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Beavers leave homeowner few options

Forrest Hornaday doesnt want to harm the rodents, but nobody else wants them


by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: ROBIN JOHNSON - SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: ROBIN JOHNSON Laws state that beavers are considered noxious pests when on private property. On public land, however, they are protected as a fur-bearing species.  When Forrest Hornaday moved from his home in North Dakota to the Beaver State, he didn’t expect the Oregon icon would be in his backyard, taking down his cedar trees.

Last month, Hornaday walked into his backyard—which borders South Scappoose Creek—to see that one of his cedar trees had been gnawed down and was laying across his fence. Hornaday called the city to find out what to do about the furry vandals, but got no response. A couple weeks later, after making his morning coffee, Hornaday looked out of his back window to see that another tree had been taken down by local beavers.

Hornaday said he doesn’t want to cause the beavers any harm, he just wants to relocate them. “I’m a hunter, but I’ve never been a trapper. I’d like to see a live catch and I don’t want them hurt.”

“They were here first,” he said.

But, as he’s finding out, getting the aquatic rodents to leave his property is a problem that’s going to gnaw at him for some time.

Rick Swart, public information officer at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said beavers aren’t a protected species, and pest removers usually deal with such issues, but relocation efforts for problem animals aren’t common for ODFW.

“As a general rule we think it’s bad practice to take an animal that’s a problem in one area and relocate it to be a problem somewhere else,” Swart said.

When Hornaday called the city about his concerns, he was told he would hear back from the city promptly. After a week with no response, Hornaday called back and was told to call 9-1-1 for animal control.

Since he didn’t want the beavers harmed, Hornaday then called the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. ODFW provided him with a list of government trappers. Hornaday was still unsatisfied. “This is a city issue,” he said. “If they dam up the creek, it will be a big problem.”

ODFW biologist Don VandeBergh said the primary method for dealing with these situations is to educate the individual and work with the landowner to come up with long-term, non-lethal solutions, such as wrapping the trees in a protective material to keep beavers from chewing them apart.

“We do not come out and remove animals except for in unique circumstances, like research projects,” VandeBergh said. “We have a list of wildlife operators that do that sort of work. They would have to euthanize the beaver and there would be a fee involved.”

State law spells out that beavers found on private property are considered noxious rodents, meaning Hornaday wouldn’t have to provide a permit to remove them.

“These waterways are natural travel lanes for beavers to get food, build dams and escape predators,” VandeBergh said. Beavers relocated to new territories will often cause the same problems as they did in their original location, or be unsuccessful when pitted-up against an existing beaver colony.

“I don’t think that I should have to pay for it,” Hornaday said. Hornaday suspects the beavers are targeting his evergreens, many more of which are scattered throughout his backyard. “[The beavers] have a long way to go before they really upset me,” he said.

“It’s nobody’s fault,” he added. “All I’d like is to have them relocated and it doesn’t sound like there’s a way to do that.”

“I just don’t know what to do,” he said.