Beaver Creek Park

Living up to its namesake, Beaver Creek Park, the largest county park in the country, has beaver. However, despite no cost offerings, those entrusted to the park’s management, are dead set the beaver are overpopulated and need to be trapped and killed.

At 10,000 acres, Beaver Creek Park, is located 10 miles South of Havre, Montana in Hill county. It was designed for recreation. The park is 17 miles long by 1 mile wide with Beaver Creek running through it. There are 2 lakes  for fishing, a 3.5 mile interpretative “Beaver Paw Nature Trail” and numerous camping opportunities. In the fall, cattle are put in the park. An old-time trapper has trapped beaver in Beaver Creek for decades and at  a reported kill rate of 180 beaver on average annually. He has simply grown too old to continue. That lead to Beaver Creek Park board member,  Renelle Braatan, stepping up her ongoing wildlife advocacy on the board and for many months requesting the Park board and county Commissioners exploration into non-lethal alternatives to trapping beaver.

In the spring of 2020, Dave Pauli with Humane Society of United States, out of Montana, proposed a grant to fully fund the installation and  maintenance of beaver deceiver/s in 2-3 of the worst identified areas in the park for beaver activity. It would provide a cost effective non-lethal  alternative demo site with potential added benefits to education, tourism,  wildlife watching, and replication elsewhere. 

Trap Free Montana conducted outreach to various beaver experts, encouraged, and read some exceptional letters to the park board and Commissioners, coordinated and participated in conference calls, and recommended we try to have certain diverse experts be available for the pending board meeting on May 4th. 

Due to the approaching grant application deadline, and with our growing concern the grant proposal would be voted on at the upcoming meeting, Trap Free Montana, last minute, produced a sign on letter. We included  

pertinent information written and reviewed by a handful of the very knowledgeable participants. We emailed it to the interested parties and  dozens of our various random supporters mainly across Montana. We managed to quickly exceed our goal of 50 individuals signing on to the letter in time for it to be sent to the board and Commissioners prior to the meeting. Thank you to those who signed!

Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent little mattered even with the  experts who were on the call for the meeting for questions and answers. The Park board goal was not to eliminate conflicting beaver activity, even at no cost to them. Their goal was evident …to eliminate  beaver! Dave Pauli’s repeated past outreach to help to move the grant forward had been ignored. Instead, Commissioner Mark Peterson motioned to “decline the grant at this time.” Stating, there “needs to be a plan in place  first.” His motion passed 5:3. Joining, Renelle Braatan, in opposing the motion were Commissioner McLean and Commissioner Wendland. 

Other options for healthy ecosystem management including a no cost consultant and the formation of a natural resource committee were previously denied. Trap Free Montana advocated for tree wrapping and were told park visitors do not want to see fences around the trees. 

Wonder how attractive the park visitors would find drowned beaver in leg hold traps and crushed beaver in massive conibear traps? 

Renelle’s term on the board was then up. The Hill county Commission Chair Mark Peterson, later invited more beaver experts to review and discuss Beaver Creek Park’s beaver. Trap Free Montana was present. However, Chair Peterson did not hear what he wanted, the beaver are trying to return Beaver creek to its natural condition. His ultimate question, how to get rid of the beaver.

The Montana Trappers Association is based out of the nearby town of Havre. Annually, they hold their youth trapping camp in Beaver Creek Park. They are just biting at the bit to continue to teach little kids how to trap and destroy all these readily available beaver. 

We thank Renelle Braatan, Dave Pauli, and the others involved, including  locals, in their attempt to make positive change for beaver and Beaver Creek Park. How unfortunate this wonderful opportunity was denied. 

To increase public awareness about the importance of beaver, we put up a billboard in the nearby town of Havre.