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Though beavers have made portions of Ochoco Creek home in the past, the problem has grown worse this year

PHOTO COURTESY OF JAMES YOUNG
 - A game camera set up along Ochoco Creek near presumed beaver activity catches a flat-tailed suspect gnawing away on a tree near the community skate park.

There is a beaver stirring up trouble in Ochoco Creek.

At one end of town, near the local skate park, a flat-tailed critter has chewed up several trees, causing some to come down. Closer to Main Street, a tree with incriminating chew marks lays across the creek next to a jagged, pointy stump.

Prineville Police Officer James Young is aware that beavers have settled into Ochoco Creek at different times through the years. They seems to prefer the skate park area.

"If you go through that area, there is actually years of different beaver chew through there," he said. "There is old stuff that is grayed over."

But since about January, the problem has worsened and created a safety hazard.

"It started down in the skate park area," he said. "We started seeing a lot of beaver activity down there, a lot of chewed trees. Then we started seeing trees falling down."

One of the trees was downed across a seldom-used road connecting Juniper Street to the Hometown Animal Hospital property. That wasn't too concerning, but another tree came down across the much more utilized bike and pedestrian path. Young also noticed a beaver dam under construction across a spillway just east of Juniper Street.

Had the beaver finished the dam, it could cause flooding problems — but fortunately, recent creek flushing efforts by Ochoco Irrigation District washed it away. Unfortunately, it temporarily displaced the beaver and it chewed down another tree a block or two east of Main Street. The problem animal has since returned to its "home" near the skate park.

"Some of the trees that were intact are now freshly chewed," Young said.

Something had to be done, Young decided, so he did some research and learned about a Bend-based organization called Beaver Works Oregon, which provides mitigation services for people dealing with beaver problems.

But before contacting the organization, Young decided to reach out to local stakeholders like Ochoco Irrigation District, City of Prineville Public Works and Crook County Parks and Recreation District to find out how they would like to handle the situation. They all encouraged him to contact Beaver Works.

Young connected with Program Director Reese Mercer.

"We did a walk of the path and I showed her the areas that were of concern," he said. "I ended up having a couple of conferences with them. Then COVID-19 hit and that pushed things back."

He has continued to communicate with the organization by phone and the group is not putting together a proposal with different options, which could include anything from tree protection or fencing to beaver relocation.

Once Young receives that proposal, it will likely go before the Prineville City Council for consideration.


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