Beavers are busy in Glenwood Canyon

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Chad Spangler Post Independent

NO NAME, Colorado ” Don Poole is doing all that he can to stop beavers from destroying trees along the Glenwood Canyon recreation path. However, it’s not that much of a concern for him just yet.

“We try to save as many trees as we can,” Poole said. “It wasn’t really a problem until late last summer, right before we closed the bike path. This is probably the most action we’ve seen out there since the bike path opened.”

That’s when the trees began to fall.

Since then, about 14, 20- to 30-foot cottonwood and box elder trees near the No Name and Grizzly Creek rest areas along the path have been chewed down by beavers, according to Poole, a junior maintenance foreman with the Colorado Division of Transportation.

“They aren’t doing it just to be spiteful,” Poole said. “They are doing it because it’s a source of food and they use the trees to build their homes and dams.”

In the “big picture” of things, Poole said the “situation” isn’t as bad as it may seem.

“Mostly they’re hitting smaller trees,” he said. “There have only been very few of the larger trees.”

According to Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton, the beavers haven’t done anything that is cause for alarm.

“We are aware of the situation, but it’s not to a point that we’ve been asked to come in and help out,” Hampton said.

If the situation gets worse, Poole said, CDOT has an available federal trapper they can utilize to come in and relocate some of the problem beavers. But Poole doubts that it will come to that.

“The beavers were here long before we were,” Poole said. “We have to live with them.”

Poole said that his crew has done pretty much all they can to save the trees by wrapping many along the path with a durable wire mesh that prevents the beavers from chewing down the trees. It’s an inexpensive way to alleviate the problem before it gets worse.

“If we get the tree wrapped they can’t get to them,” Poole said. “They won’t stay where they can’t get food and if they can’t get to the trees, they will move on.”

In certain ways, however, the beavers help Poole by taking down some trees in dense areas that need to be “thinned,” he said. Areas such as near Grizzly Creek rest area where Poole has to remove some of the overgrowth.

“We’ve had so many box elders and cottonwoods come up there, we’ve got to trim them up and remove some of the small undergrowth,” Poole said. “The beavers have probably gotten some of the smaller trees out of there already.”

The trees that have been knocked down were all natural growth and nothing that was planted by CDOT. And there are still enough growing that Poole sees no need to replant.

“The damage isn’t that extensive,” He said.

But he understands how some people could see it as a bigger problem than it really is.

“A lot of people dislike them for chewing down the trees, but as far as I’m concerned they are probably the world’s greatest soil conservationists alive,” Poole said.

With the beavers damming along Grizzly Creek and No Name Creek tributaries, it saves a lot of the sediment from traveling farther downstream, according to Poole. And it also spreads the water out to saturate more area, creating more vegetation for wildlife.

“It acts as a natural irrigation on the ground below the dam, in areas that may not have gotten water before,” Poole said.

Hampton agreed, saying that the beavers provide “back water benefits,” that some ranchers even appreciate. But if their handy work does get to be a problem for ranchers, they have the ability to deal with the situation first hand.

“In other cases where beavers can create other issues of flooding, land owners can deal with them appropriately,” Hampton said.

But Poole will just continue to wrap the trees with mesh and hope for the best. If he loses a few more trees, he probably won’t lose much sleep over it.

“It’s just one of those natural things you have to live with,” Poole said. “They were probably here hundreds of years ago, we just have to learn to live with them.”

Contact John Gardner: 384-9114

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