I just had a phone call with Dr. Jimmy Taylor of APHIS in Oregon. He confirms that WS represents only a small portion of the legal take of beavers. Land owners who have concerns can legally kill beavers without a permit. And agencies who want to get rid of beavers can also use private trappers. Wildlife Services is the easiest target, but by no means the biggest. Also they keep records of the method and number taken, and have to report accidental take, while others don’t.
This is mostly a symbolic shot across the bow.
A little over two months ago you might remember reading here that something BIG happened in beaver world. It was in Oregon where two powerful conservation groups declared they were going to sue wildlife services because they were damaging the salmon population by continuing to trap beavers. Remember that? It was a wild move that had never been done before and it was a big, big deal.
Guess what news broke yesterday?
PORTLAND — The U.S. government will temporarily halt a little-known beaver killing program in Oregon, where the rodent is the state animal, appears on the state flag and is the mascot of Oregon State University.
Beavers once played an important role in the state’s economy, earning Oregon the nickname “the beaver state.”
Environmental groups have threatened a lawsuit alleging that the practice of killing the animals reduces the number of dams that create deep pools that are ideal habitat for young, endangered coho salmon.
In a letter released Wednesday by a coalition of environmental groups, the government said it will further study whether the actions violate the Endangered Species Act.
Wildlife Services, a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said in the Dec. 27, 2017, letter it would “cease all aquatic mammal damage management activities” directed at beavers, river otters, muskrats and mink.
Wildlife Services killed more than 400 beavers in Oregon in 2016 as part of a federal effort to control damage to agricultural fields, timber land and roadways caused by flooding that resulted from beaver dams.
Whoo hoo? A moratorium on beaver trapping! I’m not exactly sure what this means for all the beavers in Oregon, but you can bet I’m going to find out. (In California it wouldn’t mean a heck of a lot because there are plenty of folks that trap beaver besides Wildlife Services). Our counting usually shows APHIS only counts for a third of all the beavers depredated in the state. I’ve asked if Oregon is different and will let you know the answer. For now be grateful that this puts SQUARELY in the public eye the important relationship between killing beavers and harming salmon.
In fact this news broke yesterday in Houston of all places!
Environmentalists say killing beavers to mitigate damage to private agricultural interests harms the environment — particularly endangered salmon species — because the dams help salmon, another Northwest icon.
Beavers are “nature’s engineers,” and their complex dams form deep pools in bubbling streams that shield young salmon and give them a resting place to fatten up as they migrate to the Pacific Ocean, said Andrew Hawley, a staff attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center.
The dams also have been shown to reduce turbidity in streams and maintain stable water levels — even in drought — by blocking and slowing the flow of water. “Instead of going in and just killing them, there are options for live-trapping them and figuring how to move the family units into other areas. Let them do what they do best,” he said.
“They do exactly the type of restoration work that the biologists say we need to do for salmon and coho and steelhead recovery, and they do it for free — and better than we could ever do.”
If you want to support these litigation beaver warriors, send them a little love here: Western Environmental Law Center and Center for Biological Diversity. You know I don’t break out this award ceremony for just any old news story, but this one deserves it. I have already heard from several lawyers watching this case and thinking about launching their own in their respective states.