Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Gary Leaming and trapper LeRoy Hippe carry a beaver captured in a storm water settling pond near Highway 62. Pennell photo - Bob Pennell


When a big male beaver who had settled in a settling pond along Highway 62 moved to repair a damaged dam, he found himself snapped in a trap and headed to a new home.

LeRoy Hippe, a trapper hired by the Oregon Department of Transportation to remove the problem beaver from the roadside pond, had pulled out a portion of the dam Wednesday and placed a clam-shell-shaped, chain-link wire trap there.

Beavers instinctively step in to evaluate and repair damage to their dams, and using that knowledge Hippe has trapped and relocated 15 beavers in the past two years.

"If he was in here, he was going to get caught," said Hippe, who operates a beaver-busting nonprofit called Clean Air and Water Inc.

Hippe's trap was empty Thursday when he checked it, but Friday dawned with one cranky beaver, estimated to weigh about 35 pounds, gnawing and pushing against the wiry confines. The animal's efforts had rubbed the fur off his nose, but the trap held.

Hippe collected the critter with the help of several ODOT employees. Loaded trap and all into the back of Hippe's compact car, the beaver was destined for a new home in the upper reaches of the Elk Creek drainage.

There, his dam-building abilities will pool water to improve stream habitat for juvenile coho salmon, said Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists who find places where Hippe can relocate beavers that have caused problems by building in the wrong place.

The string of ponds along the busy highway just across from Medford's Target store where this beaver made his home this summer wasn't the right spot, officials said.

The ponds, built in 2002 as part of a major interchange project, capture storm water so solids can settle out and vegetation can help filter out heavy metals and other pollutants before the water flows into Bear Creek.

While the ponds provide habitat to ducks, herons and other urban wildlife, the beaver's engineering prowess caused problems for the city's public works crews. His dam raised the level of the pond about a foot, backing pond water into a manhole city crews use to access a sewer pipe flowing under the area.

In the long term, the city likely will have to build up the manhole to prevent inundation, but getting the beaver out and removing his dam should put the water back at a manageable level for now, officials said.

Call reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail

Share This Story