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Individual Highlight

Landscape-scale Effects of Beaver Removal on a Managed Forest

Photo of North American beaver dam on trout stream in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Sue Reinicke, USDA Forest ServiceNorth American beaver dam on trout stream in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Sue Reinicke, USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : Beavers and their dams have been removed from Class I and II trout streams within Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest since the late 1980s to restore stream channel integrity and improve trout habitat. A Forest Service scientist and partners evaluated the effectiveness of reducing beaver numbers on managed streams by comparing trends in beaver colony counts using fall flight colony location data from 1987-2013. Although beaver populations declined only on managed streams on the west side of the forest, managed and non-managed streams on the east side of the forest also had declining beaver populations, indicating a system change occurred.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Donner, Deahn 
Research Location : Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Wisconsin
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2014
Highlight ID : 649

Summary

North American beavers are ecosystem engineers in northern forested habitats. Impoundments from beaver dams can severely alter stream channel integrity, affecting trout productivity in low-gradient trout streams. To restore coldwater habitat, beavers and their dams have been removed from Class I and II trout streams within the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in northern Wisconsin since the late 1980s. To understand the effectiveness of reducing beaver numbers, a Forest Service scientist and partners compared trends in beaver colony counts using fall flight colony location monitoring data from 1987 to 2013. Although beaver populations declined only on managed streams on the west side of the forest, managed and non-managed streams had declining beaver populations on the east side of the forest, indicating that a system change occurred in this area. Aspen stayed relatively similar through the same time period, so the decline is not believed to be related to decreased food availability. Results show the importance of long-term monitoring data to detect and interpret trends in management programs across large spatial and long temporal scales.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Sue Reinecke, Dan Eklund, and Dale Higgins, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest
  • Bob Willging, Kelly Thiel, and Dave Ruid - USDA Wildlife Services
  • Christine A. Ribic and Albert J. Beck, US Geological Survey
  • Wisconsin Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of WI-Madison, WI
  • Wisconsin DNR Fisheries Management