From Staff Reports
Persistent and clever beavers in Grand Teton National Park have thwarted recent efforts by wildlife managers to stymie their dam-building work and halt the slow pooling of river water that is threatening a popular scenic road.
So park officials plan to briefly close the Moose-Wilson Road from 2 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24 until 8 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25 as they make changes to a device that allows water to slowly drain from above the beaver dam and keep the nearby road clear.
Over the past several months, a family of beavers built a sizable dam and lodge in a wetlands area along the Moose-Wilson Road, just north of the Death Canyon Road, according to a notice released by the Grand Teton public affairs office.
The beavers expanded their dam and created a substantial pond that threatens to completely flood the road and cause structural damage. In an effort to lower the water level in the pond and reduce flooding, park employees will modify a previously installed flow device that allows for water to pass through the dam.
In early August, park staff placed a system of perforated pipes in the beaver pond to create a gentle flow of water through the dam. The intention was to slightly lower the pond’s depth enough to resolve the flooding and limit impacts to the road.
But the busy and resourceful beavers packed the device with mud and blocked its capacity to effectively lower the water level. After studying the issue further, park employees plan to use longer pipes so that water enters the device much further away from the dam.
Park officials said they hope this step will lessen the beavers’ natural reaction to the sound and feel of flowing water, and halt their urge to again block the pipes with mud.
Park officials said their goal is to allow beavers to continue their use of the lush wetland area and better protect the Moose-Wilson Road from flooding and probable damage from frost heaves as winter temperatures freeze the saturated road bed.
Grand Teton staffers have faced questions and some criticism in recent weeks about whether the flow diversion device was appropriate and properly installed. They said in a statement that “every effort will made to protect the beaver family and ensure their continued occupancy and use of this wetlands area” along the road.
The closure will run from the Death Canyon Road junction to Teton Park Road in Moose, Wyo.
During this closure, through-travel will not be possible and motorists are advised to plan for an alternate route through Jackson, Wyo. Visitors can still reach the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve and Death Canyon trailhead from the Granite Canyon entrance station.
The size of equipment needed to install longer pipes into the pond, and improve the devices already in place, will require a temporary closure of the narrow Moose-Wilson Road. The closure will remain in effect throughout the night to allow beavers a chance to adjust to the disturbance of their dam and pond.
Beavers are most active at night, and after the modification work is completed, they may travel back and forth across the road to collect shrubs and bushes in order to repair the minor breach of their dam. The overnight road closure should protect the beavers from passing vehicles and prevent a potential collision.