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Beavers Can Teach us a Lot

Watching a colony of beavers working tirelessly to hold back a section of water to preserve their home and livelihood is something that I thoroughly enjoy as a nature enthusiast. Catching a glimpse of a kit following mom and dad on a construction project of mud and branches is a true lesson in perseverance. The ponds that these critters create become a habitat for a plethora of various species of fish, insects, mammals, flora, and fauna. Native Americans referred to the beaver habitat as the “sacred center” of the land for this reason. I have been known to visit some of their sites on a clear, quiet morning just to drink in the abundant wildlife that seems to congregate at these locations.

In stark contrast to this sportsmen’s calendar photo that I have just described is the damage these furry little guys can cause to the municipality. Undoubtedly, some of you have received that call about water cascading across the road with berms washing away and gravel filling the ditches. The next call is that a tree is across the road and has toothy marks at the base, indicating that "castor Canadensis” has been doing a little heavy-duty construction in the area.

You will find out very quickly that they are diligent in their efforts to maintain their homeland. The municipal crew can clean the heavy debris away from a large cross pipe only to return the very next day to find it completely plugged once again. A springtime downpour can cause water levels to rise very quickly, and plugged crossed pipes are a recipe for disaster if not kept open.

The conundrum that we encounter is that wildlife laws are very much in favor of the beavers and not the road. While the Pennsylvania Game Commission will often encourage trappers to focus on these problem areas, trapping season is limited to only certain times of the year. Another issue may be that the area may be on private property or posted for no trapping.

So what are your options? I have a few ideas, but I’ll be honest, only one of them was 100% effective. We started by driving stakes in front of the pipes to make it easier to remove debris. These little guys are tricky, and you'd be surprised at the size of some of the branches they would jam into the stakes, and their ability to stuff mud in amongst them is impressive. If you don't catch these on a regular basis, you have to use a backhoe to dislodge them.

Next, we built an inverted pipe like a T so that the water had to come into the top of the inlet rather than down low; oh, we got you this time Mr. Beaver. Like Tim “The Toolman” Taylor on the TV show “Home Improvement,” the answer was, "I don't think so, Tim." In fact, I am pretty sure I heard the critters laughing as we were installing it. So our next attempt, we looked to our Canadian friends who revere the beaver and recognize it as their national symbol.

They concocted a contraption affectionately referred to as a beaver cone. This iron maiden was mounted on the end of the pipe with a hinge and extended out into the water, tapering to a narrow point. This apparatus actually did work, somewhat. The beavers weren’t too fast to plug it off, and we attached a chain to the end so that you could lift it out of the water and remove small amounts of debris very quickly. This discouraged the group, and some of them did end up leaving on their own. But, as I said earlier, it wasn't a 100% cure-all.

None of our other remedies would or could work as well as we wanted; it was time to call in the professionals. We hired a licensed, certified professional trapper to remove the culprits. Again, the health, safety, and welfare of the nearby residents was a priority. And, in the end, we safely and humanely removed a continuing road maintenance and safety issue for our community.

In reality, this blog isn't about removing beavers; it is about realizing that professional assistance is sometimes needed to overcome a problem. Recognizing that you need help can be difficult. Don't wait until the waters of municipal operations are overflowing. Instead, get seasoned professionals like the team members at KMS to clear the government debris. I also think about the movie jaws and when they sought out professionals to solve the shark crisis. “Fire this thing up,” we’re gonna need a bigger boat.


About the Author

David L. Anthony is a member of the Keystone Municipal Solutions team of experts. He is a veteran of municipal government, having served more than 32 years in various positions of public service. Contact him at To learn more about David and the Keystone Municipal Solutions team, click here.

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