Is On Display
Just Upstream Of
BY O.J. EARLY
A colony of beavers has been hard at work on the western end of the county.
A dam made of sticks, logs and mud spans the width of a portion of Little Chuckey Creek in Warrensburg, near the county's western tip.
The nearly-water-tight dam is no more than 20 yards upstream from the Bible Covered Bridge, a historical point-of-interest in the county and one of the few covered bridges remaining in Tennessee.
The dam itself is about five feet high, with water from the creek cresting at the top of the dam.
On Wednesday afternoon, water behind the dam had backed up, spilling over portions of the creek's banks and into part of a low-lying field located behind the dam.
According to Greene County's Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) Officer James McAfee, the dam is one of many that are popping up across Greene County and East Tennessee, an indication of a rising beaver population.
"We've got beaver dams all over Greene County," said McAfee, mentioning a dam off Whirlwind Road, south of Greeneville.
Based on information from McAfee and the TWRA website, beaver dams can have both a positive and negative impact on the local environment.
According to McAfee, it is possible that the beaver population is on the rise in both Greene County and Tennessee.
One reason, McAfee speculated, is a decrease in the hunting and trapping of beavers.
"I would say that the population [of beavers] has increased because of the lack of trapping, just like deer herds and turkey herds," McAfee said. "That's just a change in the times."
Milton Orr, University of Tennessee Extension director for Greene County, also suspects that beavers are increasing in numbers in Greene County.
"Beavers used to be totally unheard of around here," Orr said, noting that seeing a beaver dam in the county would have been rare only a few years ago.
"They are becoming more common," he said.
Beaver dams can slow the process of erosion and help serve to purify a stream according to the TWRA website, http://www.tn.gov/twra
"They change the habitat," McAfee said. "They can be very, very useful in creating wetland habitats."
Beaver dams can also, however, change the composition of a stream by slowing the flow of water. As a result of damming up a stream or creek, flooding can result in low-lying areas, potentially damaging land and property.
According to McAfee, action can be taken to remove both a dam and the beavers if property or land is damaged. The choice to take action belongs to the landowner, he said.
When asked, TWRA officials will come to the dam and first use tactics to remove the beavers without harming the animals.
A sometimes-useful ploy, McAfee said, is to place tile in the bottom of a dam. Doing this, he said, will continually change the water level inside a beaver lodge and dam, confusing the beavers.
"They'll just get frustrated and move on," McAfee said. "Without killing them, you can force them to move on by out-smarting them."
If beavers won't leave, however, and significant damage is taking place to property, the beavers can be killed.
"In the long run, if they [beavers] are causing damage, they can be euthanized," he said.
In the case of the beaver dam near Warrensburg Road, McAfee said he had not received negative reports.
According to the TWRA, here are some quick facts about the water-friendly beaver:
* Beavers are very territorial, and will defend their dam and lodge against other beavers.
* An average beaver colony is made up of six or seven beavers.
* The typical lifespan of a beaver is 10 to 20 years.
* An adult beaver can weigh between 30 and 60 pounds.
* Beavers are the largest rodent in North America.