SNOWMASS VILLAGE " Pitkin County is calling in a ringer to help solve the beaver problem along Brush Creek near the town of Snowmass Village.
Beavers are cutting off water flowing to a historic agricultural ditch running through some 232 acres of county open space along Brush Creek.
For years, and still in many parts of the state, the solution to beaver problems was violent: either killing off beavers or destroying their dams.
But county officials said they're are looking for better, long-term solutions.
Enter Skip Lisle, owner of Beaver Deceivers International based in Grafton, Vt.
Lisle, who has a masters in wildlife management, has been "deceiving beavers" for years and recently was featured on "Animal Planet" for his non-lethal strategies for human/beaver coexistence.
For a fee of about $1,000, county officials have contracted with Lisle for two presentations March 25, first to a joint meeting of the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners and the Open Space and Trails board at 11 a.m., then in the evening for a public event sponsored by the Roaring Fork Conservancy at 7 p.m. at the Eagle County Community building in El Jebel.
Lisle will present a slide show about beaver habitat and hold a discussion alongside Sherri Tippie from Denver-based Wildlife 2000.
"Beavers are trying to restore these sites to their natural condition," Lisle said by phone from his Vermont home Friday. "Losing beavers is damaging to ecosystems."
The commonly-used quick fixes such as hunting and trapping the animals or destroying beavers dams are not only expensive, but bad for local ecology and don't last, Lisle said.
"If you remove some of the beavers, it's just a temporary solution," Lisle said. "The only way to protect a given property is not just to remove some of the beavers, you've got to get them all."
Beavers, however, are native to the U.S. and an important part of the ecosystem, creating vital wetlands, Lisle said.
The trick " and the goal of county officials " is to protect the beavers and their created wetlands as well as keep water flowing to agricultural ditches.
That's where "beaver deceiving" comes in, Lisle said.
Beavers are "hard-wired" to react and dam up any flowing water, whether in a narrow culvert or an open field, Lisle said.
He installs what he called a "flow device," which essentially sneaks water around beaver dams.
In narrow culverts, a common spot for human/beaver confrontation, Lisle installs a fencing system that keeps beavers away from the flowing water.
In open fields, such as the area along Brush Creek, Lisle installs a pipe system that draws water from far upstream of a beaver dam and releases the water below, essentially fooling the beavers and limiting their dam building.
Lisle said it's not that beavers aren't smart, just that they don't have a "broad enough view of the world" to look for the upstream pipe.
"They have a phenomenal form of intelligence all their own but it doesn't involve a lot of deductive reasoning," Lisle said.
Beavers are programmed to look for leaks at the dam site only, Lisle said, and never think to look for the pipe upstream.
That's why the system works, and why beavers are so easily deceived, Lisle said.
Lisle said the expense of any flow device varies with every site, but Lisle said costs range from $1,000 to $5,000 for a basic flow device.
Once installed, the pipe and filter would require little maintenance and lasts for decades, Lisle said.
Gary Tennenbaum, land steward for Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, said it was the Brush Creek beaver battle that has raised the issue, but that Lisle could help with other areas in a valley as well.
"If we could find a solution that works, it could be precedent-setting," Tennenbaum said. "We're just trying to find a way for [neighboring ranchers] to get their water and to allow the beavers to live."