Beaver control program keeps water flowing, instead of taxpayer’s money

Published 7:00 am Friday, September 23, 2016

Beavers have build up a dam along Pink Smith Road that has blocked water from draining south. Photo by Julia Arenstam

Beavers have build up a dam along Pink Smith Road that has blocked water from draining south.
Photo by Julia Arenstam

The Pearl River County Road Department has partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Service’s program for over 10 years to control the rising beaver population.

The Pearl River County Board of Supervisors recently enrolled in another year of the Beaver Control Assistance Program at a $7,500 matching cost.

“Without this program we would pretty much have to have a full-time person just to do that,” County Road Manager Charlie Shielder said. “For this program to come in here with our matching of $7,500 a year, you can’t beat that. We get well beyond our service out of that.”

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For several years, beavers have been building dams near Pink Smith Road off Highway 43 North, Shielder said.

They first halted drainage just downstream of the bridge, and have since built a new structure under the bridge, Shielder said.

“This bridge right here, it would take a lot to damage the bridge…but what it could do is wash the dirt out on each side of the headwall on each side of the bridge, and you could be looking at thousands and thousands of dollars for dirt and materials and man-hours,” he said.

The area surrounding the dam has several feet of standing water that would ordinarily not be present, Shielder said.

The beavers eat much of the surrounding vegetation, damaging the health of the trees, before moving further upstream and flooding more areas, Shielder said.

He said they can also block culverts and prevent proper drainage.

Cole Boyd, with the Wildlife Services program, has been working with the county for years on this program, Shielder said.

“He goes above and beyond; he’ll come out here and open it up himself…get in there by hand,” Shielder said.

In the past, many of the dams were constructed so well that crews would have to use logs and machinery to break them apart, Shielder said.

In one instance, due to the location and solidity of the dam, Boyd had to use explosives, Shielder said.

Every year, the program removes dams at 25 to 30 different sites in the county, he said.

“It saves us a lot of time,” Shielder said.

Boyd will spend several weeks trapping the animals and transporting them to other locations, yet often they will return, especially the “juveniles,” Shielder said.

“They may disappear for two years, then all of a sudden they’ll be right back,” he said.

In recent meetings, the Board praised the program and the benefits it brings to the county.

The program also deals with other nuisance animals like muskrat and nutria, but only if their habitats are affecting the roadways.

According to publications from the Mississippi Wildlife Service, the BCAP program prevents millions of dollars worth of damage statewide every year.

About Julia Arenstam

Staff Writer

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