Monday, December 10, 2012

Beavers in the retention pond (Part III)

Please consider subscribing to follow the tumultuous and tenuous existence of an urban beaver (and other tales from the urban wilds). To follow this blog, enter your email in box to the right. Thanks!
Beaver clearing trail for a beech sapling

What: Centennial Woods feels a bit emptier today. On Friday afternoon I got the very sad news that UVM was kill trapping the beavers that many of us have come to know so well.

What I know so far is that they have killed one of the three beavers, the one we called Melvin, using conibear traps. There are three conibear traps set up on well-worn trails running between the upper and lower reservoirs of the retention pond. Conibear traps are incredibly effective at killing animals. While they can be baited, these aren't. UVM hasn't locked or closed the gate to the detention pond in over a year and with regularity I find mink, gray fox, raccoon, red fox, deer, domestic dog, and domestic cat tracks in the pond (this morning fresh raccoon and red fox tracks on the wet snow inside the gate). While the traps weren't baited when I checked them, they're located in access points the beavers use with regularity. Trappers place traps where their quarry go. And where their quarry go so do their predators - or anything curious about their scent. This is why Conibear traps also kill so many beagles and other domestic dogs that investigate the one place around a beaver pond where a beaver leaves its scent on the ground (you can find lots of depressing articles on beagles found dead in these types of traps).

Sam and I spooked the beaver while
coming down to check the game cam

Rose Leland told me on Friday that this was the best course of action and that everyone they had talked to recommended this. I find this problematic for two main reasons. I'll post my first here, and the second in a couple of days. First, it's irresponsible management. The beavers had obviously moved in during the summer, immediately backing up the outflow pipe, felling several large beech trees that landed on the fence, and built a visible lodge. All of this is easily visible from UVM's Ground's office and the spot where UVM Grounds employees hit golf balls down into Centennial Woods. They clearly could have seen the effects the beavers were having.

If the beavers were indeed a problem, UVM could have done something at that time to a) beaver-proof the fence around the retention pond, and/or b) transplanted the beavers. The beavers did move out of the pond sometime during the late summer (perhaps UVM did transplant the beavers). But because the habitat and access to it still existed, it would only be reasonable to assume that beavers would return, which they did in late September. Again the signs of their presence was obvious. UVM's negligence in dealing with this until December (almost 10 weeks later), meant that options were severely limited as it's now too late in the season to transplant them. But even the assumption that killing them is the only way to deal with them (if you believe dealing with them is even necessary) is false as beavers have been known to adopt other beavers in their home territory. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the initial pair of beavers adopted the second pair after UVM destroyed their habitat at the other retention pond. An assumption on my part, but due to last year's long growing season and tame winter, beavers this year should be better off and have larger caches. They would, therefore, be more likely to adopt other beavers. Had UVM responded sooner we wouldn't be mourning the loss of a beaver that had touched the lives of so many.

No comments:

Post a Comment