Beaver Control

Oddly enough, this is one of the most visited pages on the website. I am not sure why so many people are interested in beaver eradication. I would suspect is it due to the massive increase in some regional beaver populations over the past few decades. For example, Massachusetts outlawed many commonly used beaver traps in 1997... and as a result they have been overrunning the state. Okay, look I have a degree in biology so I somewhat understand the complexities of an ecosystem. I have no real problem with wildlife. I don’t go around smashing snakes with a shovel because I don’t like them, or spray chemicals all over my lawn to get rid of dandelions, I don’t flip out when the squirrels eat a hole through my trash can to get to the garbage.. no problems here. I get it. I live out in the woods, wildlife comes with living in the forest. So, I try to live in harmony with nature. However, when my entire yards starts flooding out, I have to draw the line. Here is a free lesson in ecology for you. The real problem is that people have gotten rid of all the wolves and most of the other beaver predators too. Now the beaver population has exploded, hence contributing to my problem. So to those people that say “That’s terrible” when I say I need to rid of beavers. I say too bad. Let’s see them flood you out and see if you still feel that way. I guess another strategy would be to reintroduce timber wolves to the area to keep the population in check. They might grab the occasional pet dog or cat here and there (and maybe a toddler or two), but that must be better than trapping beavers right? Hmmm

Anyway, here is our story about beaver infestation. In spring of '09, I noticed that Swampy Acres seemed to be getting more and more swampy. As the summer went on, it got wetter and wetter and the marsh began to have some patches of open water. To bad alot of that open water was in my goat pen, as things really started backing up. Rather than face the prospect of having my goat barn float away and eventually be forced to stare at two hundred dead trees for eternity (after the roots drowned)... I decide to investigate the cause. A trip over to the old dam revealed that it was all plugged up with sticks. Hmmmm, we did have a huge ice storm last winter that brought down quite a few branches. I figured these were the remnants of the storm that washed down as the winter ice melted. Using my trusty garden cultivator I made short work of the obstruction. The resulting deluge from releasing three feet of water over 5 acres almost swept me away! but within a day the water level had returned to normal. However, it started creeping up again within a week or so. Another investigation to the old dam revealed... more sticks. Hmmm. That is odd. Maybe a few more sticks that had been washed down when I released the original blockage? Maybe. So I got to work clearing the obstruction.. and predictably the water went down again. Sure enought the water started rising again. Yet another trip to the dam revealed.. you guessed it. More sticks. This time, they looked "fresh" and had neatly chewed ends. No question about it......what we have here is a beaver infestation.
I went looking around for the lodge and sure enough I found it (see picture). Now you might be saying "Isn't that just a pile of sticks." Well look a little closer you can see the sticks are all neatly woven together and the ends clearly display the beaver signature teeth marks. No question about it.... I had identified the lodge.
Beaver Lodge
Lodge Entrance
Beaver Signature
Now the question was.. how do I get rid of beavers?? Definitely not a problem I have had to deal with in past. First, I thought about trying to remedy the problem myself. First off, I started tearing down their dams.. figuring that they would give up and go somewhere else. Wrong. Ever single day for a week, I would go out and smash their dam apart with a garden hoe... and overnight, they would rebuild almost all of it. The picture below may look like a beaver dam.. but it is actualy the pile of sticks I made on the shore as I tore down multiple dams. I could quickly see this wasn't going to work. So I did some additional research.
Remnants of a Half Dozen Beaver Dams
Okay, there are three main strategies you can use to get rid of beaver dams. You can live trap the beavers and relocate them, you can "kill trap" them, or you can breach their dams with a "beaver pipe." Each of these has pluses and minuses.

Live Trapping Pros: It appears to be nicer to the beavers. Although there is little reliable data how this actually effects a beaver.
Live Trapping Cons: The traps are more expensive, state laws surrounding trapping and relocating beavers vary. In New Hampshire it is perfectly legal to trap beaver on private property.. but you can't relocate them without some type of license I believe.

Kill Trapping Pros: Cheapest and simplest method.
Kill Trapping Cons: Bleeding hearts say this is cruel (Of course, if it was YOUR house going underwater, you might feel differently)

Beaver Pipe Pros: You don't need to kill or relocate the beavers
Beaver Pipe Cons: Doesn't always work, requires maintenance, device may be vandalized or destroyed by tresspassers.
Here is a live beaver trap. The dog is in there only for scale, I hope. Anyway, this will run you 138 bucks plus delivery from Dunn's Fish Farm
Here is a YouTube of a Beaver in a live trap. There are alot of good articles at Bugspray.com.. if you are interested in trapping yourself
There are many, many different types of "non-live" beaver traps available. This one pictured is a "Conibear" and will run you about 8 bucks each. The basic premise of all these traps is you find a choke point somewhere in the water (could be you breach the dam and then put the trap in the hole) and hope the beaver blunders into them. I have also heard you can put these at the entrance of the lodge and then ram a digging bar into the lodge to drive them out. This isn't a trapping website, so I will leave it to you to google exactly how to do this if you need further info.
Beaver Pipe (aka Beaver Deceiver or Beaver Baffler):

