Friday, March 29, 2013

Beaver Buddies.....Or not?

 Friday, March 29, 2013

The dark sky over Peacham Pond has been at a standstill for a couple hours now. The temperature hangs at 32.4° and the windless morning is only interrupted by a few raindrops that fall-stop-fall-stop. Still no birds at the feeders but the red squirrels are having a convention. But this morning I just want to mention beavers, a fascinating but often troublesome critter known to bother  me at the flower farm every spring. 

Our land is surrounded on a couple sides by the Winooski River and each spring as beavers seek out new places to live, they always seem to arrive at the nursery. Beavers care little about flowers but they enjoy the poplars, bass trees and the few birches that line the river. At one time they even  dammed the river on the Marshfield side of the property and caused quite a mess until the river was freed again of tons of trees.

This picture is of an old but still very active beaver house on Bailey Pond just outside Marshfield village. I never got a firm count on the number of occupants but during the past couple years they have taken out the road twice that I know of. They dammed a culvert and flooded a whole length of the old railroad bed during a rainstorm and it took bazillions of loads of fill to get the road back.

 I like to see beavers work but as trapping has almost become a thing of the past, beaver numbers have soared and they have begun to bother people by flooding large areas and even changing pond levels by plugging overflows and exit culverts.

These last two pictures show a strategy at Marshfield Pond to keep the pond level constant and not allow beavers to dam the overflow at the bridge and possibly take out the entire front of the pond during a heavy rain or spring flood. The wildlife folks always employ these culverts to keep the water level low even though the beavers think they are creating a bigger dam. You need a few engineering skills yourself to calculate water flow in and out but if you stick with it, even trial and error and more pipe will work.

Beavers can flood your land and if you are a gardener not interested in water gardening, you have no choice but to help them move along. They generally remain in an area until the food source/dam construction material source begins to diminish. I have read that this is 7-9 years although the beaver house pictured above has been active for 20 years. If you call a game warden they will probably tell you that you are permitted by statute to kill the beavers to protect your land. This is like saying that the warden has bigger fish to fry. He or she might be able to suggest a trapper who will remove the offenders  by shooting, live trapping or (leave it said) other forms of trapping. But keep in mind that trappers are not really interested in beavers if the time of year is off and the pelts are not viable. They also want to be paid for their service time and that means not only setting traps but checking them regularly by law. This all may sound pessimistic and it is but keep in mind you are placing your resources up against a beaver's and the beaver feels your property is his/hers. My only suggestion is that if you see any beaver activity on your property, work fast and don't delay. Protecting your home, out buildings, equipment, lawn, gardens, fields, crops and livestock is important.Give it some thought.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where 7 blue jays just arrived at the feeder by my office window. It still looks like heavy rain before too long.

Best Spring Wishes!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook as George Africa and also as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
Always here to help you grow your green thumb!

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