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Managing beavers and beaver ponds for organic materials

 
bob day
Posts: 338
Location: Central Virginia USA
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i have a love hate relationship with the beavers, or maybe love/fear is a better way to think
afraid of the damage they might do to all manner of orchard trees etc, plus the diseases they might carry making a waterway more hazardous to us humans
and a basic respect for them as fellow beings with an interesting skill set

granted the diseases aren't usually that severe, and usually a result of drinking the water, and maybe wire mesh and or bone sauce might be an antidote for them cutting down a food forest, but have chosen to discourage them as much as possible with lots of hard work and perseverance to convince them to move on and stop rebuilding the dam that gives them access to much of my land, including a food forest i'm in process of beginning

and i do get them to quit after much repetition of going down with pitchfork (and high boots in the cold times), i have mountains of sticks and leaves and mud piled by the creek as testimony to their (and my) determination

usually every spring and fall a new round of conflicts begin, usually at a site about midway between my property lines,

the pond i am interested in protecting is behind a small concrete dam close to the upstream property line

when they establish the dam at midway they can easily have access to the upper dam and my pond, but as long as the midway dam is thwarted i get relatively beaver free water in my swimming area since there are no beavers higher up on this little creek

i always used to think they would leave debris -cut wood etc on the bottom of my pond (i've heard they cut a supply for food and leave it underwater for harvest in the winter)

anyway, my swimming pond has been accumulating fall leaves for a couple of years now, and the sauna plunge is nearly filled with some small plants beginning to root in the accumulated mass of leaves and silt now breaking the surface.

anyway, while engaging in my usual harassment of them recently as they attempted to establish the dam at midway, i had let it go a few days and on my way out the other day noticed that they had started to build a dam on top of my dam and raised the pond level by almost a foot

at first i was pissed, dam beavers

then i started to think about it, since i have noticed that they also clean up the stream looking for all sorts of debris to pile on their dam--rotted wood, leaves, misc trash,aquatic plants

and am now in the mind set that i will try to manage them, getting them to rebuild the dam over and over, each time grabbing more crap off the bottom as their plaster , the first deconstruction yielded a shortbed pickup full of half rotted logs and a medium pile of leaves mixed with rich bottom silt from the creek.(it is now on the ground as a part of a new hugel bed area, the silt and leaves covering the wood --add a little topsoil to cap it off and i think i may be having some real win win win situations

so for once i'm looking forward to their perseverance, and hope they rebuild that dam many times

right now this is the beginning of the experiment, but maybe i've found a way to work with the beavers, using their skills to help me manage the crap on the bottom of the pond

of course i eventually plan to move them back downstream--as soon as they clean out the plunge and swimming area

 
Cris Bessette
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Working with the beavers!
Sometimes taking a step back and just observing leads to ways of looking at things or understanding them.

If you get the area cleaned up in exchange for the beavers having a place to live, you both win.




 
Jordan Lowery
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I would love to work with beavers. Planting a food forest in the ecosystem they create would be amazing. The amount of edge would be huge. What type of trees do you have that are a source of food for them now?

Then you have the whole aquaculture thing do do too.

You could, if done right create a very productive system with beavers.

The problem is the solution.
 
Alder Burns
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We had a similar situation at one of the farms I lived at in GA. For two or three years I would regularly dismantle a dam they were trying to build, piling the sticks and muck on the bank. The beaver never simply put these back, but would go gather more. Many wheelbarrows of what we called "beaver muck" (mud, leaves, etc.) were hauled to the garden and used directly, either dug in or not; quite a bit more was piled up to compost (which with the addition of some rotten wood and pee became wonderful potting soil). In addition, I broke/cut up the pile of sticks for kindling as well. But then the beaver moved on to girdling and cutting BIG trees (like, 12-18 inch diameter!), and eventually the landowner got sick of losing trees and had the beaver trapped. It did make excellent eating!
 
allen lumley
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Bob Day, there have been a large number of studies that show that Beaver have an Aural trigger, that it is the sound of running water that is their trigger to build dams,

A now very old study showed that approximately 40 percent of the Russians living in Moscow had 'Beaver Fever' and at that time it probably was and anecdotally still
seems to be safer hiking on the East coast of America without water filters, than living in Moscow !

