Beaver Deceiver: Device aims to mitigate Rail Trail’s dam problem

York County Coast Star, August 6, 2020

By Shawn Sullivan

https://www.seacoastonline.com/news/20200806/beaver-deceiver-device-aims-to-mitigate-rail-trailrsquos-dam-problem

 

SPRINGVALE, Maine – For years, beaver dams have caused flooding after high watershed events along the Rail Trail abutting the wetlands of Deering Pond, but the installation of a new device on site is expected to help resolve the issue for decades to come.

Skip Lyle, the founder and owner of Beaver Deceiver International, traveled to the community on July 30 and worked with Kevin McKeon and Steve Mallon, both of the Sanford-Springvale Trails Committee, to install one of Lyle’s custom-designed flow-control devices at Deering Pond’s culverts within the Hall Environmental Reserve. Lyle, of Grafton, Vermont, is a conservationist, builder, biologist, inventor and entrepreneur.

“My goal is to protect any threatened property while at the same time maximizing ecological and hydrological value,” Lyle said.

The Rail Trail, a popular stretch of the community’s vast network of paths, has often flooded and washed away as a result of a culvert-clogging beaver dam that causes Deering Pond’s water level to rise after a storm or a spring runoff.

The Sanford-Springvale Mousam Way Land Trust, the Sanford Trails Committee, and the Sanford ATV Club joined forces to resolve this ongoing conflict between human and beaver, in a way that protects the environment of Deering Pond within the reserve and maintains the integrity of the Rail Trail.

According to McKeon, the three groups used to take a “caveman style” approach to the issue, occasionally sending members to the site to clean out the culverts – a task that needed to be done as often as two or three times a week during the high-water season of spring.

“A subcommittee was actually formed to rotate volunteers!” McKeon said.

Now, thanks to one of Lyle’s Beaver Deceivers, the issue has been resolved in a way that’s a win-win for humans and those busy little dam builders.

A typical Beaver Deceiver is “either a rectangular fence that protects the upstream opening of a culvert or a trapezoidal fence that is narrow at the culvert and widens upstream,” according to Lyle’s website. Each device is custom built to suit the site .

“It fools the beaver into thinking that they’re creating a dam to hold back the water,” McKeon explained. “But in reality, the water is going through.”

McKeon said beavers instinctively build dams wherever they hear or sense water flow.

“If they hear it, if they see it, if they feel it, they will try to stop it,” he said. “They can’t help themselves. It’s a natural thing that they do.”

Lyle said his devices are effective anywhere between 30 and 40 years and are a more practical, long-term and humane alternative to trapping and killing beavers.

Trapping in the area also is risky for the trappers themselves, McKeon noted.

“This is a peat bog,” he said. “Unless you know the area pretty well, you could be walking along the shore of Deering Pond and all of a sudden you could find yourself chest-deep in muck. It’s a pretty dangerous area for trappers to be trapping.”

The entire installation of the Beaver Deceiver cost about $2,900, according to Trails Committee Chair Lee Burnett. The committee will cover the expenses, with hopes of being reimbursed through the state’s Municipal ATV Grant program, Burnett said.

Mousam Way Land Trust funded a video production of the installation as part of the organization’s goal of increasing the awareness of how people exist within their environment, McKeon said. WSSRTV, the broadcast station out of Sanford High School and Regional Technical Center, produced the video and is currently editing it for availability soon.

McKeon said another culvert – which this time would be installed underneath the Rail Trail – is also a component of the overall solution recommended by Lyle. The Beaver Deceiver solves the flooding issue at the existing culvert, but not the one at the Rail Trail. Under certain circumstances, water washes over the Rail Trail when its level rises not just in Deering Pond but in its attached wetlands, as well.

“Currently, we didn’t know that that was going to be needed, and that is under discussion among the Trails Committee members,” McKeon said. “It’s a pretty inexpensive solution, even if it proves that it’s not really required. It’s a pretty good guarantee that the water wouldn’t go over the Rail Trail and erode it there. It would go underneath, through the culvert, to the ditch on the other side that carries water now.”

While the Beaver Deceiver addresses the negative issues related to the beavers and their dams, it also allows the animals’ work to continue. Lyle said he, McKeon and Mallon installed a “starter dam” at the Beaver Deceiver to encourage beavers to construct there to “build up the pond.”

Lyle and McKeon said this will help ensure the continuation of a healthy ecology at the site – a habitat for birds, critters, plants and more that are healthy for them and an attraction for those who enjoy nature.

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