BUTTE - Pesky, problematic beavers in Anaconda’s Warm Springs Creek have prompted the county to take action.
Enter the “beaver deceiver.”
The project allows the persistent critters to have their dams – but a system of pipes keeps the water flowing beneath, thus maintaining a pool for wintering bull trout, a threatened species, according to the government.
A deep pool of water is important winter habitat for trout, said Fish, Wildlife and Parks fish biologist Jason Lindstrom.
The beaver deceiver also ensures water level control, and the beavers get to stay.
A dam they built across the creek adjacent to Washoe Park Road earlier this year resulted in a flooded walking trail and utility pole. Something had to be done. In many cases, removing beavers doesn't work, said Carl Nyman, county Superfund coordinator. They just come back.
So, the county opted for another plan – the beaver deceiver. The idea is to create a form of detente between wildlife and humans, Nyman said.
Nyman said the beaver deceiver is relatively inexpensive – around $1,500.
The work also included tree removal and installing fencing around still healthy trees to maintain bank stability by preventing beavers from chewing on them.
Amy Chadwick, an ecologist and contractor working on the project, called this particular beaver deceiver “creative.”
“It’s pushing the boundary on the technique big time,” Chadwick said recently, standing on the creek’s bank.
The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks OK’d the work.
Lindstrom said fish evolved with beavers, so fish are adept at getting around beaver dams. But the pipes keep the deep pool of water at an “acceptable level,” said Lindstrom. A piece of fencing on the upstream end of the pipes prevents the beavers from plugging them.
Farther east up Warm Springs Creek at the county-owned Old Works Golf Course, the beavers also have been busy. But their future there wasn’t so rosy.
Warm Springs Creek runs around and through the course. Last year about 10 beavers built a 100-foot long dam near the 17th hole. The beavers and dam were removed, costing Old Works about $10,000, Nyman said.
With the potential to cause significant damage – the golf course is part of a sophisticated Superfund cap – officials chose removal as the best remedy. Workers also removed additional brush around the course that might invite the beavers back.
The Jack Nicklaus-designed course acts as a cap over both waste left in place, as well as a complex system of underground pipes designed to keep contaminated water out of the creek.
A beaver deceiver wasn’t an option at the course because it would not remove the water stored behind a dam. If such a dam breached, a high flowing rush of water could potentially cause problems to the Superfund cleanup site.
Since the removal, workers have spotted beavers swimming in the creek at the course, Nyman said. But they haven’t set up shop.
So for now, workers are keeping an eye out for the critters.