State of the Beaver Conference 2011

Wow what a week it was!
Last week (Feb 2-4) was the second annual State of the Beaver Conference held in Canyonville, Oregon. The conference was truly amazing and it was so inspiring to see how many people from all around the world are working on beaver-related issues.

The main focus of the event was to highlight the benefits of beavers and how we can best co-exist with them.

For example, one of the greatest threats facing this Earth, and our existence, is the lack of clean, fresh water. We really are facing a global crisis: our glaciers are disappearing, we’re seeing shorter winters and facing longer and hotter wildfire seasons. Areas around the world are frequently facing drought and even locally we see water restrictions in the summer months. Something obviously needs to be done to protect our water supply, and our beaver friends might have the answer.

Through a variety of presenters, certain facts became apparent. Beavers and their dams create wetland habitat, replenish aquifers, mitigate flooding during times of heavy rain, and maintain water flows longer into the year. In addition to creating a variety of habitat for other animals, beaver ponds allow water and its transported nutrients and pollution time to settle down and be absorbed. For this reason, many groups have started re-introducing beavers into streams in an effort to create new beaver habitat, and rebuild our vanishing wetlands. Beavers are also becoming instrumental in establishing fish and salmon stocks. Watershed managers spend millions of dollars every year creating spawning habitat for fish; they do this by placing large woody debris and structures into rivers, creating side channels and slowing water flow, all things beavers do for free.

In addition to all the presentations on the science of beaver benefits, the conference took an in-depth look at how we can peacefully co-exist with beavers. It focused on alternatives to lethal trapping, such as water flow devices including the pond-leveller and Beaver Deceiver. It was clear that these devices not only offer an alternative to trapping, but they also prove to save time and money. This really seemed to hit home with those in attendance, particularly attendees from the Department of Transportation, fish and wildlife officials and civic planners.

The most promising part of the conference was the change in attitude from government officials. It seems a number of states in the US are working on new beaver management plans. In the past, government beaver management focussed how many animals could be killed, but the new plan seems to focus more on how and where beavers can be re-introduced.

In summary, beavers are becoming important in battling climate change, providing clean water, treating wastewater, rebuilding our salmon stocks and creating new wetland habitat. The beaver really has gone from a nuisance to an opportunity!

A few Beaver Facts:

  • Fish smolts are 67% more successful in the summer and 86% in the winter in beaver streams than in streams without beavers.
  • Fish raised in beaver streams are substantially larger when they leave to go to the ocean then those raised in non-beaver streams.
  • Beavers create 9 times more open water, creating better habitat for waterfowl.
  • Beavers not only create wetland habitat above the pond but they tunnel/channel the floor of beaver ponds creating microclimates for aquatic animals.
  • In a study by the Virginia Department of Transportation, flow devices saved the state $350,000.

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