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Volunteers count beaver population in Mink Creek area

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POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - A group in Pocatello is trying to increase the beaver population in local wildlife areas.

“Beaver fill such an important role in the ecosystem and the watershed in general, that they are really undervalued in terms of what they do,” said Mike Settell, theexecutive director of Watershed Guardians.

Watershed Guardians is a local conservation non-profit focused on helping the American Beaver thrive in southeast Idaho.

On Saturday, volunteers gathered for the ninth annual beaver count at the East Fork Mink Creek area.

Beavers are an integral part of ecosystems. They help control floods, suppress wildfires and improve water quality.

“They’re really good for supporting native fisheries, especially Yellowstone cutthroat (trout),” Settell said.

But the beaver in the area are being trapped so much, they're having trouble repopulating, according to Settell.

Since 2013, the number of beaver clusters recorded dropped from 40 to 8 or 9 in recent years, according to the Watershed Guardians' count.

“We’ve seen a steady decrease in activity clusters in this basin,” Settell said.

Volunteers learned to count beaver clusters, find active dams and even snowshoe. They'll spend the next couple weekends helping the group document this year's beaver count.

“We always wanna count around the same time of the year and the reason for that is statistically, we want to take the time of the year out of the picture. If we do it at the same time of the year, we don’t have to say ‘Well, you sampled them in the spring,’ or ‘You sampled them in the fall,’ We always do it around Groundhog’s Day,” Settell said.

Settell said the group hopes to decrease the amount of beaver trapping in the area.

“We think by showcasing all the amazing things that beaver can do for our community, we can try to shift that discussion and shift that paradigm,” Settell said.

Beavers are mostly trapped due to being nuisances. They don't have a high commercial value, according to Settell.

“In order to fix (a) really really small problem, they have to trap out colony after colony after colony. What that does is makes it more and more difficult for the colony to re-establish,” Settell said.

With the help of a passionate community, Watershed Guardians is helping beavers make a come-back.

Check back in the coming weeks for an update on this year's beaver count.

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Emma Iannacone

Emma is a reporter for Local News 8 and KIDK Eyewitness News 3.


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