Tag Archive: Marvel

Beavers – Engineering Marvel or Farmer’s Frustration

Beavers – Engineering Marvel or Farmer’s Frustration

Beaver lodge, Calhoun County Florida. Photo by Judy Biss

Even though the “work” beavers do can sometimes cause frustration to land owners, they are truly amazing creatures.  A number of questions have come into the Extension Office lately about managing beavers, so it is a good time to discuss a little about the history and biology of these unique animals, as well as the management options available for land owners.

Beavers in the American Landscape

Hundreds of millions of beaver once occupied the North American continent until the 1900s, when the majority had been trapped out in the eastern United States for the fur trade (Baker, B.W., and E.P. Hill. 2003. Beaver (Castor canadensis)).  “Growing public concern over declines in beaver and other wildlife populations eventually led to regulations that controlled harvest through seasons and methods of take, initiating a continent-wide recovery of beaver populations.” (Baker, B.W., and E.P. Hill. 2003. Beaver (Castor canadensis)).  In its current range, the beaver “thrives throughout the Florida Panhandle and upper peninsula in streams, rivers, swamps or lakes that have an ample supply of trees.”  (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Aquatic Mammals, Beaver: Castor canadensis).


Beavers are the largest rodent in North America.  In Florida, they commonly weigh between 30 – 50 pounds.  Beavers are considered an aquatic mammal, having adaptations such as a streamlined shape, insulating fur, ears and nostrils that close while underwater, clear membranes that cover their eyes while underwater, large webbed feet, and a broad flat rudder-like tail that aid in swimming.  They can remain underwater for 15 minutes at a time!  Their tree-cutting, bark-peeling front teeth grow continuously, and as a result, are continuously sharpened as they grind against the lower teeth.  (Baker, B.W., and E.P. Hill. 2003. Beaver (Castor canadensis), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Aquatic Mammals, Beaver: Castor canadensis).

Habitat and Behaviors

Beavers typically mate for life and live in family groups consisting of the adult male and female, and one or two generations of young kits before they are old enough to disperse on their own.  They are primarily nocturnal, being active from dusk to dawn.  Beavers eat not only tree bark, leaves, stems, buds, and fruits, but  herbaceous plants as well.  Their diet is broad and can consist of aquatic plants, such as cattails and water lilies, shrubs, willow, grasses, acorns, tree sap, and sometimes even cultivated row crops.  (Baker, B.W., and E.P. Hill. 2003. Beaver (Castor canadensis)).

Top of beaver dam in Calhoun County FL. Water level difference is nearly 3 feet. Photo by Judy Biss

Dam and Lodge Construction

The sound of moving water triggers beavers to build, repair, or maintain their dams.  (Baker, B.W., and E.P. Hill. 2003. Beaver (Castor canadensis)).  The two main structures they build are the water-slowing dam and their living quarters or lodge.  The lodge is separate from the dam and is oftentimes located in the stream or pond bank.  “The ponds created by dams also provide beavers with deep water where they can find protection from predators — entrances to dens or lodges are usually underwater.  Some beavers in Florida do not build the massive stick lodges associated with northern colonies.  Instead, they are more likely to live in deep dens in stream banks…” Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Aquatic Mammals, Beaver: Castor canadensis).

Pear tree felled by beaver in Calhoun County FL. Photo by Judy Biss


Beavers are called “nature’s engineers” for good reason.  Their tree cutting and building behaviors certainly alter surrounding landscapes.  Outside of any connection to human civilization, their activities tend to increase diversity and habitat options for both plants and animals.  Many scientists have examined the intricate biological and ecological effects beavers have on surrounding landscapes.  Their activities in our backyard, however, do not always result in positive outcomes.  Often, beavers are triggered to build dams in running water through road culverts causing significant impacts to road drainage, and surrounding flood management.  Their construction of dams along creeks can flood farm fields and woodlands.  Their feeding and tree cutting can kill desired trees in nearby timberland and orchards.