Both New York State and Pennsylvania have plans for wire mesh cages to allow the beavers some dam building without 'plugging culverts under roads' and minimize
flooding. If you have a specific site that you are worried about at a 1/2 way point you can do a little Aqua-terra-culture-ing to widen, deepen your stream and stream-
banks at that point, trying to get a quieter stream, this may require removing some hidden sub-surface logs jammed into your stream bed, possibly even bank
to bank, sometimes a little effort on straightening the banks out -pays dividends !

A small word of warning! the phrase 'the problem is the solution' covers both sides of the coin, get too aggressive and you can increase the problem and/or move it in
the wrong direction! I am assuming that you have considered a straight ditch to your property line, and a dam at your property line !

Realistically those are your only choices, as it will be impossible to put a dent in the material they have to build dams with, you can only go crazy with the bone sauce,
and see how effective it will be for you! I hope that this helps, and can work with your remaining good weather ! For the Good Of the Crafts !

Think Like Fire, Flow like a Gas, Do not be the Marhmallow, As always, your comments and questions, are solicited and are Welcome ! PYRO - Logically BIG AL !

A late note : The amount of sticks left in the bottom of your pond after the beaver have eaten the twigs, bark and leaves, totally depends on the number of times the
beaver have to repair their dam, as long as they have that resource at hand you have no chance of beating them, it is only a scarce food supply and the absence of
patching materials, that encourages them to move on, Usually the smell of 'MAN' on the mud and sticks will keep them from reusing that mud and sticks again, but a
little bone sauce on the piles should do the Trick

Occasionally knock down a small portion off of the top of the dam when you know it is going to rain, and the beaver will cleanup all those nasty sticks and things making
quick work of the patching

I f you come up here to northern New York I can show you the remains of old beaver dams tat have gone completely through a decomposition cycle, having been left
behind to Hugelculture, and eventually becoming a mound of rich black dirt, Well planted with Elderberry and Serviceberry Trees ! A.L.
 
bob day
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Location: Central Virginia USA
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thanks for all the thoughts on beavers

the reality of my situation is that even though it is a bit time consuming, going down on a frosty morning or hot summer day and pulling apart a beaver dam, occasionally catching sight of the culprits, has become a bit of a game i play with them, and like one of the posts mentioned, i'm starting to see that they are concentrating a valuable resource (rich creek bottom mud and sticks) which can be useful if managed correctly

i'm starting to get visions of great raised hugelculture beds along the creek that keep plants high enough in floods to survive, but have a great climate and soil for growing.

all made possible by slightly moving the beaver dam to be on the shore instead of in the water

i don't know what other beavers do, but mine will use sawn boards, plumbing pipe, bucket lids, anything they find to rebuild the dams, but if i stack the sticks and put the mud etc on top, they usually don't wrestle them out of the 6' tall piles right at their dam site, but will bring in everything else loose floating around

sometimes i start to feel like a big beaver, down there in the middle of the creek undoing what it takes them several nights to build in just a few minutes

and i do appreciate the role they play in slowing down the water, and so far the game i play with them just forces them to move downstream where they have a bigger dam, plus another bigger one abandoned farther down.

in the past i have observed them playing in my fairly narrow pond (20' or so), even shot at them with a paintball gun (to no effect), and counted the minutes knowing about when they would surface

once when one came up and rolled on it's back grooming, i lightly tossed a pebble onto its belly, and you thought the world had ended, it dove quickly, resurfaced and slapped its tail---pretty cool

that sort of one on one personal harrassment usually freaks them out and they move on, but like i said, i'm not in a big hurry this time, i just want them to clean out the debris on the bottom of my pond before i move them downstream--a bit selfish, maybe a dirty trick, i don't want them living there permanently, i just want them to do some work for me, eat a little brush, clean out my pond, then move on.

and i have heard about the running water sound being a trigger, but i don't really plan to do too much deepening or straightening right away, maybe when i get old and tired of playing with them

twt


 
Dale Hodgins
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Beavers are one of the most useful creatures in areas where it is necessary to impound water but the water does not legally belong to the land owner. This is the case for much of the watershed of the Colorado River. The water falling on your land may legally belong to California or Nevada. Beavers are by no means rare, but they have been extirpated from some areas and sometimes enjoy legal protection. The water cops would be pitted against endangered species legislation, should it ever be decided that you are storing too much water.