Okay, the basic premise here is that you breach the dam with some type of pipe and the beavers are too stupid to plug it up. I understand that beavers are attracted to the "sound" of running water. Since pipes usually do not make too much of a sound.. this doesn't seem to trigger the beaver's natural instinct to plug it up. Also they don't seem to understand the notion that they have to travel to the mouth of the pipe to plug it. I have heard stories, where the beavers just continually mount sticks up over the pipe as they notice the water level falling... they must be perplexed as to why this isn't doing anything. Anyway, even if they do try to jam up the inlet of the pipe.. the perforations will make this a difficult task. If you do try this method.. I would recommend you use aluminum or other "chew resistant" material as I have heard beavers will sometimes chew through the pipe. UPDATE: I ended up putting in a beaver pipe in 2011, see instruction for this here <link to beaver pipe>.

Anyway, after considering all my options (including sitting near the dam with my shotgun and a spotlight at night, as beavers are nocturnal).. I decided to hire a professional beaver trapper. It costs me 60 bucks a beaver to get rid of them. I questioned the guy if he kept the pelts. He told me they were only worth 10 bucks and you need to trap them in the winter when they have their thick fur... so the anwer was "no" not worth it.
After I removed the beaver dam, the water dropped about 4 feet. I estimate that. Now maybe that doesn't sound like alot. But three feet of water over four acres is 5.2 MILLON gallons of water that was being retained and flooding me out. That's almost 8 olympic size swimming pool's worth of water in my back yard.
Yes, removing beaver from PRIVATE property is perfectly legal in New Hampshire. Here is the statute for your reference


CHAPTER 210
FUR-BEARING ANIMALS
Beaver
Section 210:9
210:9 Protection of Beaver. –
I. No person shall destroy or disturb or interfere in any manner with the dams or houses of beaver, without first obtaining a special permit from the executive director.
II.
Notwithstanding paragraph I or any other provision of law or rule of the executive director or the department of environmental services, a landowner, a landlord's employee, tenant, or caretaker, or any town or municipal or state official or employee, may destroy beaver and beaver dams on property under their control to protect property, public highways, or bridges from damage or submersion with the permission of the owner of lands affected, if applicable.
III. The executive director may require the reporting of beaver taken pursuant to paragraph II by rules made in accordance with RSA 541-A.
IV. Skins or unskinned carcasses taken under this section shall be sealed pursuant to RSA 210:8 before such skins or unskinned carcasses are sold or given away.
V. The executive director or his agents shall provide advice relative to beaver control techniques when requested.
Source. 1939, 81:2. RL 244:10. 1943, 64:3. RSA 210:9. 1967, 441:3. 1988, 79:1, eff. June 14, 1988. 1996, 228:42, eff. July 1, 1996.
In the winter (which is the only time the swampy is accesible to foot traffic), I wander out and counted no less than 5 beaver lodges. No doubt... I haven't seen the end of the beaver.
Site Map
May 2010 Update

Well, the beavers are back again. Same situation as before. A quick stroll out through the swamp uncovered another three dams and dozens of small lodges. My first trapping (6 beavers in 2009) didn't seem to take effect. I had to call my licensed trapper back and he hauled out another 7 beavers this year (2010). Looking at the vegetation they have been eating I can tell they have been there all winter. If the beavers are cuts on saplings are about a 18" off the ground you can be sure they were cutting in the winter when snow was on the ground. These dams no doubt contributed to the big flood we had early spring. Next year (when they undoubtedly come back), I will be setting my own traps as I can't afford to pay a professional forever (he charges $60 a head). Check back next year as I will chronicle my trapping endeavors.
July 2011 Update

Uggghhh! The beavers have returned yet again. However, this year there damming efforts are somewhat lacking. Back in the fall of 2010, I completely removed their dam... right down to the bottom of the stream. These beaver dams seem to be constructed of about two feet of mud and rocks (some quite large) at the bottom and then topped with sticks and branches. Normally, I would just remove the sticks to lower the water level. However last fall, feeling ambitious, I dug out the entire foundation of the dam. This seems to make building the dam a bit harder for them, and maybe it discourages them a bit. At any rate, the dam this year was not very ambitious and was only about two feet wide near a pinch point in the rocky part of the stream. I knocked it down with a shovel and then set up my critter cam. I actually got a pic of the culprit after a few days (below). So, far I have not had to call the trapper back this year.... yet. However, I need to constantly monitor this section of the stream to keep an eye on the dams.