Management Options for Land Owners

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) publication, “Living with Beavers” provides excellent advice, along with a summary of the regulations regarding this native wildlife species.  As per this document, “The beaver is a native species with a year-round hunting and trapping season in Florida.”  Beaver hunting and trapping regulations can be found on the FWC Furbearer Hunting and Trapping website.  A beaver can be taken as a nuisance animal, if it causes or is about to cause property damage, presents a threat to public safety, or causes an annoyance in, under, or upon a building, per Florida Rule 68A-9.010.”  Other recommendations from this FWC publication are:

  • “Beaver dam removal provides immediate relief from flooding and can be the simplest and cheapest way of dealing with a beaver problem. However, beavers often quickly rebuild a dam as soon as it is damaged. “
  • “When removing a dam is infeasible or unsuccessful, installing a water level control structure through the dam can allow for the control of water flow without removing the dam. This technique also reduces the likelihood of the beaver continuously blocking water flow. For technical assistance, contact a wildlife assistance biologist at a regional FWC office near you.”
  • “If a beaver dam is blocking a culvert or similar structure, installing a barrier several feet away from the culvert can be the most effective solution. This prevents the beavers from accessing the culvert to dam it. Please contact a wildlife assistance biologist at a regional FWC office near you for technical assistance.”
  • “Protect valuable trees and vegetation from beaver damage by installing a fence around them or wrapping tree trunks loosely with 3-5 feet of hardware cloth or multiple wraps of chicken wire. This prevents the beavers from chewing on the trees and other plants.”
  • “Lethal control should be considered a last resort.”

FWC also points the reader to this publication from Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service, Department of Aquaculture, Fisheries and Wildlife, “The Clemson Beaver Pond Leveler.”  This publication provides diagrams and a list of materials needed to construct a device which is designed to “minimize the probability that current flow can be detected by beavers, therefore minimizing dam construction.”

All questions regarding beaver management should be directed to your local FWC Regional Office.  Land owners can also request a list of Nuisance Wildlife Trappers available in their area:

FWC Northwest Region Office
3911 Highway 2321
Panama City, FL 32409-1659
(850) 265-3676

 Links to the references used for this article:



Author: Judy Biss – judy.biss@ufl.edu

Judy Biss is the Agriculture and Natural Resource Agent in Calhoun County, Florida

Judy Biss

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/03/18/beavers-engineering-marvel-or-farmers-frustration/

Marvel & Justin Williams Honored as Holmes County Agricultural Innovators

Marvel & Justin Williams Honored as Holmes County Agricultural Innovators

Marvel Williams was recognized as the Agricultural Innovator by his friend and local Holmes County Agent, Shep Eubancks.

Marvel Williams was recognized as the Holmes County Agricultural Innovator by his friend and local Holmes County Agent, Shep Eubanks.

On Thursday August 21, 2014, twelve Innovative Farmers and Ranchers were recognized by University of Florida IFAS Extension and Farm Credit of Northwest Florida at the Jefferson County Opera House, in Monticello.  This is the fourth year these two organizations have teamed up to honor a selection of the most innovative farmers from the Florida Panhandle.

The purpose of the Agriculture Innovator Recognition Program is to annually recognize innovative farmers and ranchers from 16 Florida Panhandle counties, from Jefferson west to Escambia County.  In 2014, County Agriculture Extension Agents selected 12 Agricultural Innovators to be recognized.

All of the county honorees have distinguished themselves as creative thinkers and leaders in the agricultural community.  This year Marvel and Justin Williams were honored as Agriculture Innovators by Holmes County Extension .  Read more about the Williams Farm below.  The other Agricultural Innovators nominated this year will be featured in Panhandle Ag e-News over the coming weeks.

Justin and Marvel Williams operate Williams Farm in Holmes County.  Photo credit:  Shep Eubanks.

Justin and Marvel Williams operate Williams Farm in Holmes County. Photo credit: Shep Eubanks.

