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Sunday, December 27, 2015

How to get the beaver back

OK, so you have finally realized that at least a partial solution to your water problems is to get the beaver back in every stream or seep where he can possibly build a dam.  As you have realized, this will shift water from winter to summer (just as snow packs and glaciers used to do), recharge your water table, clean your water of sediment and nutrients, extend the life and effectiveness of your hydro-electric dams, allow these dams to provide more water and more electricity than they are doing now and so forth and so on.  So how do you get the beaver back in your catchments.

First, beavers need trees to build their dams.  Willows are great but any deciduous tree will do.  If you have such areas, capture and transfer some beavers to the area.  release them in lakes, artificially dammed ponds in streams or naturally deep parts of the stream. This will keep them happy as they explore the area and find a suitable location to build a dam.  However, the problem is, that much of the catchment will have been degraded and will be lacking a riparian zone of trees. Let's fix that and spend very little money doing it.

Tools you will need are a chain saw (If you don't like the noise, get an electric one that plugs directly into your specially installed alternator on your pick up truck) a pair of secheters (pruning sheers), a lopper (optional), an axe, a sledge hammer and 5 foot  steel bar sharpened on one end for each member of the crew.

Find a suitable deciduous tree such as a willow, poplar, aspen, cotton wood etc. Cut it down about waste height.  You want to leave a stump to coppice (grow from the stump).  Cut the entire tree all the way from the trunk to the small twigs into fore-arm length pieces.  The pruning sheers will come in handy for the smallest branches.

The larger logs you can leave as-is or split into four.  Sharpen the bottom end of all the larger pieces with your axe.  The thinner branches don't need sharpening.  Bundle all this into your pick up truck, cover with some wet sacks and head for your site.  You must do this when there is some moisture in the soil where you want to establish a beaver friendly riparian* zone.  This might be following a rain which has zoomed down to the sea, taking your top soil with it.  Nothing like watching your top soil disappear to inspire action.

*A a zone of trees and bushes on the side of a stream or river.

At the site, take the sharpened logs and quarter logs and pound them into the ground with your sledge hammer.  For the smaller branches, use your steel bar to punch a hole into the ground.  Try to make the hole about a third as deep as the length of your pieces of branch.  Drop in the branch and heel in.

For the intermediate diameter branches, if the ground is too hard to pound them in, the bar is also useful.  Punch a hole with your bar by ramming it a few times into the same hole,  rotating the top around to widen the hole at each punch.  It is now much easier to pound the medium diameter pieces into the ground.

If you have deer around the place and no wolves to keep them moving, you will have to find some way to keep them off of your new forest at least until it has a couple of years to grow.  Many of the deciduous trees grow at phenomenal rates if protected and soon will be too high for the dear to destroy.

Have fun and make sure to take 'before' and 'after' pictures and maybe write a blog with an article for each site you do.

And what happens if your introduced beavers threaten to flood your house or wash away a road.  Simple. You install a beaver deceiver.   Look them up on the net.  Here is how you make and install one model.

At a convenient place on the dam, remove branches.  Make a depression deep enough so that if the water only gets to that level, it won't cause damage to whatever you are trying to protect.

Get a piece of that corrugated plastic pipe and lay it over the dam.  It must be long enough to reach the bottom of the pond and  to reach the stream bottom on the down side of the dam.

Make up a U of scrap wood and pound it down into the beaver dam, upside down to hold the pipe in place.  The beavers will come and patch up the leak that evening and you don't want them to accidentally shift the pipe.

And the last step. Get some wire weld mesh of the type they use to reinforce concrete.  The bigger the holes the better but not large enough to let an adult beaver through.  Bend this mesh in a circle to make a cylinder and attach the ends together.  On one end, clip out a couple of cross ties all around.  A bolt cutter will do nicely.  You are going to pound this cylinder into the bottom of the pond with the clipped end down and removing the cross ties will allow you to push or pound the cylinder into the bottom of the pond.  The cylinder should extend above the level of the water or you could even put a top on it of mesh* and have it totally under water.  You, of course, are going to place this cylinder over the inner end of the pipe (almost forgot to mention that).

Now no matter what the beavers do, the water will remain at the level you have determined.

* Unprotected steel which is always immersed in water corrodes (rusts) very very slowly so putting a mesh lid on the cylinder and making sure it is completely submersed is not a bad idea.  Besides if you are in an area where the water freezes in the winter, if the top of the cylinder is below the bottom of the ice, it won't be shifted by ice movement.  A bit more work but worth the effort.  Iron corrodes most quickly just at the surface of the water.