Human and wildlife activity often overlap, which can often lead to problems for the former. The Jim Creek Naval station is in the foothills of the Cascades, where it communicates with the Pacific submarine fleet. With the station being situated deep in the woods, situations involving wildlife are bound to happen. One of these situations occurred this past summer, where areas near the station became flooded due to an increased amount by beaver dams being built at the upper and lower parts of Twin Lakes in Arlington. Parking lots and boating ramp areas were soon overflowed, which the Navy quickly acted upon by partnering with the Tulalip Tribe and Beavers Northwest to relocate these new residents.
In October, to prepare for heavy rains and prevent additional flooding, Navy environmental staff collaborated with biologists from the Tulalip Tribe to carefully trap and relocate the beavers to another place where they can build dams that will create new wetland areas instead of causing damage. “This is the first time something like this has happened to us,” said Everett Naval Stations Public Affairs representative Kristin Ching. While beaver dams causing damage is nothing new, the amount of damage this flood has caused is unusual. Dylan Collins, who is an assistant wildlife biologist with the Tulalip Tribes said, “Beavers usually live in family groups and fluctuate in size, however with this group we’ve estimated that around 40 members are living there in multiple family groups.”
The collaboration is part of a program called the Tulalip Beaver Project that works to relocate beavers from areas where they are considered a nuisance to areas where their instinctive building is beneficial to increase fish habitat, improve freshwater quality, and open dense woodland for more diverse plant and animal life to prosper. Beaver dams contribute to ecosystems that are habitat for spawning fish, such as salmon, grazing animals, migrating birds, and other wildlife. Beavers Northwest is a non-profit organization based out of Seattle, that aims to increase acceptance and understanding of beavers to support healthier and more resilient ecosystems. The organization has worked closely with the Tulalip Tribe in the past, where both parties’ strategies the most effective methods of relocating beavers. Executive Director of Beavers Northwest, Elyssa Kerr stated “Relocation is obviously the main solution to most of these problems, but we also want education about these animals to be a part of that. We want to be able to find a balance between beavers and civilization, allowing us to all co-exist.”
While the Navy and Beaver Northwest are partners in this project, the Tulalip Tribe handles the relocation process, and monitors the population as well. Collaboration between the three groups revolves around mapping, locating, and capturing this population of beavers. Flow devices, which are installed by Beavers Northwest are a modification done to the dam and are commonly referred to as “Beaver Deceivers.” The way this modification works is by lowering the water level behind the dam, by using a hidden tube that is put through the dam and barricaded by a cage so that it isn’t plugged by any other the local beavers. Various other non-lethal traps are used by the three groups, ranging from simple bait cages and tree wrapping to Hancock traps that capture an unsuspecting beaver in a net. According to Collins, “We usually trap the area for about two weeks and alternate in different areas.”
“Once we capture the beavers, we end up housing them for a little while at the Stillaguamish Salmon Hatchery where we feed and monitor their health,” said Collins. “We end up providing them with fresh natural food that they would find in the wild, as well as a pool area to swim.” The next plan of action for the team after capturing the beavers is to relocate them to an area where they will cause less destruction. “The upper Stillaguamish Watershed is where we recently released five of the Jim Creek beavers and is very remote with no other beaver populations in the area,” said Collins. Making sure other beaver populations are not present in the new location, as well as releasing complete family groups are two other steps the tribe takes to insure a successful relocation.
Naval Station Everett’s Natural Resources Management Program supports many restoration and environmental management projects such as invasive plant control, marine mammal monitoring, fish and wildlife studies, habitat restoration, and forestry management. “Engagement is key to effective natural resources management,” said Alicia Higgs, Natural Resources Manager for Naval Station Everett. “We will continue to cooperate with local agencies, regulators, and tribes to plan and implement environmental compliance and conservation strategies as part of the Navy’s stewardship responsibilities for these valuable public resources.”
To find out more information about the Tulalip Beaver Project visit https://nr.tulaliptribes.com/Programs/Wildlife/Beaver