Hawk Beaver

As we move further into winter, beavers are still building their dams by cutting down trees, since the breeding takes place during December and January.

Dams are being secured to create deep water for safety and livable habitat to flood the upstream. The lodges are needed for winter shelter to den and breed through the winter months of December and January.

Beavers do not hibernate, so they plan ahead and build a stockpile cache of edible sticks in order to survive the cold winter. They stick one end of these sticks in the mud at the bottom of their pond near their lodge so that when the pond freezes over and they can no longer access new trees, they can swim out of their lodge, grab a stick and bring it back to the comfort of their lodge to eat.

Beavers provide many positive benefits to people. Their ponds recharge groundwater resources, help control erosion and sedimentation and provide a valuable habitat for waterfowl, herons and other wetland wildlife.

However, beaver dams can also flood agricultural fields, roads and residential areas, and beavers can destroy timber by chewing on or felling trees.

For this reason, Jackson County offers the N.C. Beaver Management Assistance Program (BMAP) for residents dealing with nuisance beavers and their beaver dams.

This service has a cost-share fee of $20 for each visit to a person’s property and a $125 charge for dam removal. Wildlife specialists average about 10 visits over a 30-day period to resolve beaver problems. Costs increase after 15 visits to a landholder’s property in any one year. There is no charge for the initial assessment, which includes time spent discussing the program and signing paperwork.

During this assessment, a U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Service specialist talks with the landholder about the positive and negative impacts of beaver dams and recommends the best course of action. If damage management activities are recommended, time and costs are estimated and the wildlife specialist begins work.

Landholders wishing to conduct their own work are provided individualized training at no cost. Extension staff at the number listed below can help you decide what you can do yourself to alleviate beaver damage as well.

Requests for assistance are handled on a first-come, first-served basis with top priority addressing threats to public health and safety, particularly along highway rights of way and county-owned property. Work for individual landholders is next, followed by work for soil and water conservation districts, municipalities, corporate landholders and others.

A major goal of the BMAP is to educate the public and participating landholders about the best strategies for managing beaver damage, including the pros and cons of removing them or using pond levelers, exclusion or other non-lethal techniques.

Wildlife specialists conduct programs and workshops on beaver damage management and beaver ecology for civic and professional organizations, schools and landholder groups. When beaver damage is intolerable and causing considerable property damage, wildlife specialists alleviate the damage by removing the offending animals and their dams using humane and environmentally acceptable methods.

For more BMAP information and beaver management assistance, contact me at 586-4009 or email robert_hawk@ncsu.edu.

Rob Hawk is County Extension Director, Natural Resources and Community and Economic Development, Jackson and Swain County Extension Center.