By Michael Callahan, president of the Beaver Institute
The North American beaver, an often misunderstood and maligned aquatic rodent, builds dams with mud and sticks, which turns streams into valuable wetland ecosystems. Beaver ponds are necessary throughout most of the United States and Canada for healthy watersheds—acting as the Earth’s kidneys. They also support innumerable plant and animal species, including many that are threatened and endangered. As a result, biologists classify the beaver as a “keystone” species, meaning it is responsible for supporting thousands of other species.
Occasionally though, these ecologically valuable beaver ponds flood human properties and cause serious damage. Traditionally, when this has occurred, beavers have been killed and their dams destroyed. Fortunately, innovative nonlethal methods to resolve human-beaver conflicts have been developed and implemented over the past two decades. In my experience at over 2,000 beaver conflict sites, the majority of beaver-related flooding problems can be resolved nonlethally. Unfortunately, few other people in North America know how to do this work. To address this problem, the Beaver Institute was created in 2017.
The Beaver Institute’s mission is to be a catalyst for advancing beaver management and watershed restoration by providing technical and financial assistance to public and private landowners experiencing beaver conflicts. The organization supports scientific research, trains mitigation professionals, and works to increase public appreciation of the beaver’s critical role in creating wetland ecosystems. Our vision is that one day all beaver-human conflicts will be resolved in a science-based manner in order to maximize the many benefits that beavers contribute to the environment.
AWI financial assistance was invaluable in helping the Beaver Institute get started by allowing us to create a comprehensive, educational website. Over the past year, website traffic has steadily increased to over 1,200 visitors per month, and this number continues to rise.
With AWI’s help, as well as generous support from volunteers and other donors, the Beaver Institute has also developed and recently launched the first DIY and Professional Beaver Management Training Courses in the world. Our five-year goal is to train 100 professionals across North America to implement proven techniques to nonlethally resolve beaver conflicts with humans. Over 30 people from 13 US states and three Canadian provinces have already expressed interest in our professional training course, and many more have received DIY information. In October, our first two professional trainees, from Maine and New York, started their hands-on training to become professional beaver specialists.
All course graduates will become members of our professional Beaver Corps. The Beaver Institute will support their ongoing education and refer landowners with beaver issues to these professionals. Their work to humanely resolve human-beaver conflicts will provide immense benefits to our environment and will promote a culture of coexistence.
The Beaver Institute continually seeks new individual, regional, and national partners to advance our mission and vision to benefit beavers, biodiversity, society, and the health of our planet. For more information, visit www.beaverinstitute.org.