Northeast Tarrant

August 13, 2014

Beavers trapped, relocated from Keller neighborhood

The situation is another in a long list of examples on the impact of growth in D/FW on wildlife habitats.

Make it homeowners 1, beavers 0.

The beavers had dammed up a creek in the northwest Keller subdivision of Marshall Ridge, and for about six months, when it has rained, the creek overflows into yards and sidewalks.

So a manager of the development, whose website promotes wildlife, saying Marshall Ridge is home to a “number of animals native to the area,” contacted Plano-based A Wildlife Pro DFW to trap and move the beavers to a human-free environment.

Association President Brittainy Fink said beavers were living in the area when she moved into Marshall Ridge in 2008. Those beavers were caught and moved, but none had been seen on the property until this year.

“We’re looking at ways to help deal with the population while keeping them safe but also protecting our residents’ yards, Fink said. “It would make a lot of people mad to clear out the trees or the creek, and we’re doing whatever we can to avoid destroying these animals’ homes while also maintaining ours.”

One 8-month-old beaver has been trapped during the current relocation effort.

Matt Evans, owner of A Wildlife Pro, said the beavers will be moved to a human-free habitat about 15 or 20 miles away.

Evans said the beaver dams — a mix of mud, wood and reeds — forced the creek to overflow and pushed new waterways into areas, such as back yards, not designed for flowing water. As a result, homeowners found overwatered flower beds and yards that were too soggy to mow, said Lora Compton, senior community manager in Marshall Ridge, a growing community of more than 660 upscale homes.

Evans said it was important to take care of the problem now.

“Beavers like to pool up the water so they have a territory. They like the flowing of fresh water,” Evans said. “The beavers could eventually encroach onto the walking path and into human areas looking for food and soft woods.”

Growth vs. wildlife

He said that it is not uncommon for wildlife habitats to be affected by growth and that he gets calls to relocate beavers about every two or three months.

More often, wildlife such as coyotes, bobcats and raccoons are displaced when developers plant subdivisions in areas that have long been reserved for wildlife. It’s a problem that has persisted for more than 20 years as Dallas-Fort Worth has stretched far beyond its urban centers.

In Tarrant County, where the growth has been most prolific in areas such as north Fort Worth and Mansfield, the population has skyrocketed from 1.17 million in 1990 to 1.88 million in 2014. Keller, once a farming community, has grown 25 percent during that time, from 33,754 to 42,040, according to the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

“Anytime you have human developments or subdivisions you're going to get a loss of wildlife habitation,” said Philip Dickerson, a biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “It's always going to be in varying degrees but the best you can do is make it as eco-friendly as possible to minimize wildlife losses.”

‘Animals have feelings’

Fink said she checks the traps twice a day. Beavers typically work more at night and once they are captured, Evans will move the animal the next morning.

“The traps you want to use for them are big enough for a person to fit in,” Evans said. “You have to have some room for them to move around and fit comfortably so they’re not struggling as hard to get out and hurt themselves.”

Prudi Koeninger, president of DFW Wildlife Coalition, a nonprofit whose mission “is to reduce … the incidence of orphaned or euthanized native wildlife” in DFW, said capturing and moving isn’t always the best option for beavers.

“Most of the time you don’t get the whole family, so they’re separated,” Koeninger said. “Beavers become independent at age 2, and before that the whole family takes care of the babies. Animals have feelings, family and commitments just as humans do, and there’s emotion if they lose a member of that family.”

Koeninger said one option for coexisting with beavers is to create a “beaver deceiver,” a device that uses PVC pipes to route water underneath dams in whatever direction the community needs.

“What beavers respond to is the trickling of water,” she said. “If you create a pathway underneath where there’s no trickling, you can get it flowing the way you want and the beaver will have no reason to keep working on the dam.”

Some wildlife companies also offer a kind of color-matching “tree paint” mixed with sand that deters beavers from eating the bark and prevents trees being torn down.

‘Learned to live amongst us’

Koeninger said beavers are found across North Texas and are often unnecessarily uprooted from their homes.

“Unfortunately man hasn’t always learned how to coexist with wildlife, but the wildlife has,” she said. “They’ve learned to live amongst us, flourishing and changing the way they do business so they can live with us.”

She said developers often look for rich, green areas with water nearby to attract residents, but those same areas are going to be filled with wildlife. New home construction often disrupts their habitats, forcing occupants — such as bobcats and coyotes — to find new sources of food.

“When it comes to common animals like beavers, coyotes and bobcats, especially in North Texas, people are quick to be afraid of them,” she said. “We feel like we need to destroy them when in reality these animals are usually just looking for food when we see them. They eat animals like rodents and smaller things most people are annoyed by, so we should be thankful.”

In some instances, wild animals have been known to roam neighborhood streets, occasionally taking in a family pet for a meal. That happened last year in Mansfield, which had to call in wildlife expert to trap and euthanize coyotes. In fast-growing Frisco, north of Dallas, bobcats have been a problem.

‘We are the intruders’

Evans said that developing communities should consider all options when dealing with wildlife.

“These animals do great things for the environment and the community, and tearing down their ecosystem ends up causing a void,” he said. “Nature sees that void and tries to fill it again with more animals who will try to rebuild. Animals aren’t ever going to go away and it’s silly to think that.”

Keller Mayor Mark Mathews said the city encourages residents to communicate with animal control officers and developers to find a way to live with the area’s wildlife.

“I think with any growth we are looking at finding a way to balance the wildlife in communities with that in our parks and recreation areas,” he said. “The city is here for the residents who have concerns or want to know what to do, and we always try to find the most effective way. In the end, though, it’s usually the developers who are deciding how to build the community and that can sometimes stray from the city’s views.”

Evans said it’s important to remember that the animals were here first.

“We are the intruders. It’s important to make small moves to get them caught and relocated, but don’t do anything drastic with the ecosystem,” Evans said. “Don’t panic over spotting wildlife and just keep reporting to local animal services to take care of it.”

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

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