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

The Martinez Beavers

Beavers may help geese, but in Alabama we kill them both!

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Outdoors just for kids: Some geese rely on beavers

Geese and beavers are very different animals. One is a bird covered with feathers, and the other is a really big furry rodent that eats trees.  They have one very essential thing in common, though — they both need water to live in. And it turns out that beavers can actually help geese find a place to live.

Check out this sweet article for children in the Billings Montana Gazette and think about cities that teach children the important relationships between species. Then read this.   Never mind that in Billings they’re publishing children’s articles about how beavers and geese are friends, in Pell City Alabama they know just what to do with that friendship.

Pell City Parks and Recreation Department Director Bubba Edge said the parks and recreation department staff will identify the nests, then do both egg addling and oiling around the first of April.

“We are working under the direction of Alabama Power Company, which has control over all streams leading to the lake,” he said. “The beaver dam is holding back water, which allows bacteria to accumulate. Then when we have heavy rains that wash the water over the dam, it ends up in the lake. A free-flowing stream will hopefully eliminate the problem.

Draper said under the direction of Alabama Power Company, the city would likely use the USDA to trap the beavers.

The dam is holding back water which allows bacteria to accumulate? You can guess how thoughtfully I wrote the major players in this article. I’ll let you know if I hear anything positive back. The reporter has already written to explain that geese aren’t native, cause a lot of problems, and the lake is a reservoir so the beaver bacterias might be more dangerous.

Hmm. I don’t know what to say about that. But I do know that there are lots of places they want to kill beaver in California and defend it by saying “beaver aren’t native to the area and cause a lot of problems“. That seems to be just what you say before killing something that people might object to. (In fact if you ever travel to an unknown land and you overhear folks start saying that about YOU I would definitely watch your back.)

A glimmer on the horizon? The handy manual for self-justification for killing wildlife, Jim Sterba’s book [no link on purpose] NATURE WARS, has been discussed in every paper from the Wall Street Journal to the Boston Globe. Folks just can’t get enough of his exciting excuses for defending our homeland from Nature. (And killing beavers! Don’t forget the beaver killing!) Recently Earth Island shockingly added its voice to the bandwagon. Which, after I had hired a crane to assist in picking my jaw up off the floor, I just had  to respond to.

In telling this story, Sterba, a flint-eyed former Wall Street Journal reporter, is at times excessively harsh toward the tender hearted suburbanites opposed to lethal animal control methods. But his central point is sound: Too many people have gone too far in romanticizing animals – and that makes it difficult to think clearly about how best to manage our involvement with other species. When every deer is Bambi, sound ecosystem stewardship becomes impossible.

Grrr. Yes it’s all those wacky compassionISTAS out there, keeping us from killing responsibly. I commented the following

Sterba fails to recognize that often non-lethal solutions are both less expensive and more permanent than trapping. He never acknowledges that beaver flooding can be effectively controlled with flow devices, allowing the beavers to remain and discourage new colonies naturally with their territorial behaviors. He never admits that beaver-created wetlands promote fish, birds and wildlife while raising the water table. I am saddened to see Earth Island promote his short sighted solutions.

Which, surprisingly, prompted a letter back from the editor, thanking me for my “thoughtful comments” and saying that they would run it as a letter in their print edition this summer. Good. Earth Island does great work and they should know better than that.

And by the way if they’d like to do a beaver article for that issue, I’d be happy to help.