March 2021 - 36

Beavers are alert creatures who use their large tails to splash in water to warn of potential dangers.
(Photo by Greg Bergquist)


See more kid-friendly content
about beavers in the spring
issue of Wild Times released next
month. Wild Times is a Wyoming
Game and Fish Department quarterly publication for kids, families and educators found online
36 | March 2021	

The biggest benefit of beavers - and their handy
work - is they help store water. Beavers build dams
to create ponds that give them protection from predators, but those ponds provide wetland habitat for
birds, deer, moose, amphibians, fish and other wildlife.
They also replenish groundwater, filter sediment and
excess nutrients from the water and irrigate stream-side
vegetation. Ponds also improve an area's resilience to
wildfires. Stream segments with beaver-created wetlands are less likely to burn and provide crucial habitat
for wildlife following wildfires.
" When a beaver builds a dam it raises the water
table. It raises the level of water underground on
each side of the stream, " Altermatt said. " That's what
enables riparian plants like willows and cottonwoods
to increase. "
Altermatt described a beaver pond as a giant sponge.
Ponds absorb water. You see the water in a beaver pond,
but Altermatt said most of the water being stored is in
the ground between soil particles.

Wyoming typically has spring/early summer runoff
from snow melt, and most of that water goes down a
stream and eventually out of the state. Beaver ponds
help spread water out when flows are high in the
spring and low in late summer. Not only does that
help reduce stream bank erosion, it also can benefit
private landowners.
" From a rancher's standpoint, it provides water for
cows as well as water for irrigation, " Altermatt said.
Over the last two years, Altermatt has relocated 14
beavers to the LU Ranch near Meeteetse. Donny Love
is the manager of the LU Ranch, which is spread across
150,000 acres and includes land along the Gooseberry,
Enos, Grass and Little Grass creek drainages. Love said
Altermatt contacted him about relocating nuisance beavers to the higher stretches of the creeks on the ranch.
" Whenever we lose our beaver population we'd like
to restore them to keep our stream heads healthy, hold
back some flood water and get some sediment out of
the stream, " Love said. " We were more than happy to
accommodate the beavers he brought.
" Any time in this country you can hold water back,
keep it on the land, improve your riparian areas and
raise your water table, those are huge benefits to all
wildlife and the cattle business. "
Altermatt said success rates of relocating beavers has
improved since the 1990s, but it is not 100 percent.
Kevin Spence, Game and Fish habitat biologist in
Green River, said a lot of thought goes into moving
beavers to a new location.
" One thing I've learned is if there are not beavers in
a particular location and historically they were, take a
close look and make sure there is not a habitat variable
keeping them out, " Spence said. " Beavers sometimes
can use up the available woody vegetation in the first
year, and then you're back to square one. If a stream
is not in real good shape, not stable and somewhat
degraded, you can push that into a situation where you
make it worse than it is by putting beavers there. Those
dams can breach and create instability in the stream. "
Biologists also consider if beavers will stimulate
more willow and aspen growth in an area compared
to what they use.
" There is more of an art than a science to that, "
Spence said.

Altermatt said one thing that would help in Game
and Fish's work with beaver relocations is a permanent facility to keep beavers until they can be put
in a new area.
" The trailer works but, by itself, it is not ideal, "
he said. " With the trailer you are limited to trapping
one family at a time. Beavers are very territorial. You
can't catch a beaver from one family, put it in the
trailer and then catch a beaver from a different family

March 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of March 2021

From the Director
In this issue
A couple pennies
Opening shot
Ask Game and Fish
Project profiles
Case files
In the field
Tracking the rarest carnivores
Seeking the slam
A family matter
Getting kids outside
Wild country dispatch
March 2021 - Cover
March 2021 - From the Director
March 2021 - In this issue
March 2021 - A couple pennies
March 2021 - Mailbag
March 2021 - Opening shot
March 2021 - 7
March 2021 - News
March 2021 - 9
March 2021 - 10
March 2021 - 11
March 2021 - Ask Game and Fish
March 2021 - Project profiles
March 2021 - Case files
March 2021 - 15
March 2021 - In the field
March 2021 - 17
March 2021 - Tracking the rarest carnivores
March 2021 - 19
March 2021 - 20
March 2021 - 21
March 2021 - 22
March 2021 - 23
March 2021 - 24
March 2021 - 25
March 2021 - Seeking the slam
March 2021 - 27
March 2021 - 28
March 2021 - 29
March 2021 - 30
March 2021 - 31
March 2021 - A family matter
March 2021 - 33
March 2021 - 34
March 2021 - 35
March 2021 - 36
March 2021 - 37
March 2021 - Getting kids outside
March 2021 - 39
March 2021 - 40
March 2021 - 41
March 2021 - 42
March 2021 - 43
March 2021 - 44
March 2021 - 45
March 2021 - Wild country dispatch
March 2021 - 47
March 2021 - Backpage