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Beaver habitat restoration

 
Bill Bradbury
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I went out the other day with Dr. Joe Wheaton, his crew, the head forest ranger and his helper, my friend/mentor/cattleman Jay and his son Casey to restore damaged beaver habitat in Jay's forest allotment. These are small dams built by hydraulically ramming sharpened wooden posts into the riverbed, weaving with willows, dogwood or whatever is close and flexible, then mud, sod and stones to seal the makeshift dam. These are not real dams in that they only slow the water, they don't stop it. It was refreshing to hear an ecologist talk about slowing the water down and letting it soak into the Earth body where it can be used. This stream is perennial at this elevation, but dries up in summer down by Jay's house. Jay has told me several times that if he can return the entire stream to a perennial flow, he will die happy. With 8 guys, we built 4 dams by hand in about 8 hours, the full restoration plan for this area is to install 100 more of these structures.
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Bill Bradbury
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a few more pics
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David Livingston
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So how close do the beaver live ?

David
 
Bill Bradbury
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Hi David,
the beaver have lived here until very recently when the myriad forces that destroy beaver and their habitat aligned to completely eradicate them from the area. Jay said when he was a kid in the '40's there were beaver everywhere, to the point that they would tear out their dams when the creek or irrigation canal would stop flowing. I have attached a few pics of ancient beaver dams that have completely redesigned the tributary stream bed and reshaped the entire hollow.
More to the point of your question; My wife and I tried to purchase a ranch in the next canyon over from a woman who told us "when my husband was alive, he tried and tried to get rid of them beaver". We told her "but that's why we want to buy this place!".
Do you know how to tell if there is good grass in the west? It's eaten down to nothing. Jay hasn't run his cows here for a month, but the wild critters are keeping the best grasses mowed down. Notice in the last photo the way the ancient beaver dam now looks like a hugelbeet.
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allen lumley
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Being a man of mature years, I still remember my Grandfather who was born late in the 1800s Telling the story of His father declaring a Sunday Outing after church.

The Goal being a journey of some 40 odd miles to arrive at a place where it was possible to view a beaver pond complete with beaver dam and Beaver house right
from the side of the road !

Today Beaver are considered a Nuisance Animal, destroying Timber Grade if not timber sized trees, and flooding fields and blocking culverts It is only through the
restraining actions of the state conservation department that these now super abundant Aquatic mammals are protected!

With access to willow cuttings It should be possible to plant enough willows to provide for a couple of generations of beavers, hold them to a landowner approved
location and use their strengths to maintain a dam on that stream!

On a related note the richest and blackest dirt I ever had in my hans was from an old beaver dam! For the Good of the Crafts ! Big AL !

 
Dale Hodgins
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The price of beaver pelts has been very low for a long time. In the seventies, a good pelt could bring $150. Now, $10 can be made sometimes. This has greatly reduced trapping pressure.

When left alone, beavers repopulate quickly. Migrating offspring have a 50% chance of falling victim to predators. If young are transported to a suitable new home, their chances of survival are very good.
 
David Livingston
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Nearest Beaver to me is about 30km away and unfortunetly not enough water on our place to encourage them . We have these close by but its not the same thing http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coypu

David
 
Dale Hodgins
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It's known as the Nutria in North America. A major pest and a total failure economically. It was introduced for the fur value. Now that furs are worth very little, a destructive pest remains. Canadian beavers were introduced to the archipelago of Patagonia for the same reason. This has also been a major failure. With no fur industry and no predator, beaver populations have exploded and now threaten forests on the South American mainland.
 
Bill Bradbury
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Dale Hodgins wrote:The price of beaver pelts has been very low for a long time. In the seventies, a good pelt could bring $150. Now, $10 can be made sometimes. This has greatly reduced trapping pressure.

When left alone, beavers repopulate quickly. Migrating offspring have a 50% chance of falling victim to predators. If young are transported to a suitable new home, their chances of survival are very good.


