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Wetland fence helps fish, foils beavers in Port Gamble

Port Gamble S
Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe biologist Jessica Coyle explains the new beaver fence on 288th Street.
— image credit: Brad Camp/For the Herald

PORT GAMBLE — The county and Port Gamble S’Klallam tribe took action this fall after realizing the “beaver deceiver” on 288th Street was no longer deceiving beavers.

The cheese grater-like device had been installed on a culvert beneath the road a decade ago to keep beavers from blocking the salmon passage with chewed up sticks. It did little to deter the busy rodents, which still managed to cram sticks into the narrow slots in the grating.

The clogged culvert not only blocked chum and coho salmon from reaching the upper reaches of Martha John Creek, but also caused the roadway above to flood during heavy rains.

This fall Kitsap Public Works and the tribe worked with the Great Peninsula Conservancy to replace the “beaver deceiver” with a simple wire fence.

Beavers can still float small sticks through the mesh but it keeps them from blocking the culvert with larger limbs, said Jessica Coyle, a biologist with the tribe’s Department of Natural Resources.

“They haven’t figured it out yet, which is good, because they’re really intelligent critters,” Coyle said.

Coyle hopes the fence is a temporary fix. The state has shown interest in replacing the culvert with a wider passage, which could help restore a more natural flow to the creek, she said.

The tribe monitors salmon runs on the creek, which drains into Port Gamble Bay. Coyle said chum are just beginning to arrive.

No one knows how many beavers live in the wetland. The rodents are most active at night.

“The chances of seeing one are really rare,” Coyle said. “But they leave us signs all the time.

— Tad Sooter

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