Beaver Myth Busters
Myth 1. Beavers eat fish.
No. Beavers are herbivores – ie vegans. They eat bark, leaves and roots.
Myth 2. Beavers have a bad effect on fish
On the contrary, beavers have been reintroduced into American rivers such as the Elk Creek of the South Umpqua River to return Coho salmon after the river was ruined by logging. The coarse woody debris that beavers put in the river provides food and habitat for young fish.
Beaver dams rarely restrict access to migrating fish and usually only in periods of drought. Beaver dams are completely different from man-made structures. They are organic structures and designed to leak – weirs rather than dams. .
The decline of salmonids is likely to be partly related to the decline in beaver populations. A study of small streams in Sweden that found that brown trout were larger in beaver ponds compared with those in fast flowing sections, and that beaver ponds provide habitat for larger trout in small streams during periods of drought.
On balance the benefits outweigh any temporary negative impacts for migratory fish. In exceptional situations dams can be modified or removed.
Myth 3. When beavers are protected in future it will not be possible to legally manage them.
Beavers, protected under European law, are already successfully managed in Bavaria and other parts of Europe. EU law provides derogations to member countries to allow them to vary the application of the protection to circumstances. SWBG recognises that various forms of management will are needed for beavers and that the need will increase as the population increases. However we feel strongly opposed to a free-for-all approach to beaver culling. This is not only unacceptable to the many wildlife lovers who watch beavers, and the other species that benefit from their habitat. It is also the wrong answer for dealing with the problems. Where good habitat exists other beavers will move in if the first family are removed.
Myth 4. Managing beavers is expensive and not worth the money.
Beavers bring benefits of great economic value: they strip agricultural pollutants out of water, mitigate both floods and droughts and vastly increase biodiversity (including economically important species). The cost of local mitigation is minor compared to this.
Myth 5. Beavers dam big rivers
No. Beavers can’t dam fast flowing water. Their dams are built on small streams and ditches. Their impact on big rivers is minimal.
Myth 6. Beavers kill lots of valuable trees
No. Beavers do cut down native trees near the water’s edge, but most of these trees coppice abundantly or sucker from the roots. (They evolved with beavers). There are numerous examples of regrowth all over the area. Sometimes beavers do flood – usually small areas of woodland and drown some trees. Dams can always be altered or removed if this is a problem.
Beaver coppice has been demonstrated to help stabilise river banks, by turning taller trees (whose roots may take bank with them if they blow down) into short bushy growth less vulnerable to windblow. Beaver coppice does not affect the root system of the trees.
Beavers very rarely cut conifers in valuable plantations, however sometimes beaver do drown trees. These dead trees provide habitat for owls and woodpeckers. There is a national shortage of standing deadwood in Scotland. However, if valuable conifers are flooded by a beaver dam, measures can be taken to reduce the height of the dam.
Myth 7. Beavers are a menace & in other countries people often have to get rid of them.
Gudrun Quenzler Scott from New York state says: “We waged war against beavers in many states upriver from the Mississippi & now the National Science Foundation recommends relocation of beavers to the tributaries.” (for flood mitigation).
Viva la beaver!