During the battle over the stimulus package, Republican Senator John McCain tweeted:
$650,000 for beaver management in North Carolina and Mississippi – how does one manage a beaver?
I argued at the time that it’s quite possible that $650,000 to better understand how to stop the economic damage that beavers cause is a good use of money. Well, a couple of weeks ago, The NY Times published an article about the damage that beavers do:
The dozens of public works officials, municipal engineers, conservation agents and others who crowded into a meeting room here one recent morning needed help. Property in their towns was flooding, they said. Culverts were clogged. Septic tanks were being overwhelmed.
“We have a huge problem,” said David Pavlik, an engineer for the town of Lexington, where dams built by beavers have sent water flooding into the town’s sanitary sewers. “We trapped them,” he said. “We breached their dam. Nothing works. We are looking for long-term solutions.”
Mary Hansen, a conservation agent from Maynard, said it starkly: “There are beavers everywhere.”
Laura Hajduk, a biologist with the state’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, had little to offer them. When beavers are trapped, others move in to replace them. And, she said, you can breach a beaver dam, but “I guarantee you that within 24 hours if the beavers are still there it will be repaired. Beavers are the ultimate ecosystem engineers.”
…John Livsey, Mr. Pavlik’s boss and the town engineer in Lexington, has firsthand experience with the beaver problem. The animals are building dams in wooded areas traversed by the town’s sewer lines, he said, and as water rises, it seeps through manholes into the sewer pipes.
The town must pay for the treatment of this extra “inflow.” Though Mr. Livsey said he could not put a dollar figure on it, “it’s a lot of money.”
In the Southeast alone, beavers cause $3-5 million in damage every year. Yglesias is right: this is feigned stupidity. Maybe if we called it “Giant Rodent Removal Research”, more people would get behind it…