If swales were constructed near a gulch, they could trap enough water to grow cottonwoods and other prime beaver food/building materials. Introduce beavers during the wet season and allow them to build dams. You could make a start for them, so that dams are properly situated. Over time, a family of beavers will produce an enormous change in the landscape and they'll maintain it all for free. Culling is absolutely necessary in areas that lack predators. Grizzlies sometimes catch beavers, coyotes aren't so successful.
 
John Polk
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My only experience with beavers was in an area where they had been introduced.
The local ranchers hated them, and would shoot them on sight.

One friend had about 20 acres of prime pasture that had been turned into a swamp. It had been his pasture that was used once the snows shut down his higher pastures. The sea water began encroaching into that area, causing further damage. Needless to say, he was not part of the "Save the beavers" crowd.

 
allen lumley
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John Polk : If sea water was coming in, then they needed the beavers, 1/2 a meadow is better than none Big AL !
 
John Polk
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The family had managed the land for nearly 200 years without seawater being there, except at the edge.
Once the beavers created a lagoon, things changed.

Other areas had also been turned into swampy bogs. Fresh water is so abundant in the region, that nobody carries water when hiking or camping. With enough dams slowing down that water, many areas were becoming marginally suitable for livestock.

The local government actively encouraged farmers/ranchers to rid the land of 'this pest'.

 
M Foti
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what is this "bone sauce" I see you folks talking about? Our cherry orchard is going in near a creek that is populated with beavers. Trying to think of ways to protect the trees, I'm thinking some hog fencing shields for them? I have a serious problem with deer in our blueberry fields when the weather gets cold, if I can find a trick to keep the beavers from cutting down our trees my only resort is to do the same as I have been with the deer, which is a serious population reduction. I don't wish to attempt this battle as well, so any tips or tricks you folks might have to deterring beavers from fruit trees will be greatly appreciated!
 
allen lumley
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M. Foti : At the top of this page, below the Permies banner and above the Permies video of the day is the Permies Toolbox, click on Search, on the next page enter bone sauce
in the search field, Then do a google search within Permies, You will have a choice of recent comments where it was discussed ! You can and should also take a look at the bottom
of this page where the computer has posted a list of ' Similar Threads '

Et al : a short physics lesson, salt water is heavier than fresh, as long as there is any fresh water in the water table for salt water to enter and contaminate the water it must flow
in from the bottom rising to the top.

In all the great rivers of the world when the tide comes in you have a relatively small area of mixing depending on flow and turbulence , here you have a fresh water tide, in
the Hudson river in New York the bed of the river is occupied with salt water that flows far upstream against the flow of fresh water but under it ! The same is true for the Mississippi
as far north as Baton Rouge !, It is true for San Francisco Bay and I am sure Puget Sound ! (unless Ernie W. says otherwise )

Off the coast of South America, miles from shore the mighty Amazons flow is so strong you can look at the color of the surface waters and see where you can 'Cast down your-
- bucket where you are' and get fresh (silty but fresh) water

Think of why we do keyline plowing and swales -to slow down the surface water,to let it soak in and work to rebuild and raise water tables

After man has placed his none to steady hand on the land for generations, we can expect damage to or destruction of water tables give beaver just one generation and their dams
will slow down the flow of water, allowing the water to slowly soak into the ground percolating through the ground to the water table !

I was not there I do not know what happened but in this case beavers don't generally get much rebuttal time and dead beavers don't get any!

I also know of No reports linking Beaver with living in salt water, it would be maladaptive behavior to destroy your habitat, I know of only one non-extinct creature accused of that
crime !

