St. George – Last year, the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources moved several beavers from the popular recreation area known as Grandpa’s Pond to remote places in Utah for wetland restoration projects.
St. At least two new trees were gone, trunks showed large tooth marks and several more trees were wrapped in chicken wire fencing after being damaged. The beavers didn’t seem to want to leave.
Wildlife Program Director for the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources Teresa Griffin confirmed that state officials are working with the Hurricane City Parks and Recreation team to come up with a solution to the current beaver problem on Grandpa’s Pond. Beavers are often trapped and relocated by Utah wildlife officials. When this happens, Griffin said, the animals receive a small antenna implanted for tracking purposes, if they are old enough.
“None of those beavers are the ones we’ve locked up in the past,” she said of the beavers at Grandpa’s Pond. “We have moved most of the beavers near Bryce Valley to a remote area near the Sevier River, or another location where they have been piled with horses in the wilderness of Pine Valley to help repair watersheds damaged after a fire about four years ago.”
Semi-aquatic mammals thrived in the desert climates of southern Utah long before the arrival of pioneer settlers, living among lizards, turtles and rattlesnakes, said Jeffrey Smith, assistant professor of biology at Utah Tech. He’s encountered them as far south as the Grand Canyon.
“Beavers are definitely here and they’ve been in greater numbers historically,” he said. “The Beaver Dam Wash got its name from the Jefferson Hunt in 1847. They hunted roughly across much of the continent, and the dredging of wetlands and rerouting of irrigation streams has reduced their habitat. So they are here, but not in abundance.”
In Utah, beaver hunting became illegal in 1899. Land owners and businesses have been able to apply for a permit to state wildlife officials to trap and remove nuisance animals from their property since 1974.
Besides Grandpa’s Pond, the Department of Wildlife Resources currently has permit applications to remove beavers from the Sunbrook and Southgate golf courses in St. George, Griffin said. Trapping animals in public places can be difficult.
“Grandpa’s Pond has some complex issues because there are people and dogs near it so frequently,” she said. “So if we put a live trap in the area, it would be somewhat dangerous because of the spring-loaded nature of live traps.”
Thomas Biebighauser, a wildlife biologist and wetland ecologist for wetland restoration and training, has completed more than 6,000 wetland restoration projects in several states, including Utah, during his career spanning four decades. From his home in Kentucky, he said that while beavers are problems for many landowners, they are also great for the surrounding habitat.
Many people in the western United States think of a river, Biebeghauser said, and picture two steep hills of sand with water flowing between them, eroding the soil as it rushes. But before European pioneers began tearing down beaver dams nearly two centuries ago, tributaries like the Virgin River had banks with lush green grasses, trees, wildlife, and flow much slower.
“Beavers,” he said, “were widespread from coast to coast, and in fact they were what fueled the colonization of the West.” “After their numbers declined due to trapping and habitat loss, many states banned the killing of beavers. Now, after many years, their numbers are starting to pick up and people are starting to see them in places they have never been, like on golf courses.”
Often, it has been seen when owners buy a secluded property with a stream, and then spend time and money lining the stream with expensive trees. Beavers love this, and property owners are usually “unhappy with the end result.”
“But if you like fishing, beaver ponds are great places for trout to spawn,” Biebighauser said. “If you love bird watching, you will see ducks, geese, herons, and many new species that you may not have seen before. These ponds also reduce the chances of severe flooding and restore groundwater by recharging the aquifer. I know several ranchers who have come to love them.” Once they realize the benefits.”
Landlords can wrap the base of the tree in chicken wire to prevent beavers from chomping, Griffin said, but if problems persist they can apply for a removal permit. In rare cases, a lethal permit may be issued.
“With the Virgin River so close, the problem may be continuing,” she said. “Wildlife seems to really enjoy the beautiful parks we intend for humans.”
Griffin and Biebighauser both said that those hoping to see a beaver at Grandpa’s Pond would have the best chance at sunset, walking quietly. Those who were startled by the loud sound might have lost their chance.
“It’s going to sound like a gunshot — it’s going to be loud,” said Biebghauser. “This is the sound of a beaver’s tail hitting the water to warn others of danger.”
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