State installs beaver baffles

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To prevent flooding on nearby roads, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department recently completed several water control devices on beaver dams in Bolton and Richmond. Known as `beaver baffles' these devices confuse beavers by using a large plastic tube to create a hidden breech upstream away from the beavers' dam.

The Fish & Wildlife Department expects to install more than a dozen additional beaver baffles throughout the state this year. The baffles are one of many techniques that department staff employ or recommend to landowners to minimize beaver damage to property or trees. Other techniques include using culvert fences or placing wire mesh or special paint around the base of trees.

"The wetlands that beavers create provide habitat for a variety of wildlife such as waterfowl, songbirds, frogs, turtles, and otters. These areas can also absorb extra water during rain events and clean pollutants from water, so we work hard to preserve these wetlands whenever possible," said Chris Bernier, wildlife biologist for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.

"Beaver control devices don't work in every situation," Bernier said, "but they can sometimes help reduce flooding or tree damage while preserving these important wetlands."

While effective, the baffles are not inexpensive and have limitations. According to Bernier, each device costs roughly $1,000 to install, between materials and labor. They are also effective only on smaller streams. Each baffle can release roughly one cubic foot per second of water, so baffles are not usable on beaver dams built on faster flowing streams and rivers. In these cases, trapping may be another necessary tool for controlling populations and maintaining wetlands.

Once plentiful in Vermont, beavers were overharvested through unregulated trapping and disappeared by 1700. Beavers returned after the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department reintroduced them starting in the 1930s. Most of the roads and villages in Vermont were built in valleys and along streams before beavers became abundant again. As a result, conflicts between people and beavers are constant and a challenge to resolve. Beaver baffles have helped.

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department has installed 291 beaver baffles in Vermont since the program started in 2000.

"We receive roughly 200 beaver complaints a year," said Bernier. "Several staff members respond to these complaints, and one technician is dedicated solely to addressing beaver conflicts from spring through fall. Despite these efforts, other management techniques must be used. We also rely on regulated, in-season trapping to maintain a stable beaver population so Vermonters continue to view beavers as a valued member of the local ecosystem and not as a nuisance."

Landowners with beaver programs can contact the Fish & Wildlife Department for assistance at www.vtfishandwildlife.com.


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