Protecting Oregon’s beavers and salmon from Wildlife Services

Protecting Oregon’s beavers–and salmon–from Wildlife Services

It may sound strange, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services regularly kills Oregon’s official state animal–beavers—with traps, snares, and firearms. In Oregon, beavers on private lands can be killed in unlimited quantities, at any time of year, with no reporting to the state. Adding to this atrocity, no actual damage from a beaver needs to occur–beavers can just be killed, no questions asked.

The reason beavers can be so casually eliminated from the landscape is because they are classified as a “predatory animal” in Oregon. The predatory animal designation for beaver prevents the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife from enacting any restrictions on, or even tracking, beaver killings on private land in Oregon. That means our communities don’t know what lands are more resistant or vulnerable to wildfire because of beaver habitat, or where private land beaver killings might be harming important public resources such as Oregon’s invaluable salmon runs.

Numerous studies show beavers benefit endangered salmon and steelhead by creating ponds that provide fish with natural cover and food. Despite these well-established ecological benefits, Wildlife Services killed more than 400 beavers in Oregon in 2016, even in areas where endangered aquatic wildlife are known to rely on beaver ponds for survival. Beavers and their habitat provide significant economic, social, and ecological benefits to Oregonians. Beavers and their dams enhance fire resiliency, clean the water, improve water security, mitigate effects of drought, and create healthy salmon habitat.

Our team is working with Oregon legislators to change the law so that beavers no longer bear that outdated classification. The result of this change would be to create an environment where beavers can be better protected and accounted for, and to encourage their presence on the landscape which would improve Oregon’s resilience to wildfire, water security, and overall ecological health.

If the predatory animal designation can be removed from beavers in Oregon, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife could begin to manage beavers on private land as it does other animals including deer and fish. It would also prompt the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to establish a permitting system for beaver management on private land and require landowners to report the number of beavers killed.

It’s time to end open season on Wildlife Services’ killing Oregon’s state animal—the beaver. This “wild west” approach to animal management doesn’t pass muster when you’re likely harming endangered species. Our legal action prompted a pause on beaver killing from 2017-2020, and a biological opinion from the National Marine Fisheries Service that unfortunately allows business as usual to resume.

We will continue our work to hold Wildlife Services accountable for harming threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead, for which a healthy beaver population is essential.

It’s time beavers get the safeguards they deserve. Together with your support, we can ensure these important animals are protected.

Photo: Mark Giuliucci
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