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Finding a new home for a lone beaver | Environment

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Finding a new home for a lone beaver
Environment, News
Finding a new home for a lone beaver

Updated - 10:50 p.m. - A rancher knew it was either the beaver or his detention pond. He could shoot the animal, but there had to be a better way. Before any drastic action was taken, ecologists with a Spokane non-profit came to the rescue last week to live-trap a young beaver near Addy, Washington.

Recently exiled from its previous beaver colony, the young guy or gal was finding its new home in a rancher’s pond. A restoration ecologist with The Lands Council, Joe Cannon, says it’s part of their job to find problem beavers in the region who are encroaching on human infrastructure by damaging property.

“He didn’t want to kill the beaver, but he didn’t want to mess up the system in his irrigation,” Cannon said.

This beaver was Cannon’s first relocation trip of the year. The adventure will take the young animal to Okanogan County where it will hopefully make its new home.

“We have to find a good spot for them which is the hardest part because you can’t let them go and get into trouble again,” Cannon said.

Its new pad is going to take a little work to set it up, but soon the beaver will enjoy a creek on 1,400 acres of ranch property all to itself - along with some cattle, horses, dogs and the occasional cougar.

The land belongs to Rep. Joel Kretz (R) who hopes the beaver will help store spring runoff on his property about ten miles north of Wauconda. Kretz is also running for reelection in the 7th legislative district. 

“If this is successful, and it’s not guaranteed he’ll [or she] stay, I may lose some grass from flooding, but I think it will benefit the environment. I think the water release will keep the stream flowing better and put more moisture in the basin,” Kretz said.

To make this happen, Kretz sponsored the recently passed legislation called the “Beaver Bill”. The bill, signed into legislation on June 7, improves state management of the species and make it easier to relocate nuisance beavers. A previous bill was attempted in 2006 allowing property owners to “adopt” nuisance beavers, but it was vetoed by Gov. Christine Gregoire.

The new bill, Cannon says, will establish a better record of what’s happening with live-trappings and recognize the efforts of not only the Washington State Fish and Wildlife, but private groups like the Lands Council with their program, the Beaver Solution.

Beavers can only be relocated during the summer and early fall months after all the kits have been weened from nursing beavers. Cannon has taken care of about 50 beavers since his start in the Beaver Solution program, but this is the first time they’ve ever taken care of just one beaver. 

“Usually they’re in big families so it’s only four or five trappings a year,” Cannon said. “We typically don’t find them alone especially in the wild areas.”

Cannon says beavers are still trapped for fur and there’s always the chance of being caught by a predator like a cougar, wolf or coyote.

“They’re not very aggressive at all. They’re kind of defenseless,” Cannon described. "They’d rather get away.”

When the Addy rancher called in the beaver, Cannon set up a spring-loaded cage that scooped it up Friday night. For the weekend, the beaver was a resident of the North Hill neighborhood in Cannon’s backyard, attracting the attention of neighborhood kids and snoozing in the summer sun.

Now comes the hard part as they release it back into the wilderness.

“It has to get through the night and we know there are cougars there. We want to give it its best shot and give it some time to burrow through the water to escape,” Cannon added.

When they arrive on Kretz’s ranch property, they’ll get their hands dirty by laying down branches in the stream to back up the water a bit, giving the beaver some over night coverage. From there, the beaver will hopefully do what it does best and build a dam.

Kretz calls his neck of the woods “dry country” with low annual rainfall. Water retention in spring will improve water flow during the summer on his property.

“I think there’s a double benefit. You’re removing problem beavers and putting them where they’re appropriate,” Kretz added.

An earlier version of this story did not mention that state Rep. Joel Kretz is up for re-election in his 7th legislative district seat and is currently campaigning against opponent Robert (Bob) Wilson.

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