KINGS BEACH, Calif. — Human beings and beavers can peacefully co-exist, Tahoe wildlife advocates said during a recent community forum, and Placer County officials agreed, vowing to explore alternatives to hunting and killing the animals.
Co-existence is especially practical since the recent advent of many Tahoe-based water flow control devices and techniques which successfully manage flooding hazards and damage to property associated with beavers and their dam building.
Water flow control devices, culvert protection fences, tree fencing and the use of cayenne pepper on tree trunks are some of the many management techniques used nationwide as a means of preventing the nuisance and hazards associated with beaver ponds.
The Thursday, Nov. 4, community forum held at the North Tahoe Events Center in Kings Beach offering beaver management solutions follows an early-October beaver removal operation conducted by the Placer County Department of Public Works, which entailed the shooting and killing of at least four beavers that had constructed a dam at Griff Creek.
The removal operation sparked outrage in the community.
"We're not here to look back with animosity," said Placer County Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery, who attended the forum. "We're to move forward and make sure this doesn't happen again."
Management practices are more effective in the long-term, less expensive to taxpayers and more humane, argued Cheryl Millham, executive director of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, during a presentation at the forum.
The primary solution for the specific problem at Griff Creek consists of installing a Flexible Pond Leveler, Millham said, a water flow control device designed to ensure the water of the beaver-created pond will not reach flood levels that could potentially create a driving hazard on a nearby section of Highway 28.
Peter Kraatz, deputy director of the Placer County Department of Public Works, said the principal reason for the beaver removal operation was the dams were creating a potentially hazardous flooding situation.
The Flexible Pond Leveler — invented by Mike Callahan, owner of the Southampton, Mass.-based company Beaver Solutions — makes use of a pipe, with the outflow portion installed in the middle of a beaver dam allowing water to flow through the dam instead of over it. The intake portion of the pipe is protected by wire fence, to prevent beavers from clogging the pipe.
Millham said the system is easy to install and cheap to maintain, estimating the total cost of construction and 10-year maintenance of a Flexible Pond Leveler at $3,000.
Representatives from Wylie Animal Rescue Foundation and Worth A Dam — a beaver advocacy organization — pledged $500 each to the project during the forum.
Ted and Sherry Guzzi, Rush Pursley and other North Shore residents in attendance said they would donate the time and manpower to help construct the water control device.
"The energy is here now and we need to keep the momentum going," said Millham. "We are in a position where we can show the rest of the lake you don't need to kill these animals. Many of us in the basin are frustrated and fed-up with inhumane treatment of wildlife."
Millham said installing a protective fence around the culvert running underneath the highway, and using repellent materials on surrounding trees, will prevent other problems associated with the beaver's presence.
Kraatz said during the meeting he was ready to explore alternatives to killing and removing the beavers, but the many regulatory agencies governing the Lake Tahoe Basin — including the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the Lahontan Water Board and California Department of Fish and Game — must be consulted, and permits for the water control devices must be obtained.
"We need to do all the preparation work so that once the device is built — it stays," Montgomery said. "We can truly be an example to the rest of the lake, and I know Peter and I are committed to making sure what happened to the Griff Creek beavers doesn't happen again."