Illinois Department of Natural Resources

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Bob Bluett, 217-782-6384

State’s Beavers Have Rebounded From Near Extinction
ILLINOIS BEAVERS CONTRIBUTE TO WETLANDS AND WILDLIFE;
OFTEN ARE TOUGH CUSTOMERS FOR HOMEOWNERS AND FARMERS



SPRINGFIELD, ILL. -- In an amazing reversal of fortune, beaver populations in Illinois have jumped to highs not seen since the wilderness-era of the early 1800s. Due to proper regulation and management by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, beavers have made a big comeback from near extinction.

As a result of this resurgence, beavers are a blessing and a bane. On the good side, Illinois beavers naturally assist in developing critically needed wetlands, which help purify water for people and provide homes for wildlife.

On the other side, talk to a waterfront homeowner who has lost valuable trees, sometimes worth thousands of dollars, to a beaver’s sharp teeth. Ask any farmer whose fields are flooded by the animal’s enthusiastic dam building. Beavers can be a headache.

“As with many of our conservation success stories, the main challenge today is to keep a healthy balance between the needs of people and wildlife,” says Bob Bluett, a wildlife diversity biologist for Illinois DNR. “Regulated trapping is our most effective tool for managing beaver populations.”

At the turn of the 20th century, beavers in Illinois had almost disappeared due to the unregulated fur trade, in which traders, trappers and Native Americans satisfied a European demand for tri-corner and stovetop hats made from beaver felt.

“Before the advent of the Illinois DNR, no agency existed to regulate hunting and trapping of beavers. By the mid-1800s, only a few beavers were left in the state, and by the turn of the century, they were almost impossible to find,” says Bluett. State and federal agencies started reintroduction efforts in the 1920s to turn the situation around.

Today, beavers are located throughout every county in Illinois. They are permanent residents along waterways in metropolitan Chicago. More than 30,000 beavers are estimated in the broad southern Illinois watershed; Bluett says that one-third of those beavers could be harvested by trappers without hurting population longevity.

Beavers have few natural predators in Illinois; trapping is used to keep numbers in check. Still, abundant beavers can cause havoc for humans.

“Beavers can girdle or completely cut down valuable trees in no time flat. For homeowners who do expensive landscaping or have scenic views near waterways, beavers can have devastating effects,” says Bluett. Flooding also can be a problem. Fields, roads, rail lines and septic systems have been flooded as a result of dam building.

Bluett notes, “On the other hand, beavers have done more to create vital wetlands and tame floodwaters than human engineers could ever hope to accomplish.”

During hard rains, water often pools in wetlands that beavers have created. Without these wetlands, communities would experience much more flooding. Beaver dams slow water velocity and control soil erosion, which further stems flash floods. Their wetlands improve water quality by working as water purifiers. Some wetland waters move through the soil to recharge underground aquifers used by communities.

“There definitely are good and bad sides to beaver abundance,” Bluett says. “Trapping allows us to fine tune the situation for humans, without losing broader benefits to water quality, flood prevention and wildlife.”

Bluett notes that people experiencing beaver problems should contact a local trapper if problems occur during the open season from early November through the end of March. People affected by nuisance beavers also can get special permits from their local DNR office to allow removal of beavers regardless of time of year.

“We prefer to see animals captured by licensed trappers during the open season because little goes to waste,” Bluett explains. “However, we recognize the need for action when a serious problem is getting worse.”

Non-lethal methods such as putting fences around trees are sometimes a viable option to stop gnawing beavers. But most problems in Illinois require removal of the offending animals for satisfactory results. Affected citizens need to be vigilant for beaver damage and always act within state regulations.

Bluett notes that sport trappers provide the same services in rural areas that nuisance wildlife control trappers get paid thousands of dollars to do in urban areas.

Bluett explains, “Trappers who have cashed in on their skills by offering wildlife removal services in urban areas often are praised and always paid well, even by people who were against trapping until nuisance wildlife problems showed up in their backyards. When people are affected by wildlife in such a manner, it is easier to understand the beneficial role that trapping plays in wildlife conservation and for society.”

For more information on controlling nuisance beavers, contact Illinois DNR at 217-782-6384. Learn more about beavers by visiting the Fur Hunting and Trapping in Illinois website at dnr.state.il.us/orc/wildlife.

Information on nuisance wildlife control also is available at the Center for Wildlife Damage Management at http://www.wildlifedamage.unl.edu/. Landowners should check state regulations before proceeding; some methods recommended by the Center for Wildlife Management, while legal in some states, are not legal in Illinois.

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