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February 25, 2014

Loud boom was beaver dam explosions

MOULTRIE — A loud boom heard Saturday night by a number of Colquitt County residents likely was someone blowing up a beaver dam, although the timing was a bit inconvenient.

The Moultrie Observer had a number of reports of the noIse, which was audible inside Moultrie and as far out as Erve Williams Road, a distance of about seven miles from the city limits. Some residents reported structures shaking.

“That’s been going on for some time,” Colquitt County Emergency Management Director Russell Moody said Tuesday. “It’s been going on all over the county.”

The Colquitt County Sheriff’s Office said it received one report. Those who contacted The Observer said the explosion occurred between 10:30 p.m. and 11 p.m.

A wet winter has made beaver dams more of an issue as there is more water to back up, officials said. When water flow is normal or low it is not as big of an issue.

Most people blowing up beaver construction work use Tannerite, a stable explosive that is widely available, said Capt. Jeff Swift, head of the Georgia Department of Natural Resource’s Law Enforcement Division office in Albany.

Tannerite, a brand of exploding targets, is mixed by the user with a catalyst, and will explode when struck by a high-powered rifle round. Most rifles used for deer hunting will do the trick.

Using the chemical to blow beaver dams is not illegal, and the rodent is not a protected species, meaning they are fair game, Swift said.

The beaver, North America’s largest rodent, was once popular for use in clothing and nearly were hunted to extinction in Georgia and much of the continent by the end of the 19th Century, according to the University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.

A combination of its fur falling into disfavor compared to that of other animals and conservation efforts resulted in beavers making a comeback -- such a comeback that they now are a nuisance, flooding forest and farmland and causing road washes when their dams block highway drain systems.

The Warnell School says that beavers cause more than $100 million in damages annually in the Southern United States.

While not illegal to use Tannerite for beaver control, caution is necessary, especially at night, Swift said.

“I’m not going to say it’s not dangerous,” he said. “Not to mention shooting high-powered rifles at night to set off the catalyst to create an explosion.”

Eleven p.m. or later is not the best time to do the work, he said.

“We would suggest that they not do it at that time,” Swift said. “One, when you shoot, you’ve got to identify the target and the area behind the target. Number two, you have people who are trying to sleep.”

Users of the substance also would be responsible to adjoining property they damage, he said.

Rusty Johnson, owner of Critter Solutions in Tift County, said that blowing up the dam often does not do the trick. The beavers survive to build again.

In some cases, such as when water is backed up to a house, blowing the dam will alleviate the flooding problem, said Johnson, who is licensed to remove nuisance animals from alligators up to four feet long to coyotes and trapping nuisance critters since 1977.

“If you’re not removing the beavers, you’re not succeeding in what you’re trying to accomplish,” he said. “Beavers will be back in a day or two and back in business.”

In one recent case, Johnson said that beavers destroyed 15 acres of timber by damming a small creek on land whose owners in Florida were unaware of the activity until it was too late.

After removing the beavers and their structures there was only about a foot-wide body of water flowing through the land, he said. Left unchecked, a beaver couple can raise more than 600 offspring over a 10-year period.

“If we have a wet year where there’s a lot of water, that’s when beaver will disperse and travel,” building more dams and lodges. “Water makes them move. As much water as we’ve had, beavers are a bad nuisance.”

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