Kitsap County road crews battling persistent beaver

KITSAP COUNTY, Wash. -- He builds it. They tear it down. He rebuilds it. They tear it down again. That back-and-forth defines the battle being waged between county road crews and a very determined beaver.

"They're workers, you know. They're busy all the time, I appreciate that about the animals," said Kitsap County Roads Superintendent Jacques Dean. "But at some point what they're doing is compromising public safety, and we can't let that happen."

Dean says his crews have had to dismantle a beaver dam beneath a bridge on Long View Road three times since August. Each time, the beaver returns to the same spot and starts over. At one point the dam was 40-feet long and 3-feet tall.

"It's costing us a lot of time to keep sending our people out to haul away all the wood, brush and mud," Dean said. "We've decided we need to catch the animal."

Kitsap County will spend $15,000 to contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the end of the year to trap the beaver Long Lake Road beaver and to deal with beaver problems in other areas.

In the long run, that investment is expected to save the county money in repair work and -- potentially -- accidents.

Higher pressure water flowing downstream of the dam is undermining an abutment that supports the bridge. The structure is not at risk of failure, by any means, but eventually repairs may be necessary.

Water also caused damage beneath the road surface, which required repair work in the past.

"We're not in it necessarily to harm the beavers. We're in it to protect our infrastructure, the taxpayers' money and private property," said Dean.

Water backing up from beaver dams can flood roadways, leading to hazardous driving conditions. In extreme cases, a large beaver dam can fail, allowing the sometimes large body of water formed upstream of the dam to act as a flash flood.

Beneath the Long Lake Road bridge, a large metal beaver trap can be seen along the river bank. The usual practice is to euthanize nuisance beavers.

The Dept. of Agriculture says beavers often don't survive relocation. They also have litters that can travel long distances to resettle areas.

Considered the world's second largest rodent (after the capybara), beavers can easily weigh between 50--60 lbs., stay under water for as long as 15 minutes, and live nearly 25 years in the wild.