Damage Prevention and Control
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder when it comes to beaver damage situations. One individual may gain happiness and satisfaction seeing beaver ponds with chewed trees on their property and knowing that wildlife is alive and flourishing on the land. Others may find displeasure seeing flooded land with damaged or dead trees (although it is important to remember that even dead trees can provide valuable habitat to certain wildlife species). Individuals having problems due to flooding, damaged crops, trees or landscaping may want beavers removed from their property.
If you don't mind having beavers on your property but don't want the nuisance problems associated with beavers, there are several options.
If you have a small area of trees or plants to protect, a perimeter fence may be the best choice. Constructing a rigid fence or an electric fence along the shoreline or perimeter of the area to be protected will exclude beavers. The bottom of a rigid fence should be buried into the ground while the top of the fence is at least 3-feet high. An electric fence should be placed approximately 8-10 inches off the ground. A perimeter fence also will help with other chewing problems like those caused by rabbits, rats and mice.
Fencing may be an appropriate solution when beavers are plugging up drainpipes and culverts. Using #6 gauge cement reinforcing wire mesh staked in a rounded fashion well into the ground at a distance beyond the end of the drainpipe will discourage beavers from plugging up the drain pipe directly. However beavers may just build up against the fence and still cause flooding problems. The addition of a drainage device incorporated in the fence will provide continued
water control even with a dam built up against the fence.
Wire fencing certainly is the most efficient method to protect individual trees. A rigid welded wire fence using a 2x4-inch mesh or smaller or Â¼-inch hardware cloth is often effective in preventing beaver damage. Wrap the fence around the base of the tree with the bottom firmly staked to the ground and the top of the fence at least 3-feet high. Be sure to leave 2-3 inches between the tree and the fence so the tree has room to grow.
Probably the most effective device to control water levels in a beaver pond situation is the Clemson beaver pond leveler (Adobe Acrobat Reader required). Developed at Clemson University, it has proven effective in allowing continual water flow and facilitating the manipulation of water levels in beaver ponds for moist-soil management that is beneficial for migratory waterfowl and shorebirds.
The Clemson beaver pond leveler consists of a 10-inch diameter perforated PVC pipe encased in heavy-gauged galvanized hog wire. The encased portion is placed upstream of the dam or blocked culvert in the deepest part of the stream. It is connected to non-perforated sections of PVC pipe that are run through the dam or culvert to a water control structure downstream. To manipulate the water level of the pond, attach an elbow to the downstream end with a pipe extending up to the desired water level. The Clemson beaver pond leveler works best in relatively flat locations. It is effective because beavers cannot detect the sound of falling or flowing water as the pond or culvert drains. Therefore, they do not try to plug the pipe.
A "3-log drain" may be one of the most cost-efficient methods to permit water flow through a beaver dam. To construct this drain, fasten together three logs approximately 6-9 inches in diameter and 12-16 feet long. Logs should be wired together with 2 logs side-by-side and 1 on top forming a triangle. A piece of light gauge sheet metal (or old roofing tin) should be wrapped around the logs to act as a pipe to permit water to flow between the logs. Place the three logs in the dam with the upstream end of the logs at least one foot lower than the downstream end. It is recommended to punch several holes in the top piece to improve water flow. Beavers may build over the ends of the 3-log drain resulting in frequent maintenance, so longer logs are suggested.
Variations on the 3-log drain include substituting PVC sewer pipe for the three logs. Use perforated PVC (upstream end) connected to solid PVC (downstream end). No sheet metal should be needed with this modification. Cap the upstream ends or cover them with wire to keep debris from clogging the pipes.
In many instances especially in roadways, culverts are placed large enough to handle the hydrologic needs of that area. However, recent evidence suggests installations of oversized culverts in areas where beavers are present will minimize the tendency of beavers to block culverts. Culverts should be enlarged to at least a size that maintains the natural stream width. Oversized culverts may not be a practical solution for established roadways but should definitely be considered when constructing new roads where beaver exist.
An important point to consider before installing any type of drainage device is how beavers will react to the device. Oftentimes if beavers cannot plug a drainage device or a leaking dam, they will simply build a dam in another location.
Using repellents to alleviate beaver damage is practical only on a small scale, is extremely short-term and its effectiveness is uncertain. Individual trees or small areas of high value crops can be treated with repellents to keep beavers from chewing. However, there are very few -if any- repellents that are practical, effective, environmentally safe and registered for beavers. Commercial deer repellents like Hinder and Ropel may be used but their effectiveness on beavers is questionable.
Dam and Lodge Removal
Beavers are highly industrious. Therefore, removing dams and lodges has little impact on deterring beavers from an area. Dam removal is a laborious and expensive task. Often dams will be repaired by the next day. Continuous destruction of a dam will sometimes, depending on availability of construction materials, cause beavers to move to another site. However, displaced beavers may be even more troublesome at their new location. Therefore, dam removal is not effective unless the nuisance beavers are removed.
Lethal Control Methods
As mentioned previously, there is no closed season on beavers in Georgia. Therefore, you may trap or shoot beavers year-round, day or night. To eliminate beaver problems, the most effective and efficient method is to kill beavers either by shooting or trapping.