I can be accused of being biased, beaver are an income stream for me Big AL
 
John Polk
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What happened there, was somebody imported a couple dozen beavers, about 50 years ago, hoping to get rich raising them for their pelts. They didn't get rich, so they just released them into the wild. The beaver has no natural predator in the region. Their population on the island is now over 100,000, and growing, despite trapping efforts. One trapper is trapping over 1,000 per year, but it isn't reducing their population.

 
bob day
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Location: Central Virginia USA
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i was told that beavers are a vector for a mostly non lethal disease, i think its a paramecium or some such that makes you sick for a while (nausea etc) but then passes
a friend of mine who makes it his trademark to drink from every creek he sees (mark creekwater) said he caught it one time, but now says he is immune, and he figures that the presence of that non lethal organism actually fights other more dangerous critters that might do greater harm

i wouldn't count on that, and expect the possibility is that it could also weaken the system and make us more prone to the next disease that comes along, although i guess in this case it might have as much to do with positive thinking strengthening the immune system, and better to believe the best (when it is inevitable anyway) than worry about the worst

although in the meantime i personally don't drink creekwater nor do i plan to intentionally, and really don't want the beavers lingering where i swim
 
David Livingston
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Here in europe Beavers are making a come back , numbers increacing all the time . They have even been reintroduced to scotland after over 500 years of extinction. I have even seen signs of them not far from where I live in Angers . If they put a Dam across the Loire I will be impressed

Sir David
 
Meghan Orbek
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GREAT READ about water and the incredible beaver: Water, A Natural History by Alice Outwater
 
allen lumley
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I guess if you take all of the people in montana who subscribe to the NYTimes, you wouldn't need a very big room ! Readers who are Fellow Members
posting here at Permies, well it probably wouldn't crowd a Wafati ! Any Way here is a Nice piece on beavers ! :::-->

http///www.nytimes.com/2014/10/28/science/reversing-course-on-beavers.html hint highlight the BOLD part, a right click should open

in the address window or as a google search ! Big Al

Bob Day, its about time for an update on your beaver situation. Yes? A.L.
 
bob day
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Location: Central Virginia USA
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Hey Big AL , nice to hear from you

yes well, beavers are the least of my worries right now with the Pipeline fight just ramping up--I'm the webmaster (why i don't know--oh that's right , nobody else wanted the job) plus helping pick up the pieces in all other aspects of our meager effort.

Anyway, at one point in the spring the beavers abandoned the dam i kept tearing apart, and went downstream to their big dam pond on the lower edge of my property

And i'm not even sure how well that dam wheathered the dry conditions this past summer. At my concrete dam the water level comes to just below the first step when their big dam is full, and when they start building on the other they can raise the level almost to the top of my dam--about two+ feet.. so far the water has stayed well below that normal level at the first step even though we have had some rain, and no signs they plan to rebuild the middle dam, although you are the second person asking so maybe it's time to walk down and take a look to see what signs there might be.

Better to make sure they don't start cutting a winter food supply than wait and have them committed to defending the fruits of their labor--plus that gives them time to organize a food supply elsewhere

one thing though for the future, i am looking at the idea of chanampas of some kind down there. The flood plain is a perfect place to dig canals and have raised beds between. It is kind of a zone 5, so it might be difficult to manage the wild critters, deer and such but the nutrient flows and water supply make it ideal.

beavers might end up being beneficial in a system like that, using them to impound the water and flood the chanampas

or something like that, a half baked idea that hasn't had much thought lately, i might have mentioned it before.

These gd freaking fracking pipelines. process with Ferc hasn't started and surveyors already in the fields down the road--neighbor of mine about a mile down saw them on another neighbors property and chased them away. just got a text from another volunteer going to try and blanket the pipeline route with flyers asking for updates so i went online and no updates, but this nice post on a favorite (if neglected recently) topic. I can hardly wait for ice on the water, high rubber boots, gloves and pitchforks tearing sticks out of a beaver dam.

I'm easily amused and very blessed, just another day in paradise. www.permaculturebob.org
 
I'm full of tinier men! And a tiny ad:
The stocking-stuffer that plants a forest:
FoodForestCardGame.com
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