A growing community of restoration professionals are embracing the "New Frontiers" of beaver related restoration and "Partnering with Beavers" as an understandably exciting, ‘go to’ approach or practice to enable and enhance restoration efforts at a reach and broad subbasin andwatershed level.
Some practitioners take a 'build it and they will come' approach. Recognizing in most cases thatthe limiting factor to beaver recolonization is depleted habitat and food supplies, along with human-conflicts that often trigger lethal removal.
Another approach looks to employ the more direct and immediate benefits that beavers bring, by importing 'problem beavers' into a target location. Indeed this practice of 'beaver translocation' has become a popularized solution - promoted to the public as "happy endings".
But what does beaver translocation actually look like, for
- the translocated beaver/s themselves,
- the larger beaver populations as a whole at reach, subbasin and watershed levels, and even
- to the individual restoration projects themselves?
We believe it's time to examine the overall effectiveness of the beaver relocation approach from both a project perspective and from broad scale beaver population dynamics.
Indeed Beaver Works started with the intent to build a relocation program, but in many trainings and experiences never witnessed a beaver relocation project that ended well for the beaver family.
We consider potential population stressors and dynamics that could have deleterious effect on the long range, broader goals of increased beaver populations successful expansion on the landscape.
Perspectives are informed from a wildlife rehabilitation perspective - where minimizing wildlife stress and maximizing successful long-term release outcomes are essential goals and KPIs for preserving and conserving native wildlife populations.
We will review these specific problems and concerns:
- Low release site success rates, and the lack of post-release monitoring results
- A 'relocation-first' mindset (moving nuisance beavers) is often a disservice to both the beaver/s and the source population landholder
- Stress and loss when live-trapped beaver families are disrupted, with risk of capture myopathy that accelerates individual loss in captivity and post-release
- Existing release site populations and territorial dynamics
- Disease spread and infection concerns
We will then consider what does it take to "Be a Good Beaver Partner".
As rodents, beavers multiply in good numbers, they're remarkably adaptable in a wide-variety of conditions. And despite conformation challenges on land - beavers are able to travel surprisinglylong distances when conditions or population pressures warrant.
Indeed, if you build it - a project site with the right food supplies and conditions - beavers will very likely come on their own. This is an approach that we're increasingly expanding into with our "BeaverHOODs for Biodiversity" approach.
Instead of relocation we recommend this approach:
- allocating project energy and focus on creating the conditions necessary to jump-start beaver habitat and success
- designing your restoration project with beaver migration in mind
- selecting riparian vegetation (species and numbers) for geomorphic, hydrologic and also biologic/wildlife considerations
- protecting your plantings - assume that hungry beaver or browsers will eat whatever they can reach