Return of the Once-Rare Beaver? Not in My Back Yard.

The dozens of public works officials, municipal engineers, conservation agents and others who crowded into a meeting room here one recent morning needed help. Property in their towns was flooding, they said. Culverts were clogged. Septic tanks were being overwhelmed.

“We have a huge problem,” said David Pavlik, an engineer for the town of Lexington, where dams built by beavers have sent water flooding into the town’s sanitary sewers. “We trapped them,” he said. “We breached their dam. Nothing works. We are looking for long-term solutions.”

Mary Hansen, a conservation agent from Maynard, said it starkly: “There are beavers everywhere.”

Laura Hajduk, a biologist with the state’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, had little to offer them. When beavers are trapped, others move in to replace them. And, she said, you can breach a beaver dam, but “I guarantee you that within 24 hours if the beavers are still there it will be repaired. Beavers are the ultimate ecosystem engineers.”

That was not what Mr. Pavlik was hoping to hear.

He is not alone in his dismay, and it is not just beavers. Around the nation, decades of environmental regulation, conservation efforts and changing land use have brought many species, like beavers, so far back from the brink that they are viewed as nuisances. As Stuart Pimm, a conservation ecologist at Duke University, put it, “We are finding they are inconvenient.”

RTFA. A predictable – if cautionary – tale of human beings so self-concerned and egregious that nature, even restored to a fraction of original capacity, must take second place to our foibles.

I haven’t taken a snap to supplement this post; but, we have one tree in our wee orchard that was almost girdled and killed last year by one of the beavers returning to the bosque of the Santa Fe River. We’ve since undertaken the “enormous” task of closing a small gap in our fence – the one we put in to keep out the fracking cows that used to roam our neighborhood before we won the struggle to return the land to nature’s original critters.

We had one neighbor too cheap to put up a fence. He was going to shoot any beavers that came onto his property. The money was raised and volunteers put up a fence for him.

Give me a choice? I’ll take the beavers any day.

3 thoughts on “Return of the Once-Rare Beaver? Not in My Back Yard.

  1. Fred Harman says:

    (10/7/14) In Washington, Oregon, Utah and other parts of the West, beavers increasingly are being used as an effective, low-cost tool to help restore rivers. “Decades, even centuries ago, it wasn’t uncommon for people to enlist the help of beavers, but interest has been renewed as communities confront declining salmon runs and water supply issues.
    In the 1930s, people were realizing streams and rivers without beavers were struggling, said Joe Wheaton, a geomorphologist and assistant professor at Utah State University who has studied the beaver’s role in accelerating river restoration. A 1949 article in Popular Mechanics described how Idaho wildlife officials relocated beavers to mountain streams by parachuting them in.”
    {Google ‘Moving day for the parabeavers’}

  2. Mike says:

    “Short On Water In The Mountains? Beavers, To The Rescue”
    “Can Wildlife Services Learn to Believe in Beavers? : The U.S. Department of Agriculture killed more than 23,000 beavers last year. There’s a better way to manage our ecosystem engineers.”
    “Best management practices for beaver problems”

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