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blowing up a beaver damIt may seem odd to speak of using explosives to control wildlife damage. But the fact is there are situations where it is a viable option.

Beaver Dams:

Explosives are used to quickly remove beaver dams. The photo at left, taken by Ron Fryda of Wildlife Services, provides a visual expression of what is known as "Blowing a dam!" The dam needed to be quickly removed in order to protect the railroad trestle which was threatened by the beaver flooding.

Sometimes dams need to be quickly removed in order to allow farmers to harvest crops. Harvesting only provides a brief window of opportunity. Miss it and the crop will be lost. Explosives allow flooded field to drain quickly so farmers can bring in heavy harvest equipment.

Blown dams also provide another benefit, namely they prevent beavers from building a dam at that same location again. It seems, the stream bed is so modified as to make the site unsuitable for future damming.

Downsides of Blowing a Dam:

  • Erosion
  • Silting of the stream will negatively impact aquatic life
  • In winter, life in the impoundment may die due to the reduction of water that previously provided insulation from the cold.
Legal issues with explosives

Legal issues with Explosives

1. Permits and licensing with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

2. Storage requirements for holding explosives can be onerous.

3. USDA-WS Agents may be able to help you if you decide that explosives are needed for your wildlife damage problem.


Oxygen-Propane Explosive Devices

Recently, devices that seek to control burrowing animals by filling their holes with a propane-oxygen mix which is then ignited have been produced. There are different versions of the device on the market but all rely on the same principle, namely killing the animal with the concussive force of exploding propane.

The devices have been marketed for control of a whole variety of species including, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, woodchucks, moles, and pocket gophers. There is good evidence that the device is effective for controlling prairie dogs and woodchucks, and some ground squirrels. One researcher proved the technique's effectiveness by digging up treated woodchuck dens and having necropsies performed on the dead woodchucks. The conclusion of the necropsy was death by massive concussive force both internally and externally. It appeared that the woodchucks inhaled the gaseous mixture that when ignited exploded from the inside as well. However, doubts persist regarding its efficacy in the control of moles and pocket gophers.

One key advantage with this technique is its speed as well as its being pesticide free.

Cautions in using Propane-Oxygen Explosive Devices

  • It is not legal in every state. It is critical to understand that just because you can buy it doesn't mean it is legal to use. Some states prohibit the use of explosives for the control or capture of wildlife.
  • Fire hazards (hopefully this one is obvious).
  • Danger to underground pipes and cables. Concussive forces could negatively affect buried pipes and lines. Consult with DigSafe or similiar utility locator company before using propane-oxygen exploders.
  • Flying debris. Use too much gas and chunks of soil and debris will be projected around potentially injuring people and property.  Be sure to wear your safety equipment.


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