Mike the Mad Biologist

Remember McCain and Beaver Management?

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…

Comments

  1. #1 eNeMeE
    June 26, 2009

    I think the biggest bit of stupid about that was that a senator was (and probably still is) paying someone to make stupid tweets on his behalf while complaining about someone else allocating money for something useful.

  2. #2 phisrow
    June 26, 2009

    If they are at all clever, an obvious fallback position exists: “Beavers cause millions of dollars in damage to you, your family, and the Children every year, and the liberals want to take your money and give it to ivory tower elitists to study and understand them, instead of just shooting them like real men would…”

    It plays pretty well as a response to anybody who suggests a foreign policy approach anywhere left of “Let the skull pyramids reach the heavens and burning flesh of our enemies please Lord Jesus”, so I don’t see why it wouldn’t work for science questions as well.

  3. #3 Rob Jase
    June 26, 2009

    I’m sorry but I just can’t think of anything that doesn’t have inappropriate sexual innuendo in it.

    Guess I’ll have to go to PZ’s blog.

  4. #4 dreikin
    June 26, 2009

    Dammed beavers..

  5. #5 doug l
    June 26, 2009

    I suspect that “large rodent removal” is not a good name for it. Sounds a bit like “term limits”.

  6. #6 DJ
    June 27, 2009

    So, my question is did the funds get cut from the bill or not? If not, have we learned anything useful about population management or behavior management to lessen the impact of beavers in that area of the U.S.?

    We all know McCain, and most other conservatives, have a narrow view of the utility of scientific inquiry. They are shortsighted and that is as nice as I can put it.

  7. #7 wobert
    June 29, 2009

    Beavers seem to have a lot in common with Republicans!

  8. #8 zoge
    July 2, 2009

    July 2 2009 Thurs
    About McCain remember beaver management —

    I am on the side of the Beavers. Let the Cong.
    and Sen. reps go on their jaunts and leave the
    Beavers alone. They are doing what beavers do with
    the talents they inerited. As for humans, they are
    not using the brains that they inherited to find the
    way to live with other creatures on this planet.
    From Zoge

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