Author(s): Morgan Krueger, Reed Ojala-Barbour, Keith Douville, Julie Tyson, Rachel Blomker, and Max Lambert
Beavers modify landscape morphology and hydrology, thereby creating habitat for diverse species, enabling many ecological processes, and promoting climate change resiliency. Beavers are now rebounding from near extirpation in North America and increasing beaver populations can facilitate restoration goals given beavers’ roles as ecosystem engineers. This is especially relevant in the Chehalis Basin in western Washington where beaver is a focal species in the Aquatic Species Restoration Plan (ASRP) which aims to protect and restore critical aquatic habitat. Although beaver can be valuable for restoration, they can also cause conflict with people by damaging trees, flooding roads, etc. Given potential conflict and the role of beaver in restoration, we surveyed landowner perceptions of beaver and collated data on the status of beaver in the Basin. Our landowner survey provides information to begin assessing the Chehalis Basin community’s understanding of and desires for beaver. Our study explicitly explored whether negative attitudes towards beaver are positively correlated with an individual’s reported conflict with beaver. Notably, we found that landowners experiencing conflict with beaver were more likely to agree with lethal control of beaver and disagree with maintaining beaver-created habitat than landowners not experiencing conflict. This survey’s results underscores how proactively addressing human-beaver conflict in the Basin is crucial for avoiding increasing negative attitudes towards beaver and beaver-related restoration. Our survey supports a need for outreach and education on beaver conflict mitigation, particularly related to unwanted tree removal. We also present trends data on recreational beaver trapping in the region and areas of reported beaver conflict. Although robust beaver population data are lacking, we provide a compilation of known beaver occurrences as a baseline for beaver activity, especially near restoration priorities. These beaver status data, in conjunction with our landowner survey data, provide a comprehensive picture of the state of beaver, beaver conflict, and beaver restoration in the Chehalis Basin. Our findings can help guide restoration practitioners in the Chehalis Basin to best capitalize on beaver’s habitat restoration potential while mitigating conflict now and into the future.