Management plan for beavers getting an updateOn June 29 I was invited to a day long beaver management meeting held in Wausau. It addressed the formulation of a new beaver management plan that would provide a template on beaver management in Wisconsin and replace the current plan.
By: Mike Reiter, New Richmond News
On June 29 I was invited to a day long beaver management meeting held in Wausau. It addressed the formulation of a new beaver management plan that would provide a template on beaver management in Wisconsin and replace the current plan.
This gathering was called as an informational meeting and to get representation from all of the user groups. The last set of stakeholder meetings was held in the late 1980s, which set the basis for the current beaver management plan finalized in 1990. Things can sure change dramatically in a period of 20 years.
I can still remember the series of very contentious meetings that were held back then to craft the 1990 plan. Things got very heated and an outside facilitator was brought in to finalize the product. These meetings were later dubbed the “Beaver Wars.”
The American beaver (Castor canadensis) has a very colorful history in the formation of northern United States and Wisconsin. The speakers provided many excellent handouts that highlighted the beaver’s place in history along with facts and figures on their population distribution and value.
In 1608, the French discovered the interior of mainland America and set up an elaborate trading system with the Native Americans. The primary trading item at that time was beaver pelts. Several fur trading companies were formed and a very competitive fur trading business blossomed.
In 1774 the “Quebec Act” became law in an effort to control fur trade and allow the British more beaver pelts. By 1850, the fur trade was waning and the European fashion in vogue changed from beaver hats to those made of silk.
Up until 1892, there was no set beaver season and beavers could be harvested year around with no bag limits. From that time forward, beaver seasons and harvest numbers have been managed, taking several variables into consideration.
In nature nothing is static. Beavers are the only animal besides humans that can modify their environment to suit their needs. Beaver management over time has become a juggling act by those who manage and utilize the beaver resource.
User groups that have a vested interest in the beaver are many. Because of this, it is important to have all these stakeholders involved in the formulation of a workable beaver management plan. If a realistic plan is to be established, everyone involved will need to bend a bit to make it work. That is the beauty of consensus.
The Native Americans consider the beaver, as they do all animals, a symbol of nature. The beaver has a rich history in Native American lore. The beaver can also negatively affect rice beds by building dams in strategic areas and must be removed to prevent flooding.
Cold water fish managers and trout fishers have a zero tolerance for beavers in cold water streams. The beaver dams slow the stream’s flow, warming the water and depleting trout reproduction. Trout are not able to get over dams and therefore are not allowed access to their spawning areas.
Recreational beaver trappers look at the beaver as a recreation asset and a nominal opportunity to make a bit of pocket money. It is interesting that the trappers are the first to call for more harvest restrictions in time of low beaver numbers. They are a dedicated group of outdoor enthusiasts who will defend their interests to the end.
One of the best things that can happen to an animal is to become a game species because they then become managed and have an active voice by those that represent their interests. Hunters, fishers and trappers are the most conservation oriented people out there.
Along with the recreational beaver trappers, licensed professional beaver control trappers work for the federal government (USDA, APHIS). They remove beaver that have become problem dam builders and vegetation destroyers. A dam placed in a culvert will cause road flooding while flooding in a sensitive natural or agricultural area can cause major problems.
The beaver’s main food supply is the bark of trees and if these food trees are located on golf courses or homeowner’s property, the beaver must go. The Department of Transportation, foresters, endangered resource species specialists, along with farmers and other landowners and users, have vested interests in the beaver. The recreational and professional trappers are at times at odds over removing problem beaver which can add to the problem.
Duck hunters love the beaver, because the dams provide “ponding” of the streams. Ponds provide a place for waterfowl to eat, sleep and reproduce. Certain positive effects are provided water fowlers by the beaver dams.
Another very interesting tidbit of information provided by some presented research papers indicated that wolves are a very intense predator of beaver. In a paper entitled “Food Habits of Wisconsin Timber Wolves,” by Brett A. Mandernack, published in the spring of 1983, 16.8 percent of the wolves’ diet was beaver compared to 55.42 percent deer. Scat was analyzed for the dietary content. Similar studies in Canada reported an even higher level of diet made up of beaver.
Off-the-cuff numbers presented indicate that 700 wolves would eliminate 7,000 beaver per year. As Sergeant Schultz would say, “very interesting!”
Currently the State of Wisconsin is divided into four zones (A, B, C, and D). Historic numbers of beavers have been tracked in each zone. The beaver has experienced up and down population numbers trending across these units. Annual trapper surveys and aerial transects have been used successfully to track beaver populations. Within the next few weeks, a taskforce made up of stakeholders will be formed. Working through an outside facilitator, a new beaver management plan will be formulated which will provide the beaver protection and management that will take all factors into consideration.
Listening to all the banter and position statements of those at the meeting, I was positively impressed by the attitude of those in attendance and the willingness to work together toward a common goal. Everyone agrees that the beaver is a wonder of nature and needs protection through a comprehensive management plan. The problem is that there are too few beavers in some places and too many beavers causing problems in others. It is the classic story that one size does not fit all. Stay tuned!
The DNR is asking the public to report any game bird brood observations to them. This will allow an accurate estimate of pheasant, ruffed grouse, turkey, quail, gray partridge, prairie chicken and sharp-tailed grouse reproductive success. The survey period begins June 13 and runs through Aug. 21. This information can be entered on the dnr.wi.gov/org/land/wildlife/harvest/brood.htm “Game Bird Brood Observation Survey Page” of the DNR website. Information gathered on game bird brood production is used by the DNR to monitor population indices, make fall hunting forecasts and monitor regional trends.
Questions about the Game Bird Brood Observation survey, accessing the tally sheet, reporting your observation or the results of the survey, can be referred to Brian Dhuey at 608-221-6342.
Presently, the newly formed “Friends of the St Croix Wetland Management District” has completed a survey of local waterfowl production based on a waterfowl pair count performed in early May, followed by a waterfowl brood count performed in June. These surveys were conducted by FSCWMD members on the more than 130 wetlands located within 17 Waterfowl Production Areas in and around the New Richmond and Star Prairie area. Results will be analyzed and reported on later this year.