Farmer troubles with beaver dams

Beaver Dam safety

FRANKLIN COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - Farmers near wetlands say beaver dams have been a problem forever. In fact, a man died recently in Washington County, Missouri while trying to clear a beaver dam by hand, according to the county sheriff.

Farmers like Jim Hood in Franklin County, Illinois think the large rodents are nothing but a nuisance.

“I would be better off without them. They cost me thousands and thousands of dollars,” he said.

Wildlife Biologists like Kenneth Delehunt with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources hear complaints about them often.

“They are important components of wetland ecosystems, but it’s known they can cause severe problems in certain situations,” Delehunt said.

Those situations all come from the way beaver dams affect waterways. Delehunt said when they build dams, it slows the water flow, allowing water to rise. This builds up pressure and can completely wash away pathways and flood roads.

For the farmer, Hood said these problems are detrimental to crop yield. The overflowing water ways can flood fields making it impossible to take heavy farm equipment on them, break levees and do the same things, or blow out levees on rivers and fill fields with large debris.

On top of that, Hood said beavers will also steal grains like corn and soybeans to store for food.

Hood said he and his employees have to clear the dams out year round. He and Delehunt say it’s dangerous work.

“If you’re trying to do something like that,” Delehunt said, “probably be safe to have somebody else out there with you.”

Hood said he always has his guys work in pairs for this reason.

However, Hood said there’s a big problem with keeping the waterways on his property clear.

“If you start taking out their dams, they go to work,” he said, “they’re little engineers. If we tear that out right now, it’ll be built back in 24 hours. They work relentlessly.”

So while they are a native species, and belong in the Heartland, Delehunt said if you have a problem with them you can get rid of them. Either by yourself after getting a nuisance permit or by hiring a trapper.

Still, Hood said he’s been doing a lot of extra work dealing with beaver dams for a long time, and doesn’t know if even eliminating some of the beavers on his land would work.

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