Beaver can cause serious problems in pond dams

Sean HubbardOSU Extension

STILLWATER – Not only do they build their own, but beaver can cause significant structural damage to pond dams.

Dam problems can turn into big problems.

“The typical Oklahoma farm pond dam was built with too narrow of a top and is too steep sided,” said Marley Beem, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension aquaculture specialist. “Such ponds are at high risk of failing when animals burrow into the dam.”

Beaver can cause great amounts of damage by excavating bank burrows, causing internal erosion and threatening the structural integrity.

“Pond owners need to keep a watchful eye out for beaver activity so they can catch any damage early or prevent it,” said OSU Cooperative Extension Wildlife Specialist, Dwayne Elmore. “Look for beaver lodges, slides or the sound of tails slapping the water at night.”

After identifying, it is best to control the beaver before fixing any damage they may have caused. There are a couple options of controlling.

“First, I would recommend calling USDA Wildlife Services to see if they might be able to send out a trapper.” Elmore said. “Beaver are not too difficult to trap if you have a little experience. But, if you miss them in a trap, they are very tough to get, so you need to get them on the first try.”

If Wildlife Services cannot help, pond owners can take matters into their own hands by trapping or night shooting.

“I advise shooting, as the only legal trap a private landowner can use is a leg hold trap in a drowning set, which is a little tricky,” he said. “Night shooting works well but you will need to call the county Conservation Officer and/or sheriff to let them know what you are doing.”

Using a shotgun is preferred and is much safer when shooting at water. Once the pest has been eradicated, repairs to the pond dam can commence.

“If the holes are in the dam, the pond owner needs to be sure property and people are not at risk from a dam failure,” Beem said. “If those risks are present, then the pond owner definitely needs to get the expert advice of the NRCS.”

Smaller holes can be filled with a 90 percent soil/ 10 percent cement mix, while an expert from Natural Resources Conservation Service should handle larger holes.