Although beavers are a great benefit to our habitat, they can also cause a lot of havoc to homeowners and the cities where they build their dams.
In some geographical areas, beavers have high populations in human populated areas and are constantly building their dams that change the flow of rivers and creeks which can cause flooding on roads, yards and crops. Sometimes they chomp down a tree that falls on a road and blocks traffic, causing a lot of drivers suffering from road rage. Other times they may chomp down a tree that falls on your house or a neighbor’s house, causing you an expensive repair bill.
Muskrats are similar in appearance to beaver except they are significantly smaller (10-16 inches), and their tails are thin compared to a beaver’s wide, flat tail.
The beaver (Castor canadensis, Fig. 1) is the largest North American rodent. Most adults weigh from 35 to 50 pounds (15.8 to 22.5 kg), with some occasionally reaching 70 to 85 pounds (31.5 to 38.3 kg). Individuals have been known to reach over 100 pounds (45 kg).
The beaver is a stocky rodent adapted for aquatic environments. Many of the beaver’s features enable it to remain submerged for long periods of time. It has a valvular nose and ears, and lips that close behind the four large incisor teeth. Each of the four feet have five digits, with the hind feet webbed between digits and a split second claw on each hind foot. The front feet are small in comparison to the hind feet. The underfur is dense and generally gray in color, whereas the guard hair is long, coarse and ranging in color from yellowish brown to black, with reddish brown the most common coloration. The prominent tail is flattened dorsoventrally, scaled, and almost hairless. It is used as a prop while the beaver is sitting upright and for a rudder when swimming.
Beavers also use their tail to warn others of danger by abruptly slapping the surface of the water.The beaver’s large front (incisor) teeth, bright orange on the front, grow continuously throughout its life. These incisors are beveled so that they are continuously sharpened as the beaver gnaws and chews while feeding, girdling, and cutting trees.
The economics of beaver damage is somewhat dependent on the extent of the damage before it has been discovered. Some beaver damage problems are intensive, such as damage caused by one or two beavers in a new pond, damming or stopping up a culvert or drain pipe, flooding roads, or crops.
Other problems are extensive, such as several beaver colonies in a flatland area, responsible for the flooding of several hundred acres of marketable timber that will die unless the water is removed quickly. Generally speaking, if a culvert or drain pipe can be unstopped, a knowledgeable trapper can remove one or two beavers in a night or two and eliminate further damage in an intensive damage situation. However, an extensive situation may require a concentrated effort with several trappers, dynamiting or pulling dams, and a month or more of trapping to get the water off the timber and reduce further timber losses.
Economic damage is estimated to have exceeded $40 billion in the Southeastern United States during a recent 40-year period. This would include all damage to crops, forests, roads, pastures, and other rural and urban properties. Economically, one must assess the situation and weigh the tradeoffs: the potential loss of thousands of board feet of timber and years of regeneration versus the cost of trapping. The cost of a couple of nights’ trapping and a half-day of labor to clear the culverts is much less than the cost of rebuilding a washed-out road or losing flooded crops or timber.
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