Because the beaver isn't just an animal; it's an ecosystem!

The Martinez Beavers

Day: November 8, 2012

Beaver Problems

This beaver was trapped along Brush Creek in Eagle Ranch last week. It was about a year and a half old. It was released on site and will be able to live in the area at least until next spring, since it is too late in the year to relocate the animals safely. Meanwhile, the town of Eagle is taking steps to prevent beaver damage to the storm ponds in Eagle Ranch, which is a pollution control system that was being affected by the critters

There are two environmental situations clashing along Brush Creek in Eagle Ranch — beavers and pollution control. Beavers are the root of the problem. “We want to leave the beavers alone but we also don’t want pollutants going into Brush Creek,” said Eagle Open Space Director John Staight. “This is a real problem, not just a nuisance.”

The storm ponds are the main concern, however. They are a filtration system for water going back into Brush Creek from the Eagle Ranch development. By flowing from one pond to the next, pollutants such as fertilizers and petroleum are strained from the water before it goes into the creek.

The mound of debris in the foreground was recently cleaned off the drain of a storm pond in Eagle Ranch. Beavers were damming the ponds, which are a pollution-control system. Wire was put up around the drain to keep beavers from damming the pond again.

“The beavers had raised the water level of the ponds a little more than a foot over the weekend,” Boyd said last week. “I noticed that some sticks and debris from the bottom of the pond were piled over the grate (where water drained from one pond to the next).”

The beavers were damming the outlets of the last two ponds. The final pond is only separated from Brush Creek by a narrow berm. “At that rate, it wouldn’t be long before the pond water washed out the berm and went straight into the creek,” Boyd said.

There is so much to like in this article, it makes sense that Eagle is about 90 minutes away from Sherri Tippie and should easily know what to do or at least who to ask. Good for them for wrapping trees, and good for them for thinking of live trapping. Almost.

The first response was to trap and relocate the beavers. One large male was trapped and relocated two weeks ago, and last week a smaller, younger one was trapped. The second was simply released on site.  Colorado Parks and Wildlife Officer Craig Wescoatt informed the town that it’s too late in the season to relocate the animals.

“I recommended that any trapped beavers be put down in a humane manner,” he said. “A relocated beaver would have trouble adapting to a new environment and would likely starve over the winter.” 

The town’s new solution is to let the beavers remain and hope they go somewhere else in the spring.  “This isn’t the best habitat for them anyway,” Staight said. “We’re trying to make the area even less appealing to them for now. In the spring, when the water rises in Brush Creek, they’ll hopefully go downstream where there’s better habitat.”

I’m still left with a unmistakeable uneasiness. One big beaver moved and the younger one rereleased in the same area? You need to be told by CPW not to relocate in November? Trees wrapped with chicken wire? A quote from the public works explaining that a Beaver Deceiver has to be a trapezoidal shape to keep ‘beavers away’? Hmm, I’m beginning to suspect a Land Trust that knows part of the story about beavers, and hasn’t taken time to learn the rest. A quick  look at their glossy website shows me a motto that reads “Saving land for people forever” and exactly zero mention of wildlife of any kind, including beavers.

Travis Barton grew up in the area and has been trapping beavers all over the county for a long time. He’s the guy people call up when the animals need to be removed. He said he’s trapped at least 30 beavers on Brush Creek alone through the years. It’s been a side job that pays him for each animal he catches.

His full-time job is managing a lumber yard in Summit County. He chuckled and acknowledged that his occupation with wood might give him something in common with his prey.“In a year, every tree here would be lopped off if you didn’t do anything,” he said of the Eagle Ranch situation. “It’s hard to say how many beavers we have here but probably quite a few.”

He said trapping the animals in limited numbers keeps the population healthy.“Otherwise they’ll overpopulate and eat themselves out of house and home and then move on,” he said.

Beavers are vegetarian. They eat wood and some plants like cattails. For baiting traps, scent is more important than anything else.“They don’t have great vision but they have an acute sense of smell,” Boyd said. The traps are baited with a musky scent.After releasing the second beaver back to its Eagle Ranch lodge, Barton packed up his trap. He might not need to come back at all.

“Hopefully we’ll only have to deal with the activity for the next couple months, before they hunker down for winter, and then we’ll re-evaluate in the spring,” Staight said.

Those are your closing arguments: let’s talk to a trapper? I told you this article made me uneasy. The good part is that they are close enough to real solutions to be forced to pretend they’re considering them, which is something. I wrote helpful and respectful advice to all the professionals named in this article yesterday. You can count on zero fingers how many responses I’ve received so far. These folks don’t want beavers. They want to play with ponds to filter all the pollution they allowed to gather in the first place.

You know what’s really really good at filtering out toxins? Go ahead, I’ll wait while you think.