Southport’s beaver problem: better to manage the animals than to kill them


EDITOR’S NOTE: On Feb. 13, the News-Ledger published a story about city-sponsored trapping of a beaver colony discovered in Southport’s Bridgeway Lakes area. You can find the original article here. Below is a response.

The author, Heidi Perryman, Ph.D. (courtesy photo)

The author, Heidi Perryman, Ph.D. (courtesy photo)

By Heidi Perryman, Ph.D.

Trapping, as you know, is a short-term solution that will need to be repeated again and again when new beavers return to the area. It almost always makes more sense to keep the beavers you have, solve any problems they are causing directly, and let them use their naturally territorial behaviors to keep others away.

Protecting trees is an easy fix. Wrap them  in a cylinder of galvanized fencing, leaving enough space for the tree to grow. Or try the less obtrusive abrasive painting. Paint the trunks with a latex paint that matches the color of the bark, adding heavy mason sand. Beavers dislike the gritty texture and will not chew.

Remember that beaver-chewed trees will ‘coppice’ which is an old forestry term referring to hard cutting back a tree so that it grows in bushy and more dense. This is why beavers are so important to the population of migratory and songbirds – their chewing creates prime nesting real estate for a host of bird life. Willow is very fast-growing and if the stumps are left in the ground they will replenish quickly.

Why should a city learn to tolerate beavers? They are a keystone species that create a dramatic impact on the spaces they cultivate – even urban and suburban spaces. Here in Martinez we have documented several new species of birds and fish since they colonized our creek, as well as otter and mink! In addition, beavers are considered a ‘charismatic species’ which means that children love to learn about them and they provide a great educational tool for teaching about habitat, ecosystems and stewardship. Why not involve the local Boy Scout troop in planting willow shoots every spring?

Take Amtrak to our sixth beaver festival this summer and see it all for yourself!

  The author is president and founder of “Worth a Dam,” whose organization can be seen at

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