Column: When it comes to beavers, give a dam!Briar and Bentley are wonderful neighbors. They are tidy and quiet, they keep their home in good repair, and they are slowly turning their backyard, a scenic pond, into a thriving ecosystem.
By: Elyse Hornstein, For the Budgeteer News
Briar and Bentley are wonderful neighbors. They are tidy and quiet, they keep their home in good repair, and they are slowly turning their backyard, a scenic pond, into a thriving ecosystem.
However, one of their neighbors doesn’t like them and decided that they weren’t welcome. Even worse, he took out a hit on his two beaver neighbors, hiring a trapper to kill them.
Now every day, Briar and Bentley live in fear of being caught in a trap and drowning, or whatever else might happen to them while they are helpless. And with kits to care for, these two beavers are in desperate need.
Luckily, some of their neighbors who like having them around started a campaign to save them. These neighbors started a Facebook page on the beavers’ behalf — looking for help for the beavers, and working to educate people about the many benefits of beavers.
Sadly, Briar and Bentley’s story isn’t uncommon. Although humans change the landscape all the time, they don’t take kindly to the efforts of other landscape engineers such as beavers.
In fact, many people see beavers as pests who damage trees and cause flooding. Sadly, many people don’t understand that beavers are vital for the environment.
Native Americans called beavers the “sacred center” of the land because they create such rich habitat for so many other animals. Beavers create habitat for other mammals, as well as fish, turtles, frogs, birds and ducks.
Beaver-created wetlands support biodiversity that rivals that of tropical rain forests. Almost half of endangered and threatened species in North America rely upon wetlands, and freshwater wetlands have been rated one of the world’s most valuable ecosystems.
Beaver-created wetlands also provide essential natural services for people. These wetlands soak up floodwaters, alleviate droughts and floods, and decrease erosion. Wetlands act as the earth’s “kidneys,” purifying the water that passes through them. Water downstream from beaver dams is cleaner and requires less treatment for human use.
Simply removing a beaver from your property isn’t a good solution for anyone.
First, if your land is nice beaver habitat, other beavers will probably move in to fill the vacancy.
Secondly while trapping and relocation is advertised as “humane,” the animal will most likely die as a result of being trapped, either intentionally (beaver pelts are valuable), or when relocated into unfamiliar territory.
Your best solution is to let the beavers stay and accept the lovely pond they’ve created for you. If you’re worried about flooding, look for drainage solutions developed specifically for beavers such as those provided by Beaver Solutions (www.beaversolutions.com).
It’s important to remember that local beavers have no place else to go. Humans are gobbling up more and more land each day, and continually displacing wildlife from prime real estate. Only a tiny fraction of the pre-colonization beaver population still exists today, and good habitat is harder to find everyday.
Other than beavers, humans are one of the only species on earth that engineers land, and we just can’t seem to get it right. We’ve laid claim to most waterfront property, and we keep destroying it.
Yet beavers have proven to be smarter than humans; their homes repair ecosystems by helping turn ditches into homes for dozens of species.
So please be kind to our furry friends.
And of course if you find an injured beaver, or one in an unsafe place, call a wildlife rehabilitator right away.
For more information on how you can help wildlife, visit www.wildwoodsrehab.org.
Hornstein studied journalism at Ithaca College. Currently she works for Wildwoods, a 501(c)3 wildlife rehabilitation organization based in Duluth.