- Overview -
The American Beaver (Castor canadensis) is a native wildlife species that live throughout Mecklenburg County. They are mostly active from dusk to dawn and are found near many of the creeks, ponds, rivers and lakes within the county. Due to their nocturnal nature, it is far more common to see signs of beaver activity than it is to see active beavers. Lodges, dams, debarked trees, gnawed stumps, and beaver created ponds and wetlands all provide very visible proof that active beavers can by found nearby.
While these products of beaver activity are commonly observed, that was not the case some 20 years ago. Beavers had been completely killed off in North Carolina by the late 1800’s, largely due to over-trapping to meet the high demand for pelts. After an absence of nearly half a century, the first of several re-introductions into the state began in the 1930’s. It took more than another half a century until beavers returned to Mecklenburg County with the first reports coming in the early 1990’s. Beavers can now be found throughout all of Mecklenburg County and North Carolina.
Beavers feed exclusively on vegetation. The majority of their diet is composed of the inner bark, twigs and leaves of woody plants, including numerous species of trees and shrubs. They also feed on aquatic plants. Unlike the majority of our wildlife, beavers have the ability to manipulate the landscape. This often occurs in the form of dam and lodge construction that can often back up creeks and tributaries and create wetlands and ponds in areas where they hadn’t previously occurred.
- Damage and Removal -
Occasionally, beavers living in close proximity to people can create potential hazards and cause conflicts between wildlife and local residents. The damming of culverts or portions of creeks and tributaries may cause flooding in residential and agricultural areas. As beaver feed on tree bark, the trees can often be girdled and killed. When adjacent to homes or active recreational areas, these dead trees can become dangerous hazards.
In situations like these, beavers may need to be removed. This should always be accomplished through a licensed trapper or wildlife damage control agent. Links to lists of trappers and agents are located below.
- Benefits -
While negative impacts from beaver activity can sometimes occur, beaver created wetlands and ponds can also be beneficial and are very important to wildlife. Forested areas that have been flooded due to beaver activity may eventually have large standing dead trees, which may become suitable sites for nest construction by uncommon nesting species such as Great Blue Herons. Red-headed Woodpeckers can also be found excavating cavities for nest sites in these standing dead trees. Wood ducks and other species of waterfowl can often be found in these habitats, as well as many other species of wildlife, including various birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects and other mammals.
County residents can benefit from these beaver created wetlands as well. These areas can hold floodwaters and limit the erosion of creek banks. They can also filter out excessive nutrients and pollutants and improve water quality in our creeks, streams and rivers.
- Links -
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Fact and Activity sheet
N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission
Contact a licensed trapper
Contact a private Wildlife Damage Control agent