Dale, these things are probably true there in the rain forest, but here in our harsh high desert environment, none of them are true, but the price of pelts being low. A truly good pelt will fetch you $150 still, but that is still very low when inflation is factored in. I never trapped in the '70's as I was a kid, but I don't remember them being that high in the '80's when I would tag along with our subsistence trapper/hunter neighbor. I do remember when coyote pelts hit $75 and they had a $25 bounty. Our neighbor and others like him had coyote pelts on stretchers lining every available space in their yard. Then came the rabbit explosion, crops were devastated. Then rabbit drives in order to club them to death.
There are still a lot of people trapping around here. The big dams with families in them survive together, but when the young are on their own they often die before they can establish their own compound. Jay and Casey trapped and released a breeding pair of beaver into a choice habitat according to the BRAT (beaver restoration assessment tool) and they have not been seen since. Casey said he found beaver track headed down creek to the Bear river, so he believes they left. They would have traveled about 6 miles through pristine beaver habitat in order to get to the river. Dr. Wheaton believes and I agree with him, that it is the beavers who best decide when to migrate and how to accomplish that incredibly risky task. So the task at hand is not the re-establishment of a supposed keystone species, but the rehydration of the watershed and the rebuilding of the ecological cycles.
 
Miles Flansburg
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I will have to try that out at my place Bill.
Have they seen the beaver come back to these places after the dams are built?
Will they let you transplant any to Jays place?
How long do they last before they wash out again?
Do you have to maintain them?
 
Dale Hodgins
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It appears that the new home was judged unsuitable. There may have been nothing wrong with it except that it wasn't their home. If a breeding pair were captured, they may have already had their own territory. Many animals will try to head home immediately upon release.

Release of many unpaired youngsters would seem more in line with the natural behavior of beavers. They are looking for a new home. Young beavers pair up and settle in a suitable spot. They often take advantage of man made structures. A partially built dam surrounded by the right trees has worked in the past.

 
David Livingston
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Hi Dale
Nutria really got established here in France after WWII and is a major pest unfortunetly its not clear how efforts to control them effect the european beaver http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurasian_beaver
. In the UK the govt offered a huge reward- £5 not much now but in the 1920s was lots of money and the nutia were soon extict.

David
 
allen lumley
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Location: Northern New York Zone4-5 the OUTER 'RONDACs percip 36''
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David : A major problem with the Nutria is their habit of making stream bank homes, In the U.K. their home building and tunneling caused the collapse
of the earthen banks of the canal systems, Which still exists as a surviver of the U.K.s early industrial Days! As soon as that started to happen their days
were numbered !

I would love to do the inland waterway tour of the U.K. Tying up for the Night stream side to a local Public house, and traveling at my own pace!

Green travel with class ! For the Good of the Crafts ! Big AL
 
Bill Bradbury
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Location: Richmond, Utah
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Miles Flansburg wrote:I will have to try that out at my place Bill.
Have they seen the beaver come back to these places after the dams are built?
This is actually a pilot study program, so data is limited, but yes the San Rafael swell pilot project installed last year is already showing promise for a full recovery.
Will they let you transplant any to Jays place?
The head ranger for the area was part of the crew installing the dams, so he is all for reintroduction, but Dr. Wheaton wants to wait for at least a year after the completion of all 100 dams next year before trapping and manually reintroducing them.
How long do they last before they wash out again?
There are too many factors to answer this completely. It seems that the most common failure is due to the water going under the dam, scouring the stream bottom and the whole thing opens up like a gate. We load a lot of stones in the critical areas to prevent this and hope to achieve longevity in the several years to decade range. This should be long enough to establish new stream channels and restore the hydrologic balance. The lack of durability is compensated by sheer numbers of structures.
Do you have to maintain them?

No maintenance is required, but I plan on babysitting these 4 through the winter, until we get more going.
Hi Miles,
Dr. Wheaton is installing pilot programs with the help of ranchers and the Forest Service. If you would like to initiate a habitat restoration like this in your area, you can contact him through Utah State University, College of Natural Resources.
If you just want to install a few rogue dams on your own place and you are on the western side of Wyoming, I would come out and give you a hand, free of course.

 
Miles Flansburg
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Thanks Bill, I am more towards the eastern side. I do have some old dams that I would like to restore, just have not gotten all the way down the to do list yet.

When I first met my wife she was roommates with a wildlife biologist who was transplanting beaver into some of the creeks around Rock Springs.
They moved them in the fall so that the beaver would be forced to build up a food supply before winter, so they would stay where they were put.
 
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