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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Winthrop National Fish Hatchery "Leaves It To Beavers"

Region 1, April 26, 2013
A temporary beaver 'lodge' at Winthrop National Fish Hatchery.
A temporary beaver 'lodge' at Winthrop National Fish Hatchery. - Photo Credit: n/a
Beaver at Winthrop National Fish Hatchery learn to socialize and form bonds, increasing the likelihood of successful reintroduction.
Beaver at Winthrop National Fish Hatchery learn to socialize and form bonds, increasing the likelihood of successful reintroduction. - Photo Credit: n/a
Beaver occupying temporary 'lodges' at Winthrop National Fish Hatchery.
Beaver occupying temporary 'lodges' at Winthrop National Fish Hatchery. - Photo Credit: n/a
A beaver swimming in a Winthrop National Fish Hatchery raceway.
A beaver swimming in a Winthrop National Fish Hatchery raceway. - Photo Credit: n/a

Winthrop National Fish Hatchery's raceways--some of them, at least, have gone to the beavers.

 For the past six years the hatchery, which raises coho and Chinook salmon and steelhead in North Central Washington has partnered with the Methow Conservancy and Pacific Biodiversity Institute, two Winthrop, Washington-based non-profits, the U.S. Forest Service, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and others on an innovative, beaver relocation and restoration project.

Property-damaging beavers in the lower Methow River Valley are live-trapped by the Conservancy and WDFW and relocated to higher-elevation Okanagon National Forest sites prioritized by the Forest Service and Pacific Biodiversity Institute better suited—and safer--for 'nature's engineers.'

After being ‘dis-lodged’ from their original sites, Winthrop's raceways--also known as 'ponds' (fittingly), temporarily house the animals, making upcoming releases back into the wild more effective. The hatchery serves as an 'intake center,' where the beaver are tagged and identified, held in older, unused raceways, fed, given the chance to socialize with others, and then ultimately transported in groups or families to release sites.

The relocated beaver improve the Methow River Sub-basin's water quality, habitat, and stream hydrology, offsetting potential climate change impacts Area wildlife, fisheries, local water users, and landowners that experience beaver damage to their property also benefit. So do the beavers themselves, which could otherwise be legally euthanized as a nuisance animal under Washington law.

Over the years the toothy animals have become a hit during their temporary residence at the hatchery, which provides the public a unique opportunity to see the animals up close. It’s a site for the Service, Conservancy, and partners to showcase the Methow Beaver Project and educate people about the beneficial role North America’s largest rodent plays in aquatic ecosystems when let loose in the right places.

Contact Info: Sean Connolly, 503-231-2353, sean_connolly@fws.gov