Shooting beavers can be an effective and cost-efficient control method. However, this option may not be available to those within city limits. Beavers are primarily nocturnal, meaning they are mostly active at night. Therefore, the best time to shoot beavers is at dusk. To shoot beavers at night will require some preparation. Locate the lodge or den and any active feeding stations. Additionally, tear out a portion of the dam prior to shooting. Position yourself near the lodge, feeding station or dam and simply wait for the beavers to appear at dusk. As darkness falls, a 6-volt light will aid in seeing the beavers and likely will not spook them. If you wait until a full moon night you many not even need a light! Beavers do not see well above water, so it usually isn't necessary to hide as long as the shooter stays motionless. If possible, shoot from an elevated position for safety and efficiency. At short range, a shotgun loaded with heavy steel shot (#2 shot or larger) or a .22-caliber rifle is recommended. Remember, there is a danger of ricochet when shooting around water so take proper precautions and know your surroundings. It is advisable to contact the local WRD Conservation Ranger before shooting at night.
In the majority of situations, trapping is the most effective, practical and environmentally safe method of beaver control. Success depends on the trapper's knowledge of beaver habits, use of proper traps for the situation and trap placement. For this reason, Wildlife Resources Division (WRD), Game Management Section offices maintain a list of licensed nuisance trappers. In most cases, licensed trappers are experienced in trapping beavers and will be happy to assist you with beavers and other nuisance problems. Typically, a fee for their service is required. However, if you choose to trap on your own, a variety of sizes and types of traps may be obtained from your local hardware store or you can contact a WRD Game Management Section office for information on purchasing traps and trapping suggestions.
Besides eliminating beavers, trapping is extremely beneficial when managing beavers for a desirable population level. The trapping methods discussed below are designed to be lethal. It is possible to catch beavers in a live or cage trap, but is extremely difficult. If beavers are trapped alive, it is not recommended or legal to relocate beavers without the landowners permission. Few people are willing to have beavers released on their property plus diseases and parasites associated with the animal may be spread.
If you decide to trap in Georgia, remember:
" Traps must be tended at least once each 24-hour period.
-Traps and snares must be labeled with the owner's name or owner's
permanent trapper's identification number provided by the department.
-Foot-hold traps for beavers must be smooth or rubber jaw steel.
-Body gripping traps in excess of 9-Â½ inches square must be used in water
or within 10 feet of water.
-Snares must be used in water or on land within 10 feet of water.
For a description of all the trapping regulations in Georgia, contact your local WRD Game Management Section office. Trapping regulations also can be found on the WRD Web site at www.gohuntgeorgia.com .
For beavers, the most popular and effective trap is the 330 Conibear, a bodygripping trap. Designed for water use, this lethal trap is not likely to capture nontarget animals such as dogs and cats. It is effective in deep and shallow water. Lodge or den entrances, narrow channels, dams, natural inlets or trails worn by beavers are excellent places to set this trap. When setting this trap, place sticks in the ground surrounding the trap to restrict movement and funnel beavers into the trap. A dive stick should be placed on the surface of the water to trigger beavers to dive deeper and swim through the trap. To increase success, use bait (such as willow or cottonwood sticks) and lures (such as castor gland) to attract beavers. "Setting tongs" may be required to set the trap. Because this trap exerts tremendous pressure and impact when tripped, appropriate care must be exercised when using it to keep from injuring hands or arms.
Snares can be easily and effectively set in the water or on beaver trails at or near the water's edge. Advantages associated with snares are that they can be used to catch beavers alive for later dispatchment and otters are less likely to be caught in them. Snares should be made from a 4-5 foot length of 3/32" cable and a small piece of angle iron, which allows the snare to tighten but not loosen. Construct an 8-10 inch loop for the snare with the bottom either on the ground or 1-inch above the ground. Use a 14-gauge support wire long enough to run from a stake to the snare itself to keep beavers from leaving with the snare. A properly anchored snare is essential because beavers are powerful animals and can easily chew or pull out of an improperly anchored snare. Once caught, snares can be set with a drowning line to euthanize caught beavers. Snares can easily be made at home or purchased commercially. However, for the beginner, snares probably should be bought from a trapping supply company.
Example of a 330 Conibear beaver trap Dive Stick
Experienced trappers have used foot-hold traps for many years. However, for the novice, foot-hold traps are not the best choice. If you choose to use a foothold trap, a minimum jaw spread of 6-inches is best. Traps are positioned in similar locations to that of body-gripping traps and snares. Beavers are powerful animals and to prevent them from escaping, drowning sets must be employed. The most common drowning technique is to use a "slide-wire" with one end fastened underneath the water. With the trap chain attached to the wire through a piece of angle iron, the trap will slide freely down the wire, holding beavers underwater. Traps set in this fashion are most effective when set where beavers enter or leave the water.
Finally, if you choose to use trapping as a beaver management technique, it is best to contact the local WRD Game Management Section office for guidance on purchasing and setting traps and trapping suggestions.