Beaver removal on hold while options are explored

Beaver removal on hold while options are explored

CUMBERLAND - Beavers at Diamond Hill Park got a reprieve this week, when Mayor Daniel McKee said the town is reassessing its options.

"We're gathering information; no action is pending," McKee told The Breeze Friday.

That word comes just days after a wildlife agency, Critter Control of Greater Rhode Island, installed a beaver trap in Sylvie's Brook without the required permit. The company's Chris Beaudreau was directed a day later by the town to remove it. No beaver had been captured during the 24-hour effort.

But while the beaver quandary gets more study, McKee did tip his hand a bit when he suggested that beavers in the park present "a question of where the rights of animals overlap with the rights of the people who live here. I'm inclined to side with the people," he said.

Meanwhile, the beavers have an ally in their Town Council member.

Councilor Scott Schmitt, whose District 4 includes Diamond Hill Park, said this week he met with Parks and Recreation Director Mike Crawley to survey the damage concerns and left feeling convinced, he said, that Cumberland must find a way to co-exist with the animals.

Crawley has said the beavers, who've lived in the park for about two years, are taking down trees and their dam is creating an ever-widening pond that threatens the recreation complex the town installed 15 years ago.

Schmitt questions, he said, what is to prevent a new pair of beavers from replacing any that Cumberland destroys.

In an email to a resident he said, "I have to think that if creative people sit down and discuss problems like these, solutions can be worked out. I do not want to see the beavers trapped and euthanized."

Charlie Brown, the state's wildlife biologist concerning fur animals like beavers, confirmed Monday that Cumberland officials have talked generally with him in search of information.

Brown said that if Cumberland pursues the beaver removal, the town - not Critter Control - must apply for a permit and someone from Brown's office will visit Cumberland to inspect. Permits to destroy certain animals like beavers, deer and Canada geese, are issued only on a case-by-case basis. Issues of public safety and property damage are considered, he said.

They cannot be transplanted to another location for several reasons, including the likelihood of causing problems in the new location and the possibility of spreading disease.

Brown said that while beavers may be rare in Cumberland, they've made enough of a comeback in Rhode Island so that factor won't play into a future decision about those in Sylvie's Brook.

News of Cumberland's move against the beavers was greeted with opposition on social media outlets, in phone calls to Town Hall and Brown's office, and emails to public officials.

Laura Simon, a wildlife ecologist with the Connecticut field office of the Humane Society of the United States, is also weighing in, telling Crawley in a letter this week that the office has received calls from Cumberland residents "who are extremely upset about the pending plan to trap beavers at Diamond Hill Park."

She's urging the use of "beaver bafflers."

She said she understands Cumberland's concerns but says, "trapping is not the answer for this kind of problem and may actually make your problem worse" because new beavers will replace them.

She echoes Rhode Island officials in noting that relocated beavers create problems in other locales.

She says, "Beaver bafflers have been proven to stop the flooding yet allow the beavers to remain in their habitat. These pipe-based devices work by deception and exclusion; they breach the dam in a way that foils the beaver's ability to plug up culverts and streams. The end result is that no more flooding occurs.

"Putting in a flow device might sound expensive, yet the up-front cost pays for itself over time, because the problem is resolved once and for all - this is a long-term solution. We can direct you to a responsible installer in your area."

While the DEM's Brown warns about the maintenance needed by bafflers and says they don't always work, Simon says it's a once-a-month chore of clearing debris.

About the trees, she suggests protecting them with "simple mesh cylinders or sand-paint mixtures.

"Both of these solutions are relatively inexpensive and extremely quick to apply."

Said Simon, 'We strongly urge you to take the trapping plan off the table and instead consider a more effective, long-lasting and humane way to resolve your community's beaver woes.

"The HSUS would be happy to consult with your staff and lend our expertise on this issue."