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When beavers hear the sound of running water, their instincts kick in.
“When they hear water running, they want to stop it,” said Ricky Hayes, district director for Wilson Soil and Water Conservation District. “They will work until they do.”
While the clever animals can produce significant environmental benefits, they can also create safety hazards and cause damage to roads, bridges and people’s properties.
But there’s a program that’s offered at a minimal cost to help landowners in alleviating beaver damage and preventing further damage to their properties. Wilson County has been a part of the state’s Beaver Management Assistance Program, which is operated by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, for two decades.
“This program will take care of the problem and it’s there for people to take advantage of,” Hayes said. “Any landowner in Wilson County, public or private, can take advantage of this.”
The county recently committed additional funding into the cost-share program to ensure a state wildlife specialist will be able to spend even more time addressing landowners’ concerns in Wilson County, officials said.
“That enables us to have a person on call in Wilson County through the BMAP program,” Hayes said.
HOW THE PROGRAM WORKS
Wilson County pays $4,000 per year to be a member of the state program and the Wilson Soil and Water Conservation District is the point of contact for the program. After landowners apply for the program, a wildlife specialist will contact them.
The first visit is free and wildlife specialists will discuss with the landowner the positive and negative effects of the beaver. They will also work with owners to formulate a a strategic plan, which can include trapping the beaver.
The cost for the landowner is only $25 per visit after the first initial assessment.
After 15 visits to a specific landholder’s property in any given fiscal year, the landholder is required to pay full costs for BMAP services.
Hayes said oftentimes, landowners don’t realize they have a beaver problem.
“A lot of times on woodlands you don’t even know they are there until you cruise the timber to see if you want to cut, then they have three or four or five acres of prime forest land that’s dead because it all drowned,” he said.
He said the BMAP program was originally geared toward farmers.
“But it’s gotten to the point where they are causing everybody problems, not just croplands and farmlands but woodlands,” he said.
Hayes said when hurricanes or powerful storms come through Wilson and lay down trees across creeks, it makes it easier for the beaver to build a dam.
“Water has slowed down,” he said. “It makes it easier for them to dam up a larger creek or larger body of water”
That area then tends to flood more.
“If the water is impeded enough, they could stop a creek,” he said.
Their busy work can cause properties to flood, including crop fields.
Hayes said officials can’t relocate beavers, because then they would be putting the problem somewhere else.
“They have to be trapped,” he said.
THEIR HOME AND YARD
On a recent day in Wilson County’s Town Creek community, evidence of busy beaver activity was seen. In the distance, hundreds of sticks and branches formed what looks like a hut — what’s known as a beaver lodge.
“It’s just like their nest,” Hayes said. “It’s their home. They build themselves a house. They come up from the bottom and go inside to live.”
Hayes said while the lodge serves as beavers’ home, the dam is their yard. In this particular area, onlookers could see where the water began seeping out into the field causing crop damage.
“It’s keeping the field wet,” Hayes said.
Across the road, another dam is visible. Beavers also like to go into culverts and pack them full.
“The culverts are filled up and water is getting close to the road,” Hayes said. “When it rains heavily it can cause flooding on the roads and the land.”
On average, the return on investment for beaver damage management in North Carolina is worth it. For every dollar spent on prevention, about $6 in damage is prevented, officials said.
Wildlife officials also work with the N.C. Department of Transportation to prevent flooding and damming of state-maintained roads. For more information about the Beaver Management Program, folks can contact the Wilson Soil and Water Conservation District at 252-237-5147, ext. 3.
BEAVERs IN NORTH CAROLINA
Historically, beavers were considered a valuable natural resources and played an important role in North Carolina economy. In the 1800s, beaver fur was the primary trade item and without trapping or hunting regulations, beavers were trapped to near-extinction by the late 1890s. In 1939, the N.C. Wildlife Resource Commission obtained some 29 beavers from Pennsylvania and released them in North Carolina. The restocking effort was successful and by 1953, there were 1,000 beavers over a seven-county area in the state. Today, the populations is as high as 500,000.
State officials said while the beaver population today has expanded throughout North Carolina, resources practices have changed, and there is no longer a high demand for beaver products. That has resulted in beaver populations expanding to levels that conflict with health, safety and livelihood of people.
SOURCE: N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission