Local beavers causing both floods, dry streams | VailDaily.com

Local beavers causing both floods, dry streams

Cliff Thompson

It may seem odd in a drought year that the bike path in East Vail is under water, or that at what should be the height of runoff Berry Creek in Edwards is almost dry.

In East Vail, along Gore Creek, the rodents have dammed the creek causing the water to flood the bike path that connects to Summit County.

It’s a headache for Vail Streets and Maintenance Manager Larry Pardee.

“We’ve got to remove them,” he said. “We’ve got to take down the dam after we trap them.”

The town hired Masked Man Services to trap and relocate the animals.

In Edwards, it is a lack of water that has put humans and the aquatic rodents in conflict. There they have built a dam on Berry Creek that has constricted the flow so muc it is impacting the water used for irrigation of the golf course and parks. Those beavers, too, likely will be live trapped, but they’ve become involved in another conflict core to the entire problem – the use of leg-hold and lethal traps was banned by Colorado voters in 1996.

Since then the beaver population – and that of other animals such as skunks, muskrats and raccoons – has burgeoned, said District Wildlife Manager Bill Heicher.

Live traps set at Berry Creek were displaced and thrown into the middle of the beaver pond by someone who didn’t want the animals disturbed.

For Sonnenalp’s golf course superintendent, Neil Tretter, the disturbance means he will have to wait a little longer to ensure there will be adequate water for the golf course, which has water rights to the stream.

“We want to relocate the beaver and free up the water so it flows,” he said, adding that he’s concerned because it’s already a dry year.

Heicher said beavers are active on virtually every waterway in Eagle County. In Vail, they have built several dams along Gore Creek and gnawed down trees on private property along Booth Creek.

Part of the conflict is man’s fault, said Heicher.

“Much of the development in the county has happened in stream bottoms. We’ve intruded on their habitat,” he said.

Beavers are largely nocturnal, so people seldom see them. They are the largest rodent in North America at 40 to 80 pounds, and the eat the bark and twigs of trees. They seem particularly fond of aspen.

Vail’s Pardee said the town protects landscaped areas near streams by wrapping the trunks of trees in chicken wire to keep the animals from gnawing. Some private homeowners have protected trees by spraying them with a cayenne pepper solution that apparently deters the rodents.

Heicher said he gets the most beaver complaints in the spring and fall.

“Normally beaver populations are subject to a boom and bust cycle. They boom, then eat themselves out of house and home and move on,” Heicher said. “People don’t like to hear we’re trapping them, even though we’re not killing them.”

There are now so many beavers, Heicher said, he no longer knows where to put relocated beavers.

“I don”t have a spot any more,” he said.

Problem beavers can be killed by shooting them, Heicher said. The Division of Wildlife does not handle nuisance animal control, he added.

This year, projected to be a drought, beavers may actually play a role in maintaining what water there will be because they build dams and create ponds.

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