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So many of us live in Wisconsin’s Northwoods or Michigan’s Upper Peninsula because we love what surrounds us every day. We love the clear water, the clean air, and the lush forests. WXPR’s environmental reporting as part of our expanded series, The Stream, focuses on the natural world around us. The Stream is now about more than just water: it brings you stories of efforts to conserve our wild lands and lakes, scientific studies of animal and plant life, and potential threats to our environment. Hear The Stream on Thursdays on WXPR and access episodes any time online.

DNR Researching Effectiveness Of Beaver Dam Management On Trout Populations

Ben Meyer/WXPR

For years, many wildlife managers have assumed removing beaver dams on streams helps trout populations.

It allows the streams to run colder and more free, conditions trout generally like.

In an episode of The Stream last month, we showed you how wildlife managers often use explosives to remove dams.

“It’s really important to have these free-flowing from the very top, the cold-water sources, in many cases, all the way through to the larger systems,” said Jeremy Irish, who works with the USDA Wildlife Services program, as part of that story.

But now, a DNR researcher is testing just how true the management theory is.

“We’re trying to fill in the gaps in the understanding of how beaver are affecting these streams and trout populations in them,” said DNR fisheries research scientist Matt Mitro. “The trout population itself, if you have a beaver interrupting flow in a stream and creating different types of habitat, are you increasing trout population? Decreasing trout population? Changing the size structure?”

The assumption about positive impacts for trout is based on decades-old data from one part of the state.

Mitro is now studying 15 streams statewide, manipulating some to allow for beaver dam-building and having dams removed on others.

He said his research could change how the state manages its beaver dams and trout streams.

“Wisconsin DNR fisheries management expends a certain portion of their budget for maintaining this program. Are we wisely spending that money? Or are there ways that we could improve how we’re doing it?” he said.

Mitro hopes to release data as he gets it.

Ben worked as the Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR from September 2019 until November 2021. He now contributes occasionally to WXPR. During his full-time employment, his main focus was reporting on environment and natural resources issues in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as part of The Stream, a weekly series.
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