to float, so you'll need a method of weighing down your pipe so it can fill with water and stay at the intended level.

    4) Making the beavers work for you. (Theoretical)

    I haven't fully gotten to step four of my strategy yet, but I really look forward to it.  I'm at a point where I can use the beaver's products: wood chips, clean sticks, debarked logs, etc. for basic personal projects.  But I want to expand, maybe start a side-business of furniture made solely from beaver-harvested wood, haha!

    Furthermore, I want to get beyond just managing beavers, to where perhaps I can guide them and co-design with them:

    Wacky ideas I want to try by partnering with beavers:
    -Chopping down, debarking, or cutting into specific lengths specific trees, saving me a chainsaw battery charge and labor. -> Perhaps via peanut butter, or some kind of attractant on the tree in the location to be gnawed on?
    -Building or augmenting dams and ponds in specific locations. -> Perhaps via a small disposable, waterproof speaker with the sound of running water?
    -Seeing if beavers can assist somehow with wild mushroom propagation. -> Perhaps their gut biome or fur contains and spreads a certain kind of fungi?  Could beavers be automatically "dusted" with gourmet or medicinal mushrooms spores, like a little beaver-carwash, before they go off to the forest and chop down trees, thereby spreading desired species?

    I predict in the next 30 years, that human-animal teaming is going to surprise us all, but that is a topic for another day.
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