You may remember that Idaho has a fairly complicated relationship to beavers. In the fifties they thought they were valuable enough to fling them from airplanes and hope they’d land, crawl to water and start a nice pond. Or not.
Mostly they like to trap them. They fur trap a whopping number of beavers. It’s one of the states where recreational trapping is more common than depredation. But Idaho Fish and Game has been getting some pressure from Mike Settell and our friends at Watershed Guardians. Who keep pointing out the MANY valuable things beaver could be doing if they were allowed to live.
Either Fish and Game listened or they figure this will work in their favor in the long run.
Rehabilitating wild animals is a natural extension of Earthfire’s activities. Our infrastructure, know-how and interest in the well being of wild animals led us to rehabilitate two orphaned moose babies in 2013. It became a successful community project, completed in close cooperation with Idaho Fish and Game. Now another rehabilitation/relocation project is underway, this time with beavers.
In April of 2016 Idaho Fish and Game asked Earthfire if we were interested in providing a temporary holding pen for trapped beavers. We would be part of a coordinated initiative offering relocation services as an alternative to the kill permits issued when landowners request beavers to be removed from their properties. By accepting this project Earthfire became an integral part of the Upper Snake River Beaver Coop and their mission: “.. to recognize that beavers are great eco-engineers and a great asset when dealing with climate change and declining stream flows.” Earthfire is cooperating with representatives from the Forest Service, BLM, The Nature Conservancy and Idaho Fish & Game. The four goals of the Coop are:
Better understand beaver populations in the watershed. Determine the status of their habitat. Selectively relocate beaver to select sites to improve downstream storage. They can help us store water in the upper watershed for slow release during the summer rather than all at once
Provide information and support landowners
The Coop is responsible for trapping, penning and relocating beavers in the Upper Snake River region. Earthfire’s primary role will be to keep the beavers fed, healthy and safe until relocation. They will be trapped one by one until they can be relocated as a family. Because of strong family ties, beavers do not do well alone and often succumb to stress diseases.
Earthfire’s staff has completed a beaver trapping class organized by Idaho Fish and Game so we can assist the Coop in all phases of the relocation.
To build the holding pen Earthfire established a $7,000 budget and excavated a 70’ x 40’ area with running water on the 40 Acre Earthfire property. The excavated area was then covered with felt underliner before installing the pond liner, another layer of protective liner and 8” of round rock. The fence around the pond was dug down 1 foot and cemented to the ground to prevent beavers from digging out. As an extra precaution hotwire was added to prevent the beavers from climbing or getting close to the fence. Two dens were installed because not all beavers get along. The dens can be closed in order to trap the beavers for relocation.
I was a little more excited about the prospect before I saw this video. Earthfire is primarily and retreat destination with injured animals that can never be released. They create ‘new’ connections between humans and the injured wildlife for reasons best understood only by them. Watch for yourself:
No word on how that whole habituation thing will be avoided with these wild beavers in transit. I guess it’s rather similar to the parachute escapade, either it will work or it won’t but in the meantime they get rid of some beavers. I did look up a bit about the beaver Coop of the upper snake river. (Okay, I admit, I first read that “coop” like chicken coop. But I’m pretty sure its co-op.) The whole thing is kinda secretive – I can find some partners of theirs but no one who actually takes credit for the project. This may explains why they’re keeping a low profile. Note they are selling both the fur and the castor – to use as a lure in traps.
Well we surely wish those beavers and their champions the best of luck.