Beavers have released a flood of controversy throughout the Lake Tahoe Basin.
The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board hosted a beaver management forum Friday intended to facilitate discussion between Tahoe residents and the many agencies that deal with the bucktooth mammals.
Representatives from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the water board answered a slew of questions debating the agencies’ role in managing the beaver population.
Although neither the LTBMU nor the DFW could provide current data regarding the number of beavers in the basin, many of the forum participants said they believed numbers were growing.
“We’ve got a lot more beaver activity lately and I, for one, do not want to see these beautiful animals harmed. What I’d like to see is some education from these agencies that are up here,” homeowner Sue Novasel said.
While the DFW doesn’t offer a formal outreach program, staff are always willing to answer questions people might have about beavers, wildlife biologist Shelly Blair said Friday.
The Sierra Wildlife Coalition provides education on what people living with beavers can do about the animals, according to a representative of the animal advocacy group.
One solution the coalition recommends to prevent flooding from dams is the “beaver deceiver,” a flow device that allows water to flow through the obstruction, according to the Sierra Wildlife Coalition.
But the permitting process for such a project can be lengthy and confusing, many of the forum participants argued. The dam’s location and potential environmental impacts of the project determine which agencies need to grant the permit, Lahontan Division Manager Chuck Curtis said.
When an individual or organization can prove beaver activity threatens property or public safety, the DFW and the Nevada Department of Wildlife can issue a depredation permit to kill the animal. NDOW issued a one-year depredation permit to an employee of the Tyrolian Village Association on the North Shore, according to an article in the Tahoe Bonanza.
In South Lake Tahoe, the LTBMU has opted to periodically remove beaver dams from Taylor Creek instead of killing the animals with a depredation permit, according to spokeswoman Cheva Heck. When the animals build on the South Shore creek, they risk flooding the Rainbow Trail and the stream chamber, Heck said. She did not know the number of dams removed, but said the Forest Service has been removing the obstacles on that corridor on and off for decades. But another family of beavers typically isn’t far behind.
“We’re trying to persuade the beavers that they should engage in their activity somewhere else,” she said. “It’s an area that’s good habitat. The best thing we can do in the future is probably build our facilities somewhere where they won’t affect habitat. Our main concern here is Forest Service property and visitor safety.”
— Sierra Sun freelance reporter Frank Fisher contributed to this report.