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Can Relocated Beaver Help Restore Salmon Habitat?

The American beaver’s reputation as Nature’s engineer is well known. A beaver can drastically alter its habitat often making it more suitable for it and other wildlife species. Recently, some scientists and land managers have suggested that beaver and their damming behaviors could be used to help enhance in-stream habitat for salmon in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, Oregon, and Washington have passed laws that allow landowners to relocate beavers for management purposes.

To evaluate whether the relocation of beaver is an effective management strategy for improving coho salmon habitat in Oregon, NWRC research wildlife biologist Jimmy Taylor and colleagues at Oregon State University trapped, collared and relocated 38 nuisance beaver using state relocation guidelines. Animals were released into areas where beaver dams might improve the habitat for coho salmon.

Results showed that all relocated beaver moved from their initial release sites, with the furthest moving 18 miles. Thirty-seven percent of the relocated beaver died from either predation or disease within the first few months of their release. Furthermore, not all of the relocated beaver built dams.

“Our results show that current beaver relocation options for Oregon land-owners may not be effective for helping to restore stream habitat for salmon,” concludes Taylor. “Very few beaver dams were built and none of those dams withstood high water flows.”

Researchers encourage land managers and others who want to use beaver relocation as a management tool to educate landowners about the risks of beaver dispersing out of target areas and causing damage on nearby properties.

For more information, please contact NWRC@aphis.usda.gov.