I read with interest the recent article about beavers (Castor canadensis) damaging trees in the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. I would like to take a moment and point out why this is happening and what cost effective corrective measures can be taken to facilitate a stop to this behavior.
Beavers are critical to controlling water in Montana. Their engineering can slow the speed of this Montana precious resource all the while improving habitat for many creatures large and small that call the Riparian area home.
There is cascading effect that will benefit man and all wildlife in the vicinity almost immediately. These trees the beaver are damaging are necessary for song birds and other wildlife to live in and amongst. Beaver ponds and streams have shown to be beneficial to trout and other water inhabitants to include water fowl and deer. Beavers help to sustain the hunting and fishing heritage that we who live here seek to preserve.
The question quickly surfaces: why are these beaver causing this damage? The answer is complex but I suspect has its origins in the human caused mortality of the beavers’ natural predators. Lions, bears, coyote, fox and wolves are what nature uses to control these large aquatic rodents. When man begins to manage predators based on political and social tolerance there will be unintended consequences.
This is one of many reasons that I vehemently opposed the Ravalli County Predator Policy. When a group of individuals (Ravalli County Commissioners) have placed money, special interest and social tolerance above a functioning ecosystem the havoc will soon follow.
To correct this unintended action we need to educate and encourage social tolerance with living with wolves and other predators. Then and only then we will benefit from the role these critical predators are meant to play within a healthy, functioning ecosystem.