Beaver relocation expands west of the Cascades

For the fourth year, the Tulalip Tribes’ wildlife program plans to capture beaver in the Snohomish lowlands this summer and relocate them to the upper Skykomish watershed. So far, they have moved about 100 beavers to 13 sites on public land.

The project removes nuisance beaver from private property where they can cause flooding. Away from human development, beaver dams can improve salmon habitat significantly by impounding water. Beaver ponds have been found to increase salmon smolt production 80 times more than placing large woody material in streams, said Mike Sevigny, wildlife manager for the Tulalip Tribes.

The Tulalip Tribes have been able to relocate the beaver because of tribal sovereignty, but until recently it was illegal for other agencies to relocate beaver on the west side of the Cascade Mountains.

That meant that any nuisance beaver trapped on the west side of the state had to be euthanized or transported over the mountains. In 2015, about 2,400 beaver were lethally removed on the west side of the Cascades. Meanwhile, in the Methow Valley, 300 beaver have been relocated over the past 10 years, impounding an estimated 45 million gallons of water, Sevigny said.

“If we had taken a portion of the euthanized beavers and moved them into areas they can’t get to now due to habitat fragmentation, roads and other urban development – just imagine what 10 percent of those beavers could do for water storage and the creation of salmon rearing habitat,” Sevigny said.

Sevigny recently testified before the state Senate Natural Resources and Parks Committee to urge them to revise the law to allow relocation on the west side of the Cascades. The law was passed and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee in April. It goes into effect July 27.

Click to read more about the beaver relocation program.