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

The Martinez Beavers


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I thought a lot about yesterday’s news, and was able to have a 20 minute conversation with Dr. Jimmy Taylor at APHIS in Oregon about it. What I learned is that the beaver trapping done by Wildlife Service is only a small portion of the entire trapping of beavers done in the state. This morning I hunted around and tried to figure it out for myself. For starters about a third of the state is individually held private land, which means any landowner can dispose of ANY BEAVER any way he likes, without a permit or agency involvement.

Beavers on Private land: Beaver are defined as a Predatory Animal by Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 610.002 on private land. Statute implemented by Oregon Department of Agriculture.

Let’s say another third of the state is federally owed either by the bureau of land management or by the forest service. On public land beavers are considered a ‘protected furbearer’ and there is considerable effort to protect them and the habitat they maintain.

Beavers on Public land Beavers are classified as Protected Furbearers by Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 496.004 and Oregon Administrative Rule (OAR) 635-050-0050 on public land. Statute implemented by ODFW.

The remaining third of the land is divided up by municipalities, state land, etc. These places can use any wildlife control operator who is licensed and approved by the state- either a private WCO or Wildlife Services for their trapping. Case by case permits are not required. Once a month the private WCO needs to file a report saying where and what he trapped (UNLESS it’s a predatory animal on private land (BEAVER).  APHIS on the other hand, is required to report take, method of take, and accidental take, and report where it all occurred no matter what.

If APHIS stopped trapping beaver tomorrow forever, all it would mean is that all the work would fall on WCO’s and we would NEVER know this information. Wildlife Services has to keep records and report the numbers to the public. Private trappers don’t.

In my opinion, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Western Environmental Law Center would be better off suing the department of Agriculture who introduced this language and classified beaver as a predator in the first place making all this craziness possible, or  demanding that ODFW be more stringent in it’s laws allowing beaver trapping in general. I hate to be a party-pooper but I’m coming to the conclusion that this big lawsuit threat is actually meaningless and will do nothing to help beavers OR salmon. 

Suing Wildlife Services is a little like invading Iraq after 9/11. We knew they probably weren’t the cause of the problem and it wouldn’t make things better, but we wanted to do something and we knew their address. I’m reminded of the old joke about the man who notices his wife looking for something on the floor and asks what she’s doing.

 “I lost my contacts and am trying to find them”
“You lost them in here?” says the man being careful where he steps.
“No.” She answered. “I lost them in the living room but the lights better in here.”

Don’t get me wrong. I hate beaver trapping of all kinds. But at least fur trappers and WS are required by law to report what they do. Too many people aren’t. We need records. I’ll get to them eventually I guess, but I’ll fight with them last after we fix everything else.

You know what ISN’T a waste of our time? And does make a huge difference to the safety of beavers and the way people view them? Having communities who care about them. This week residents in Port Moody B.C. spoke up for the beaver that was killed at the local council meeting. There are precious few things that make me happier than a sight like this. I had to make a film of my favorite moments, but the whole thing is wonderful if you want to see it.