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What is the Beaver Conflict Resolution Project?

Posted at 11:02 AM, May 02, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-02 13:02:41-04

GREAT FALLS — Beavers are an important asset to Montana’s wetlands, increasing water storage and groundwater recharge. According to the Clark Fork Coalition, more than 80% of Montana’s wildlife species rely on beaver-created wetlands for survival.

In order to keep the positive effects beavers have on the landscape, we need to be able to mitigate negative effects of beavers like causing flood damage and clogging culverts or irrigation canals.

The Beaver Conflict Resolution Project, managed by Elissa Chott with the Clark Fork Coalition, began in 2019 in west central Montana, and addresses beaver conflicts using nonlethal resolution methods.

This program cost-shares with landowners and helps install devices that help with flooding issues and can keep beavers from cutting down trees.

Torrey Ritter, a non-game wildlife biologist and land specialist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, explains the three main ways they approach beaver conflicts.

Ritter said, “One is wrapping trees with some fencing, fairly inexpensive and simple fencing techniques that can just keep the beavers away from cutting down those trees. The other one is called a pond leveling device. So that's basically a giant pipe that goes through a beaver dam, and it's got a fence around the inlet and it just goes back into the stream. Basically creates a permanent leak in the structure that the beavers can't figure out how to fix."

The third structure is a culvert fence, which Ritter says, “can be placed in areas where beavers are plugging like a small hole, like a culvert or a head gate or something like that. It's more about making sure the water gets back into a single flow path before it enters the culvert so the beavers can’t completely clog it up."

The project has been so successful that the National Wildlife Federation plans to expand the efforts to the Bozeman and Great Falls regions to set up a nonlethal conflict mitigation program for beavers that can help with flooding issues, can keep beavers from cutting down trees, and cost share with landowners to install those devices.

The cost share portion is flexible and the program works with the landowners to figure out the best approach for their land.

Ritter says the idea of the cost share is “we want landowners to have some stake in the game with installing these structures. You know, if we paid for the whole thing, then they aren't really getting involved as much as we'd like them to be, because these things need to be maintained. Sometimes the landowners really want to install it themselves, so [the program] will just pay for materials and the landowner will do all the labor. In other instances, the landowner is totally willing to buy all the materials, but they don't have the time or energy to install it, so the program will do all the installation."

For more information on the Beaver Conflict Resolution Project, click here.

From the Montana Field Guide:

The largest rodent in North America north of Panama. On land is a large, clumsy, hump-backed animal. In the water, becomes sleek and torpedo-shaped. Propels itself with powerful webbed hind feet. Beavers use their large dorsally flattened, scale-covered tail to maneuver in water. Slapping the tail on water surface is used as a signal of alarm. Split nail on the second hind toe is used for grooming. Incisors are large and continually growing. Fur is rich brown with black to reddish guard hairs. Under-fur is soft and extremely dense with excellent insulating qualities. Both sexes have a pair of anal glands and castor sacs located ventrally. Beavers emit anal gland secretions year round. Total length: 34 to 40 inches. Weight: 30 to 60 pounds. Builds stick and mud dams across streams.