LeRoy Hippe is setting a trap for a rogue beaver whose engineering prowess is throwing pond water into a manhole that Medford Public Works Department crews use to maintain a sewage pipe near Crater Lake Highway. The beaver will be relocated to new digs in the Elk Creek Basin.

Beaver's bachelor pad creates logjam

A big beaver that has turned a Medford roadside settling pond into his personal bachelor pad will be forced to take his engineering prowess elsewhere — all to make sure Medford's you-know-what continues flowing downhill.

Oregon Department of Transportation officials are trying to remove the beaver at the request of Medford public works crews because the dam backs pond water into a manhole they use to keep a raw sewage pipe flowing beneath Bear Creek near Crater Lake Highway.

So trapper LeRoy Hippe has been called in to catch and relocate what he suspects is a "rogue" beaver — one whose mate has died and who's left to spend his days in this lazy backwater gorging on tree roots and wallowing in urban runoff.

"A rogue beaver is the equivalent of a widower who sits around watching football, drinking beer and eating chips," says Gary Leaming, ODOT's project information manager in Medford.

But it's game-over for this beaver.

"It's not a matter of if," Leaming says. "It's a matter of when."

This latest man-verses-nature match is playing out under Medford's collective noses in a little slice of urban wildlife habitat that sits largely undetected along Highway 238's shoulder across from the Target store.

Built as part of the Big X interchange in 2002, a string of ponds adjacent to the interchange serves as a filtering system for water running off the asphalt and concrete there.

Solids settle out of the stagnant water and vegetation helps filter heavy metals and other pollutants before the water flows over a berm and into adjacent Bear Creek.

Lined with willows and brush, the ponds are home to ducks, heron and other urban wildlife.

"It's neat that you have this little bit of wild right next to a highway where 45,000 cars go by every day," Leaming says.

Earlier this summer, the beaver crossed the berm and found a little bit of aquatic heaven, but in need of a few adjustments to make it perfect for a single guy.

He used mud, sticks and stones to dam the outflow, raising the pond about a foot.

"It's like a bachelor pad," says Jerry Vogt, ODOT's regional environmental coordinator. "There's no one in here nagging him."

But he's become quite a pest to city crews. The water covers and seeps into the manhole that offers access to the raw-sewage line in need of regular maintenance.

"We've probably had to tear down his dam four times," says Ron Forsyth, Medford's public works supervisor. "You don't want to hurt him. He's only doing his job."

The long-term solution, Vogt says, is to build up the manhole entrance. The short-term solution is to de-beaver the pond.

Vogt has called in Hippe, who heads a beaver-busting nonprofit called Clean Air and Water Inc. Hippe makes a business out of turning urban wildlife clashes into backwood habitat positives.

Late Wednesday, Hippe yanked out a section of the dam and replaced it with a large metal clamshell-like trap.

The idea is, when the beaver returns to fix his work, the trap creates a beaver sandwich when the animal steps inside.

"They'll inspect their work every night," says Hippe, who has captured and relocated 15 beavers since beginning his project two summers ago.

Thursday morning the trap was beaver-less. Hippe will check it daily until he's successful.

"It's just a question of timing," Hippe says.

Once captured, this beaver will be trucked into the upper reaches of the Elk Creek basin to an area identified by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists as a place where nature's civil engineers can help improve stream habitat for juvenile coho salmon.

Maybe this bachelor could find a new lady beaver to share his next pad.

"This should work out all the way around," Forsyth says.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail

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