Why Think Wild Supports Oregon House Bill 3464

Want to help improve beaver population management in Oregon? Consider joining Think Wild in showing your support for Oregon House Bill 3464, which would remove the “predatory animal” designation of beavers in Oregon. 

Because beavers are currently classified as “predatory animals” by the state, Oregon allows unlimited extermination of beavers, with no tracking of removal required. There is also currently no statewide monitoring of beaver populations in Oregon. HB 3464 would remove the “predatory animal” label from beavers and establish a permit system for extermination of beavers, which will allow ODFW to better track their numbers in the state. 

HB 3464 recently passed in the Oregon House of Representatives and has moved on to the Oregon Senate. The Senate has schedule a public hearing for Wednesday, May 10 at 8:00 am, and you can register to provide oral testimony (either in person in Salem, or remotely), or submit written testimony here: https://olis.oregonlegislature.gov/liz/2023R1/Measures/Overview/HB3464 

Why does Think Wild support HB 3464?

Passing HB 3464 would give ODFW increased ability to manage and monitor beaver populations in the State of Oregon. Think Wild’s Beaver Works program has spent the past 5 years working with private landholders and other land management organizations to develop non-lethal beaver conflict mitigation strategies that are better long-term solutions for all stakeholders. This bill would allow Think Wild and other organizations to better implement these strategies and establish successful beaver habitat solutions on both public and private lands. 

Removing the predatory mammal designation for beavers would improve habitat for native species, improve our region’s resistance to drought and wildlife effects, and provide new opportunities to develop strategies for landholders and land managers to implement that better serve human and beaver populations in Oregon.  

Central and Eastern Oregon riparian landscapes are beset by environmental issues: wildfires, drought, rising water temperatures, invasive species, and a history of harmful land use practices, which threaten habitat for not only fish and wildlife, but also for humans. Research supports that the presence of beavers, and their activity in stream ecosystems, lead to improved habitat for fish, wildlife, and native plants, as well as increased drought, flood, and fire tolerance. 

Beaver activity in riparian habitats has a beneficial effect on many native Oregon plant and animal species. Native species benefit from the presence and activity of beavers as well, many of whom are identified strategy species from the Oregon Conservation Strategy (OCS). The ponds formed by beaver damming provide more stable habitat for fish like Westslope Cutthroat Trout, amphibians such as Columbia Spotted Frogs, Inland Tailed Frogs, and Western Toads, reptiles such as Western Painted Turtles, and mammals such as river otters, mink, and muskrats, all of whom depend on year-round water availability to survive. 

Beaver ponds also collect debris like twigs, sediments, and leaf litter, which form habitat for aquatic invertebrates such as Columbia Clubtail larvae and other insects and larvae, Western Ridged Mussels and other mollusks, worms, and crustaceans. Aquatic invertebrates are a crucial food source for fish, amphibians, and waterfowl like the Trumpeter Swan. Additionally, flying insects supported by beaver ponds provide food for Townsend’s Big-eared Bats and Fringed Myotis, Lewis’ Woodpecker, Olive-sided Flycatchers, and other songbirds. 

The moisture retained by beaver dams supports plant diversity – rare plants like the Arrowleaf Thelypody and Oregon Semaphore Grass that depend on riparian habitats grow well in sites with beaver activity. Native plants such as these in turn support populations of native pollinators, herbivores, and omnivores. Grasses, rushes, cattails and other marshland plants offer shelter, nesting, and brood areas for birds. Riparian trees and shrubs supply forage and refuge for big game, songbirds, and upland game birds like Greater Sage Grouse and Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse. 

Better management of beaver populations will also help address many Key Conservation Issues in the Oregon Conservation Strategy. Riparian habitats with successful beaver populations are less susceptible to fire danger, drought conditions, and flooding, all of which have increased in frequency and severity due to global climate change. Water moves more slowly through meandering wetlands, ponds, and oxbows that form with increased beaver activity, which increases time for sedimentation and filtration as it travels, positively affecting water quality downstream of beaver-impacted habitat. Better management of beaver populations would allow their positive impacts in a wider range of Oregon habitats, increasing the resilience of these regions to climate change-related threats. 

We believe the passing of HB 3464 would serve the people of Oregon, its wildlife, and its ecosystems. We believe this bill is a great step in the direction of increasing climate resiliency and improving riparian habitats in our state. Oregon is the Beaver State – it’s time to recognize beavers as the ecosystem engineers they are and manage their populations in ways that allow them to fulfill this vital role.