Why we don’t relocate beavers – DRAFT


Why don't we relocate beavers?
We often get phone calls from folks wanting both 1) wanting disruptive beavers removed from an area, and 2) also from folks wanting beavers on their property, recognizing the ecological benefits that the presence of successful beaver family can have on the landscape.

In fact - we started this program in 2019 with the goal to provide beaver relocation services.

But here's what we've learned in this time, and why we don't relocate beavers:

  • Because rarely does relocation actually achieve restoration goals for folks wanting beavers, and more concerning for us - as a wildlife care organization - things do not end well for the relocated beavers or other beavers nearby.

Social Media and increasingly mainstream media is popularizing the beaver related restoration as a ‘go to’ approach or practice to enable and enhance restoration efforts at a reach and broad subbasin and watershed level.

This approach seeks 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?

This article examines 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 have 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

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 surprisingly long distances when conditions or population pressures warrant.

1) Adapting infrastructure to live with beavers, 2) build conditions to attract beavers to visit, and stay through "BeaverHOODs" approach

Build it and they will come

We believe BRR should START with the beaver's welfare and needs first in mind, with  Recognizing in most cases that the limiting factor to beaver recolonization is depleted habitat and food supplies, along with human-conflicts that often trigger lethal removal.

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 that:

  • allocates project energy and focus on creating the conditions necessary to jump-start beaver habitat and success
  • emphasizes restoration project design with beaver migration in mind
  • selects for riparian vegetation (species and abundance) for geomorphic, hydrologic and also biologic/wildlife considerations
  • considers the use of starter dams (via BDAs, PALs and other)
  • monitoring your site and upstream/downstream locations to better understand beaver presence/absence throughout the sub-basin, not just reach-specific conditions



By the Numbers

In evaluating reported numbers, combined with first-hand accounts:

  • Mortality on capture   10-15%
    Trap designs are antiquated and challenging to set 
    Further, beavers often follow close behind each other and traps fall on

  • Mortality on handling   10%
    Beavers are quite shy and stress easily, capture myopathy
  • Actual success rate (beavers successfully stick around)   only 20% - 30%

- MBP 2015 report
- First hand accounts by BWO Crew