Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

November 18, 2013

The evidence against BEAVERS is DAMMING!!

Trap them or leave them alone: How to handle problems with 'nature's habitat engineers'

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

CHEROKEE COUNTY —  They're tiny, nocturnal critters that like to congregate in Texas.

They live around lakes, wooded rivers, and streams. They use their front paws to create burrows in the bank to escape predators. They dig up mud to secure dams and also create canals.

Beavers are controversial animals – both admired and despised for their exceptional digging and building abilities. Beaver dams offer protection against coyotes, wolves, bears and other predators.

"People often disagree about the beaver," a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department spokesman said in a post. "Some think this master dam builder is the smartest thing in fur pants, and they use such words as 'intelligent, energetic,' and 'helpful' when speaking of it. Others claim the paddle-tailed engineer is 'dumb, stubborn,' and 'destructive.'"

A paper written for the University of Arkansas by Rebecca McPeake characterizes beavers as "our largest North American rodent … nature's equivalent of a habitat engineer."

Some experts contend legal trapping efforts help keep the number of beavers under control, but the Humane Society suggests trapping be abandoned altogether as a practice because beavers play much too important of a role in establishing and maintaining wetlands.

"Beaver dams enhance their environment by providing habitat for many sensitive plant and animal species, improving water quality, and controlling floods by slowing water movement," according to the humanesociety.org spokesman.

The Cherokee County Extension Agent's Rusk office, meanwhile, is accepting requests for beaver trapper assistance. Cherokee County landowners must apply to the organization's Rusk office by phone, (903) 683-5416, by email at cherokee@ag.tamu.edu. or by visiting the office – otherwise known as the Courthouse Annex Building – at 165 East 6th St.

Residents who converse with an extension officer will be placed on a waiting list on a "first-come – first-served" basis.

"Please note that being placed on the waiting list does not guarantee Wildlife Services will make it to your property," a spokesman wrote. "A representative and-or trapper with Wildlife Services will contact the landowner so abatement or trapping procedures can then occur once work in Cherokee County begins."

The accomplishments of the beaver – digging away at human infrastructure, blocking culverts and causing flooding and tree damage – often prove to be a detriment to humans.

While some groups oppose capturing them, it is important to note that beavers gave been hunted and trapped for millennia, experts say.

Pelts from the beavers has seen some resurgence in areas with heavy beaver populations but it declined in Europe because of the lower demand.

Trapping has traditionally been performed when the beaver fur is of value. The remainder of the beaver is used as feed.

Beavers build dams to create ponds that give them protection from predators and increase the water level to encourage new growth of the trees they like to eat, reports show.

Beavers are ultimately important because the wetlands they create become habitat to many other species, according to reports. ((As a species, the structures left behind by beavers modifies the natural environment so well that the rest of the ecosystem incorporates it into a change.))

Some biologists believe beavers used to be day walkers, although they also acknowledge 400 years of being hunted is probably what drove the animals underground, Cherokee County representatives said.

Despite being night walkers, sometimes beavers will wake up during daylight hours to perform necessary work.

Baby beavers, or "kits" are born with their eyes open and with a full set of fur. They know who to swim fairly quickly but have to learn to dive, meaning they can't leave for the outside world without supervision.