When Gum Branch resident Jim Woodard saw water wash over the section of Ga. Highway 196 that runs by his house, he knew the beavers that inhabit the area were up to no good. As it turns out, the water-loving creatures dammed up a canal in the area, spurring a small flood.
Woodard, who owns 170 acres crisscrossed by several roads, said he knew the fast-working beavers soon would create more floods and blocked roads.
“You can tear it out late in the evening and it will be back up by the next morning,” Woodard said of the dams the beavers build. “They are the hardest-working animal I know of.”
Since 2007, Woodard and his three sons, who also live on the property, have gone to great lengths to keep the beavers from building “homes” in the county-built canal that runs through their land. Because of his efforts to protect his property, the county has granted Woodard a contract so he also can work on the government canal that runs through his own backyard. Woodard does not get paid for his services.
“They say it used to wash over 196,” Woodard said of the overflowing canals. “The first year I started (working on this) there were dams everywhere … it helps them (the county), but I’m doing it because it helps me.”
The large dams the beavers build often block water flow in rivers, streams, canals and creeks, creating flooding and drainage issues. Entire roads in the Gum Branch area previously have been washed out and restored due to the dams.
While watching a nature show, Woodard said he found “the perfect solution” for ridding the area of the pesky animals.
Repellents and tearing down dams were not helpful, he said. So Woodard built a large fence around the culvert with a trap in the center to kill any beavers that attempt to get through the culvert area to build a dam.
“If they try to get through there, it’ll get ’em,” Woodard said of the trap, which kills about three to four beavers per year. “I saw that on the Discovery Channel. Otherwise you’d have to stay out there all night.”
Woodard’s method of controlling the critters isn’t a crime because the species is so overpopulated, according to Georgia Department of Natural Resources biologist Kara Nitschke.
“(There is) no closed season on beavers, basically. They are not protected as far as hunting and trapping pressure,” Nitschke said. “There’s not a law on hunting or trapping beavers in this state. So they can be trapped or hunted day or night.”
At one point, beavers almost were extinct in Georgia due to unregulated trapping and habitat loss, but they since have rebounded, according to a GDNR Wildlife Resources Division beaver information booklet. The animal also is known as North America’s largest rodent and spends a good amount of time both on land and in water.
They build dens or “dams” using a variety of sticks and mud. Entrances to the dens usually are positioned under water. The den usually is 1 or 2 feet above water, according to the informational booklet.
Woodard’s county contract usually runs for one year at a time, but on Tuesday evening, the county commission discussed keeping Woodard on for another three years as the beaver control man.
“He stepped forward to try and help us there,” County Administrator Joey Brown said. “The canal was dug to help drainage in that area. He has been very helpful in the endeavor. Before our contract was in place, we were constantly trying to keep the beaver dams cleaned so as to help drainage. We have many less problems now.”