Killing of beavers in Incline Village causes stir among Tahoe wildlife groups
Special to the Bonanza
When members of the Sierra Wildlife Coalition recently heard reports of beavers potentially being killed on public land along Incline Creek near Tyrolian Village, they were shocked and frustrated.
What has left them and others even more incredulous — the beaver depredation is legal.
On Oct. 31, 2012, the Nevada Department of Wildlife issued a one-year depredation permit to an employee of the Tyrolian Village Association, said NDOW public information officer Chris Healy, in an interview last week.
The permit, which allows for the trapping or shooting of beavers on Incline Creek, requires shooting authorization to be given by city or county government. Tyrolian Village Association is the homeowners’ association for the Tyrolian Village subdivision in Incline Village, so in this instance, Washoe County would have to give the OK.
Healy said the depredation permit was issued in regard to a beaver-dam that caused potential flooding problems to infrastructure and housing developments, as well as the beavers going after some of their trees.
The Tyrolian Village Association issued a statement Tuesday chronologically detailing events. According to the statement, beavers began damming a small stream next to TVA property approximately three years ago.
Beaver ponds were rapidly eroding the dirt berm and trench line supporting the TVA sewer line, which transports raw sewage from more than 200 homes. The association said workers attempted to break up the dams, but beavers quickly rebuilt them.
Upon seeking help from local, state and federal agencies over a two-year span, according to the statement, none of the agencies disagreed with the need to remove the beavers, nor did any suggest alternatives, other than obtaining a depredation permit.
“Forced to decide between a sewer line failure that would severely pollute the lake and beaver trapping, and fearing that if we waited much longer a disastrous spill could occur at any moment, TVA took the latter action both to protect the lake and shield our Association from liability it could not possibly bear,” according to the statement.
The associated received financial support from the Nevada Department of Health, according to TVA, which had concerns about potential mosquito-borne illnesses.
“The Tyrolian Village Association has identified a problem, and we’re (NDOW) helping them solve it with the issuance of a permit,” Healy said. “State law is on their side in trying to protect their assets.”
No numbers are available on beavers that may have been killed since October. A permit holder only has to report kill numbers after the permit has expired, according to NDOW.
The issue has been one of concern for area pro-wildife groups, namely the Sierra Wildlife Coalition.
“There are practical things we can do,” said Sherry Guzzi in an interview last week. “You don’t have to kill the animals we live with.”
Alternatives such as installing drains that allow water flow through a beaver dam are among those that are better, Guzzi said. She also said a paint/sand mixture can be applied to the base of trees next to beaver habitat to prevent beavers from damaging the trees.
While Healy understands many feel there must be alternatives to killing beavers, he said beaver relocation to another area is not a workable option, as it may just as adversely affect the area they are reintroduced to and spread diseases the animals may harbor, he said.
After Sierra Wildlife Coalition officials said they could get no cooperation from those at Tyrolian Village, they began notifying other agencies, namely the U.S. Forest Service, as the coalition believed some of the work being done by Tyrolian Village to fix beaver-caused issues with the creek was on federal property.
A Forest Service agent was sent on April 5 to Incline Creek to investigate whether any excavation activity took place on Forest Service land, which would require Forest Service permission, said public information officer Cheva Heck.
But Heck said the trapping of beaver on Forest Service land was not a reason for the investigation, as trapping is allowed on Forest Service land with a NDOW depredation permit.
“When it comes to populations of animals and game, that’s the purview of the state,” she said.
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency also is aware of the beaver situation along Incline Creek, said public information officer Jeff Cowen.
“What we do in regard to wildlife is protect habitat,” he said last week. “We want to make sure an area of habitat is available for Special Interest Species in the area. Beavers are not part of the Special Interest Species.”
Those species include bald eagles, osprey, peregrine falcons, golden eagles, waterfowl, deer and the Northern goshawk.
Even if beavers were listed, Cowen said there would still be a large amount of suitable habitat available for the animals.
Cowen said TRPA is concerned with slope stabilization around the Tyrolian Village sewer line. He said the level of water in the beaver dam has caused the slope to erode, potentially endangering the sewer line to a possible break.
TRPA is working with Tyrolian Village and the Forest Service and will likely issue one of them a “High Priority Permit,” allowing for its holder to conduct slope stabilization around the sewer line. That work could begin in May, said Cowen, who stressed the stabilization is not an emergency situation.
On Tuesday, Incline Village General Improvement District General Manager Bill Horn spoke of the issue.
“We have a high sensitivity to the protection of animals,” he said. “For all intents and purposes, the beavers haven’t caused us any challenges.”
Horn said IVGID land begins below Tyrolian Village at Diamond Peak Ski Resort.
“Since we’re (IVGID) the water purveyor for Incline Village and Crystal Bay, we’re certainly concerned about the environmental impact of (beaver-caused) erosion going down this creek and into the lake,” Horn said. “But the turbidity is not at any level that would be unacceptable to us.”
But for some, the concept of killing an animal such as a beaver is, in itself, unacceptable.
Upon hearing of the situation, Carnelian Bay resident Dana Spencer referred to the recently completed Incline Village Gateway roundabout, the center of which is filled with expensive bronze sculptures celebrating several animals indigenous to the region.
“Here are these sculptures that represent wildlife, and then they turn around and kill the wildlife,” she said last week. “It’s sad. It just seems wrong.”
Frank Fisher is a freelance reporter for the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. He can be reached for comment at email@example.com.