Beavers at work in Glenwood Canyon | AspenTimes.com

Beavers at work in Glenwood Canyon

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Trees on the canyon bike path below the No Name rest area show damage from beavers despite precautions to protect the trees. (Chad Spangler/Post Independent)
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Don Poole is doing everything he can to stop beavers from destroying trees along the Glenwood Canyon recreation path.

“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.

About 14 trees ” 20- to 30-foot cottonwood and box elder ” near the No Name and Grizzly Creek rest areas along the path have been chewed down by beavers, said Poole, a junior maintenance foreman with the Colorado Department 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 seems.

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

Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton said the beavers haven’t caused any 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, CDOT has an available federal trapper to come in and relocate some of the problem beavers, Poole said, but he doubts 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 them down.

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

Beavers do help the canyon by taking down some trees in dense areas that need to be thinned, Poole said.

“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.

“The damage isn’t that extensive,” Poole 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.

The beaver dams along Grizzly Creek and No Name Creek tributaries save sediment from traveling farther downstream, Poole said. 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 “backwater 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 firsthand.

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

But Poole will just continue to wrap the trees with mesh and hope for the best.

“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.”


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