A couple months ago my neighbor saw what looked like a beaver construction project and asked me about it. They have an artesian well hooked up to their house. When not being diverted for use in the house, the water goes downhill through a pipe which ends at the lake. Beavers were piling sticks under the pipe. I told him that they were hearing the water from the pipe trickling into the lake and were instinctually trying to “plug the leak”. This instinctual reaction to the sound of flowing water was something I had learned on a nature program some years ago. He removed the woody debris but they built it back up again so he gave up.
Today he called because he saw they had started piling mud and leaves on top and where quickly reaching the height of the pipe. He is concerned that they will manage to plug up the pipe. If the water backs up in the pipe, he says that could potentially stop the spring water from flowing up to the surface on its own. He doesn’t have a system to pump water out of the ground. His thought was to cut the pipe further up the hill and put down some rocks to prevent erosion. I told him I was concerned that the beavers would just climb up there and add more material and then they really could plug up the pipe.
For now he removed some of the mud and leaves. I took some photos and also set up my trail camera. Hopefully I’ll get some beaver footage tonight. I told him I would ask online for some advice on what he should do. What do you think?
A possible solution is to install a wire-mesh fence or corral around the outfall of the pipe to keep the beavers away from the pipe itself. It’s possible the beavers might still try to dam around the fence, but if the pipe is still allowed to flow unobstructed (it’s gravity fed?) it should still function.
Is your friend. A nature nerd? There’s an opportunity here to learn some things by experimenting. I would suggest trying his idea without fully dismantling the existing arrangement. It’s fairly easy to splice in a split or some other device that would allow flow to be diverted temporarily. Another option would be to run the pipe along the ground to the pond and put the outlet below the surface. Pile some cobble around it so that the flow is broken up a bit. Mess around. Take notes.
There are a lot of various beaver proofing methods. Look up “Beaver Deceiver”, aka ‘Flow Device’ for example. The most simple is just a large wire mesh cage around the end of the drain pipe, but there are a wide range of variations.
Depending on the specifics of your friend’s area it may be as simple as extending the pipe so it discharges underwater and doesn’t make any running water sound. Some sort of protective barrier around the end is a good idea no matter what though.
He is interesting in nature, but not a nature nerd. At the nature preserve nearby, he is the one building bridges over creeks, repairing the boardwalk, and bringing bottled water for people who come to events. I’m the one curating a project for the preserve and giving people tours naming all the plants and birds we see along the way. I don’t think he’s interested in documenting beaver behavior. He just wants a solution to the problem.
The level of the lake can fluctuate by several feet, so you’d have to put it pretty far down and then it could easily get clogged by mud or vegetation. The flow is not very fast. I think the way it works in the house is that it fills up a tank and that water is pressurized so that it flows faster in the house. So when the tank is filling, the water is not flowing into the lake at all. I also don’t know if the system might somehow create suction that might lead to contamination from the lake water.
PS this is the preserve project if you’re interested https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/watson-preserve
Another idea he had was to attach a piece of rope, strings, fabric, etc. to the end of the pipe so that the water would run along that and not make a dripping noise. Maybe combine that with putting some fencing around the area of the pipe.
Beavers are sort of dim, but persistent. I once saw the beginnings of a dam across the Red River, which is about 100 m wide! Ducks Unlimited has lots of experience with this problem. They seem to have settled on the grate solutions mentioned above. It might be worth getting in touch with them to see if they have any advice. Your local town or municipality may also have to deal with beavers, so they might be a source of some information.
Another option is to drill a series of drain holes in the pipe in the last few feet of its length. That would make it nearly impossible to plug by a beaver and still allow water out. A wire mesh tube attached to end of pipe would also prevent plugging. You might not need the corral fence.
Here’s some pics of a beaver deceiver I assisted in building years ago on a small stream at low flow. This is much more elaborate than what you need – it was intended to keep beavers from damming a culvert under a road – but might provide some general ideas. If you provide multiple routes for water to get through, the beavers can’t plug it and it also removes the stimulus of the sound of trickling water at a single location.
This is what i was going to suggest too. If the water exits in a diffuse manner they probably won’t be willing or able to do anything about it. Or extend the pipe down into a little pool in the ground.
Beavers are so fascinating. So good at what they do, even if dim otherwise as someone mentioned above . But imagine being so compelled and bothered by the sound of flowing water.
Guilty as charged! They are fascinating, but dim. They have a laser like focus but seem unable to ignore their beaver instincts. I maintain that they would have still tried to dam the Red, but only stopped when they could no longer find the bottom
Cute beaver footage: https://youtu.be/XL58hcGLp0s
I didn’t realize how fast the flow got at night when they aren’t using any of the water
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