If you live near a body of water in Montana, then the chances of you experiencing problems with beavers is high. Beavers are among the largest rodents in the world. Beavers are known in the ecology world as a “keystone species,” which means they are vital for the presence and survival of other species. Their dams provide homes to many other organisms yet their dams can also cause a loss of vegetation and increase chances of flooding due to blocked structures such as culverts.
Beavers have been around for a long time and nearly went extinct however, they are making a comeback. Beavers are vital to the ecosystem; they help maintain high water tables, help establish and maintain wetlands, provide shelter for fish during low flows, and they store sediment. Beaver dams are even said to increase water quality. Streams and beavers can and have evolved a mutualism relationship. Beavers also tend to inhabit an area for a short period of time before moving elsewhere along the stream to begin again.
When beavers move in you may experience bank deterioration and destruction of valuable timber, riparian areas, and croplands. They can clog your culverts, head gates, and bridges. Flooding from dams can damage roads, septic systems, and other property. Beavers can also carry diseases and spread through their fecal matter.
What to do next?
Removing a beaver dam is not advised unless there are serious threats to the stream and your property. Dams are sometimes removed to prevent new channels from forming and increased depletion of riparian area. The best choice would be to consider fencing. You can place barriers around trees in the riparian areas, and fencing in front of culverts and other water passages. Even the use of fish ladders are useful to assist with the migration of spawning fish. If you are at risk of flooding from clogged culverts, head gates, or bridges there are devices that can be constructed to assist with keeping these structures free from debris. If you have concerns about a beaver dam near you please contact the Conservation District. Always check with the Conservation District prior to planning/starting a project in or near a stream. Permits may be required!!!