OPEN PloS one | 13 Jan 2017
CA Ribic, DM Donner, AJ Beck, DJ Rugg, S Reinecke and D Eklund
The North American beaver (Castor canadensis) is a managed species in the United States. In northern Wisconsin, as part of the state-wide beaver management program, the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest removes beavers from targeted trout streams on U.S. Forest Service lands. However, the success of this management program has not been evaluated. Targeted removals comprise only 3% of the annual beaver harvest, a level of effort that may not affect the beaver population. We used colony location data along Forest streams from 1987-2013 (Nicolet, northeast Wisconsin) and 1997-2013 (Chequamegon, northwest Wisconsin) to assess trends in beaver colony density on targeted trout streams compared to non-targeted streams. On the Chequamegon, colony density on non-targeted trout and non-trout streams did not change over time, while colony density on targeted trout streams declined and then stabilized. On the Nicolet, beaver colony density decreased on both non-targeted streams and targeted trout streams. However, colony density on targeted trout streams declined faster. The impact of targeted trapping was similar across the two sides of the Forest (60% reduction relative to non-targeted trout streams). Exploratory analyses of weather influences found that very dry conditions and severe winters were associated with transient reductions in beaver colony density on non-targeted streams on both sides of the Forest. Our findings may help land management agencies weigh more finely calibrated beaver control measures against continued large-scale removal programs.
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