With summer now in full swing, Colorado's beavers are getting busier than ever, much to the dismay of some landowners. Phone calls to Colorado Division of Wildlife offices are increasing daily.
"I'm getting calls from homeowners with flooded buildings and others whose trees are getting cut down," DOW District Wildlife Manager (DWM) Tom Kroening reports from Dillon. "Since most of the problems are not agriculture-related, I explain the 30-day exemption doesn't apply. We have an abundant supply of beaver throughout Summit County so live trapping and releasing somewhere else is not a good option."
The 30-day exemption is part of Amendment 14 passed by the voters of Colorado in 1996. Amendment 14 bans the use of leghold and kill traps throughout the state. While the intent of the amendment was to stop lethal trapping, it also prevents the control of animals causing damage. The agricultural exemption allows farmers and ranchers to trap beavers causing damage to their crops and property one 30-day period a year. But the vast majority of problems involve beavers damming up waterways and culverts or cutting down ornamental trees.
Ft. Collins DWM Nancy Howard has dealt with numerous beavers on the Poudre River. "The biggest problems seem to be caused by "bank" beavers that live along the banks. They are probably lone males that can be tough to trap," Howard said. "We had one that after causing considerable damage in a tree farm, we tried electric fence and chicken wire--he dug under them--, and live traps but never could catch him."
Norwood DWM Mark Caddy emphasizes the main problem is people moving into traditional wildlife habitat. "Beavers cutting aspen will cause the trees to regenerate and from an ecological perspective, beavers are good for watersheds," Caddy said.
Gene Byrne, DOW biologist in Glenwood Springs, suggests several non-lethal methods for dealing with beavers. "In most cases you can wrap individual trees with fencing, use electric fencing around culverts, and lessen the problems caused by their dams by using special pipes and grates," he said. (Apparently Howard's beaver on the Poudre was smarter than most!) Another option is to mix a concoction of five ounces of mason sand with one quart of exterior latex paint and apply it to the first 3 ½ feet of the trees.
The only lethal option is to live-trap them and then shoot them. Licensed trappers (check the phone book yellow pages under Pest Control) will live-trap beavers for a fee. They often have arrangements with private landowners or public land agencies to release live-trapped beavers. It is illegal for private individuals to release live-caught beavers on public land.
But trapping will not necessarily solve the problem. "People need to know that trapping is just a short term solution...as soon as it is trapped another beaver will move in," commented Grand Junction Area Wildlife Manager Steve Yamashita. "The real solution is learning to live with them."
(Answers to frequently asked questions about beavers can be found in the FAQ section. Go to http://dnrwebmos07:6161/About/Pages/faq.aspx; from the "Topic" drop-down list, choose "Co-existing with wildlife"; enter "beaver" in the "Keywords" field; click on the "go" button.)