Preventing Conflicts With Beavers
While the Massachusetts' beaver population was fairly small, MassWildlife concentrated on the many beneficial aspects of this large rodent. As the beaver population increased and people built residential and commercial developments, adverse impacts from beaver damming activity increased. It is, therefore, critical that people know how to live with beaver in the environment.
Options for Resolving Beaver Conflicts
People who learn to tolerate a certain amount of beaver influence on their land generally find that co-existing with beavers provides more benefits than perceived harm. In situations in which beavers are simply an inconvenience to landowners, tolerance is the easiest solution.
Fencing can proved a long-term solution, while preserving the beneficial aspects of beavers. The most effective way to protect specific trees and shrubs is to construct exclosures around them. These exclosures should be constructed of heavy-gauge fencing, be a minimum of 4 feet tall, and be flush with the ground. To protect larger areas, such as orchards or nurseries, standard fencing is usually sufficient since beavers are poor climbers, rarely burrow under fences, and generally don't chew fencing unless it is wrapped around trees or shrubs.
Breaching & Removing the Dam
Dam breaching is an immediate, but short-term solution to flooding problems caused by beaver. Cued by the sound of escaping water, beavers will usually rebuild the damaged dam quickly, sometimes overnight. If the afflicted landowner does not want beaver lethally removed, it is recommended that a water level control device (WLCD) be installed to prevent beaver from rebuilding the dam. Please see below for further information on WLCDs. Permits are needed to disturb or tear open a beaver dam or beaver lodge for any reason. Dismantling or breaching a dam can result in severe flooding for property adjacent and downstream of the dam. Dam breaching and removal affects wetlands; such activities are regulated by Massachusetts' wetland protection laws. To find out how to obtain a permit, please read Beavers and the Law: A Citizen's Guide to Addressing Beaver Complaints (PDF).
Water Level Control Devices (WLCD)
In situations in which increased water levels threaten property, crops, or public health and safety, water level control devices (WLCD) (PDF) may be an appropriate way to control the flooding. Sometimes referred to as "beaver pipes" or water flow devices, WLCDs can be successful at regulating water levels at desirable levels behind dams. By successfully installing an effective WLCD, the life of a desirable beaver wetland, and its associated benefits, can be prolonged. An assortment of WLCDs are available and all have advantages and disadvantages associated with their use.
The success of these devices depends on 2 key factors:
- They must be designed to reduce the cues used by beavers to detect escaping water.
- They must be difficult for beavers to plug.
Beavers can be trapped during the open season (November 1 - April 15) by a licensed trapper using permissible traps (i.e. box or cage-type traps). An Emergency Permit is not needed during the regulated season if permissible traps are used by a licensed trapper. By removing beaver during the regulated trapping season, they can be used as a natural resource because its pelt, meat, and castor oil are highly valued and can be used. Trapping is highly regulated in Massachusetts. For more information about trapping, including how to become a trapper, please visit our Trapping Information section.
An Emergency Permit is needed to trap beavers with restricted traps (i.e. body-gripping traps, "conibear" traps) and to trap beaver outside the regulated trapping season. Removal of problem beaver can be a quick way to alleviate beaver problems when done by an experienced trapper. New beaver may move into the area, but this depends on several factors, such as the habitat features and the density of beavers in the area. It is against state law to capture and release beaver into another area. Often people want to capture problem animals and release them someplace else. However, moving wildlife is detrimental to both people and wildlife populations and is against the law. This law has been in effect for many years, protecting both people and wildlife.