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Stay of execution for pesky beavers

April 28, 2013

Evidence of beaver activity along Sylvie's Brook in Diamond Hill Park in Cumberland has raised concerns of flooding in the area and a call for the killing of four beavers spotted in the area. Photo/Ernest A. Brown

CUMBERLAND – A family of beavers who faced being trapped and killed for causing tree damage and flooding at Diamond Hill Park has been granted a stay of execution.
After initially stating that he was considering having a local exterminator kill the beavers, Parks and Recreation Director Michael Crawley says that plan has been scrapped – at least for now.
“Hunting season for beaver is over. It runs from November to March, so that deadline has passed. And to trap beaver off-season you need to get a special permission from the Department of Environmental Management, so at this point we’re going to take some time to evaluate the situation. We haven’t decided anything yet.”
The beaver family’s lodge on Sylvie's Brook at Diamond Hill Park has caused extensive tree damage and flooding near the baseball fields, which prompted complaints from some town residents.
According to Crawley, the four-member beaver family showed up two year ago and includes a breeding male and female and their offspring of two breeding seasons.
“We received complaints and we had to investigate those complaints,” said Crawley. “Our intent in contacting Critter Control (a Greenville-based wild animal control firm) was to have them come out and assess the situation. I understand there are two sides to this. Some people consider them a nuisance and capable of a lot of destruction, while others want to protect them. So, for now, we’re going to think about it and then make a decision which way to go.”
Crawley says he is waiting to see if how much damage occurs through the summer months before deciding whether or not to revisit the option to have the beavers trapped and killed during next year’s hunting season.
“You just can’t relocate them because it is illegal in Rhode Island and most other states to transport and release live wild animals from one location to another,” he said.
The beaver is the largest rodent in North America with adults ranging from 35 to 46 inches long and weighing from 45 to 60 pounds
Beavers construct dams which result in the formation of ponds within which the lodge and winter food cache are located. It is believed to be a combination of water flow sensation and the sound associated with running water that stimulates this dam building activity. Within and around the pond the beaver construct canals for security and for the transport of food and building materials. Beavers are primarily active at night with regard to their dam building and tree cutting activity.
The impoundments created by beavers provide valuable wildlife habitat for assorted furbearer and waterfowl species. In this way, the beaver provides valuable ecological benefits to the public at large. On the other hand, the beaver's dam building activity can result in widespread flooding of woodlands and agricultural land and cause numerous complaints by plugging road culverts, flooding roads, railroad tracks and causing general property damage concerns.
Meanwhile, Dennis Tabella, president of the statewide animal-rights group Defenders of Animals, says he plans to contact Crawley and the town in hopes of sitting down to discuss a more humane way of dealing with the beaver problem.
“It’s 2013 and we should be looking at more humane methods of dealing with these kinds of issues,” says Tabella. “The problem is that town managers and people in town government aren’t looking around at all the different options that are available.”
Tabella says the Town of Scituate is a good example of a community that chose to deal with a nuisance wildlife problem in a “thoughtful and humane manner.”
In 2000, he said, the town agreed to work with Defenders of Animals to solve a beaver problem in Potterville Brook without killing them. The beavers had been blocking a culvert that passes beneath Nipmuc Road, causing water from the brook to flood residential property.
At first, the town was considering having the beavers trapped and killed by a fur trader, but Defenders of Animals asked the town to stop the trapping and offered to pay for a network of plastic pipes that he says allowed water to pass through the culvert and deter the animals from damming the passage. The contraptions were installed near the culvert and, so far, have deterred beaver activity.
"We think that Scituate could be the model for other Rhode Island communities regarding humane systems for beaver control," Tabella said.


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