Leave it to beaver — or not

Beavers can be very destructive when they flood a lot of timber, but they also provide plenty of waterfowl and aquatic habitat.

Are beavers good or bad for man and the environment? It depends on who you ask. The beaver can create good and evil in the same motion. All they do is chow down on items in their food bank and build dams. What is horrible about that? Again, it depends on who and what is affected.

For centuries, the beaver has influenced North American culture in the human and natural world in positive and negative ways. At the beginning of the 20th century, the beaver was nearly eliminated from much of the continent through intensive trapping efforts. They were reintroduced to certain parts of the nation, including North Carolina, during the 1940s.

Today, beavers are widespread across the nation, and every state has extensive trapping programs established to eliminate them. They have backed up streams in just about every drainage in the Carolinas, routinely causing havoc to timberland owners, farmers, ranchers and even some metropolitan areas. However, beavers provide massive benefits to water-dependant waterfowl species, deer and some other wildlife species; including a full-fledged aquatic community. Additionally, their ponds also provide a long list of water-quality benefits.

Coexisting with beavers for Carolinians has positive and negative aspects, but beaver activity in much of the east tips towards their destructive nature. Each year, thousands of acres of crops and timberland are destroyed, causing landowners to action in an effort to eliminate flooding issues. Most landowners with issues will elect trapping as their primary method of removal. In fact, trapping is the most-effective way to collect nuisance beavers in almost all cases.

October is an ideal period to begin a trapping campaign for beavers. In the south, beavers begin mating in October and will continue through March. Typically, beavers are nocturnal, but their mating rituals allow for some daytime romps that provides for opportunities for sharpshooters.

Additionally, the feeding habits of beavers change during the fall and winter from herbaceous plants to woody vegetation. During the summer, beavers eat an almost exclusive diet of aquatic vegetation, with water lilies their favorite food. But in cold weather, they shift over, with the cambium or inner bark of standing trees a favorite food. They will cut down large and small trees to peel the cambium layer off the outer sides.

Landowners with beaver problems should ramp up their trapping efforts this month, because the beaver will be busy this month. From chasing around potential mates to chopping down their woody delicatessens, they will be busy beavers, allowing trapping and sharp-shooting efforts to pay off.

About Jeff Burleson 1307 Articles
Jeff Burleson is a native of Lumberton, N.C., who lives in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He graduated from N.C. State University with a degree in fisheries and wildlife sciences and is a certified biologist and professional forester for Southern Palmetto Environmental Consulting.

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