Marvel & Justin Williams – Holmes County Agricultural Innovators

Submitted by Extension Agent: Shep Eubanks

The Williams Farm is a cooperative effort of Marvel Williams and his son Justin, and has been in existence for several generations in Holmes County in the Poplar Springs Community. Marvel has been farming for more than 43 years after serving a tour in the United States Air Force in England. The Williams Farm is a diversified farming operation producing peanuts, cotton, wheat, perennial peanut and Russell Bermudagrass hay, and beef cattle on approximately 2,000 acres.

Marvel was the first cotton farmer in Holmes County to begin using transgenic varieties when they came on the market. Marvel and Justin were early adopters in Holmes County of GPS guidance systems for their tractors for improving planting and harvesting efficiency on the 1600 acres of peanuts and cotton that they are currently farming. Their utilization of variable rate fertilizer applications for the lime and nutrient needs of their crops, thereby conserving resources and optimizing crop production while reducing inputs, are exemplary. They have always been willing to share their knowledge and experience with other farmers. They have availed themselves of new and improved varieties for crop production and are the leading producers of high quality forages in their hay business. They are one of the largest producers of perennial peanut in Holmes County and their perennial peanut fields are one of the highlights of the drive up Highway 173 when the peanuts are in bloom!  They also do a superb job producing horse quality hay on the 110 acres of Russell Bermudagrass that they have in production, setting an example of excellent forage management on their farm.

Marvel and his son JustinImproving Agriculture through Extension Involvement

Marvel and Justin have been tremendously supportive of Extension over the years. Marvel has served for many years on the Holmes County Overall Advisory Committee, including serving as the Chairman. In addition, Marvel has been an active member of the multi-county advisory committee that plans the annual Panhandle Peanut Short Course and the Panhandle Row Crop meetings. He has been a strong supporter of the Panhandle Peanut Field Day, and an advocate for generous funding of the ongoing peanut research at North Florida Research and Education Center in Marianna. In years past he has assisted Holmes County Extension in hosting a Farm City tour of local peanut buying points and cotton gins and has always been willing to give direction and advice to Extension regarding the needs of local producers.

The Williams have participated in nematode survey trials on peanuts, peanut maturity research into new methods of determining digging times and other aspects of peanut production. Currently, Justin is assisting Extension with innovative research field trials to learn more about the biology and control of Bermudagrass Stem Maggot, a recent invasive pest in our area.

Many times over the years the Williams have hosted University of Florida agronomists, plant pathologists, entomologists, and other specialists on the farm, allowing them access in order to assess new crop technology, diseases, and insect problems in an effort to improve production of peanuts, cotton, and forages.

In addition, on several occasions Marvel has assisted the local Holmes County Extension in conducting annual Ag in the classroom field days for the 5th grade students in the Holmes County schools, exposing these youths to the importance of agriculture in the local community. He has been an outstanding friend and supporter of Extension!

Justin and Marvel Williams Perennial PeanutImpacting Agriculture in Northwest Florida

Marvel and Justin Williams have made a huge impact on agriculture in Holmes County and surrounding counties. Marvel served for more than 12 years as the Secretary and Treasurer of the Florida Peanut Producers Association and has always been a strong advocate for peanut farmers, not only in the panhandle, but also statewide and nationally. Marvel has made several trips to the halls of Congress and to Tallahassee to advocate for farmers. He has served for many years on a statewide Peanut and Field Crops Advisory Committee in addition to serving on local farm related boards.

Marvel and his family were selected in 1986 as the Holmes County Farm Family of the year.  Justin and his young family are following in the same path, and this year they were selected to be the 2014 Holmes County Farm Family of the Year! Justin is an exemplary young farmer, a young man whom many of the other young farmers in Holmes County look up to as a mentor and example of the benefits of embracing innovation and being proactive in adopting new technologies in agriculture.

You might also be interested in the stories of other Agricultural Innovators highlighted in previous weeks:



Author: Shep Eubanks – bigbuck@ufl.edu

Shep Eubanks is the County Extension Director and Agriculture Agent in Holmes County.

Shep Eubanks

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2014/10/18/marvel-justin-williams-honored-as-holmes-county-agricultural-innovators/