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Can Man and Beaver Just Get Along? 

Published December 5, 2008 at 4:02 p.m.

Last Friday, the Burlington Free Press ran a story about some "culvert-clogging" beavers in Essex. Apparently, the little critters built a dam that has flooded part of a trail at Indian Brook Park, and town officials have decided to kill 'em.

Local animal rights activists have organized a letter-writing campaign to help save the beavers. "Dear Humane Friends," begins an email explaining the cause, "As you may know from the previous alert, beavers in Essex, VT are to be killed because they caused a trail to flood in Indian Brook Park. This decision has already been made, the trapper has been hired, and traps are already in the water!! The beavers need our help now to stop the trapping and the killing! Please send a Letter to the Editor opposing this cruelty!"

As a results, Seven Days has been, er, flooded, with letters urging Essex officials to save the beavers. Unfortunately, we have a policy of not printing letters that aren't responding to content in our paper or on our website. Since we haven't written about these little guys, we won't be running the letters. Sorry!

Instead, we thought we'd share a few of them with you on our blog. Lindsey Deon writes:

I would like to express my concern for the beavers in Essex. I would also like to ask the Select Board to reconsider their decision to kill the beavers and look at other options so that both man and the beavers can exist together. I just don’t think it is right to destroy these beavers just because they have created a problem.

Continue reading the post to learn about more humane solutions to this dam problem, including "Beaver Bafflers" and "Beaver Deceivers."

I recently learned that the town of Essex is planning on trapping and killing a colony of beavers because they built a dam that caused a trail to flood at he Indian Brook Park.  I am asking the Essex Selectboard members to please reconsider their decision for the following reasons.

Beavers, like feral cats, will move into areas where the beavers (or cats) have been removed.  Trapping the beavers would only be a temporary solution as new beavers would likely move in.

Beavers are only one source of Giardia contamination.  The primary source of Giardia contamination of surface water by people.
The conibear trap causes the beavers to suffer terribly for a long time before they die.  As a modern society we should be able to solve our conflicts with wildlife in humane ways.
There are humane, economical solutions that really work.  The use of bafflers or levelers would control the water levels, eliminating the problematic flooding and allow the beavers to stay where they are for the enjoyment of others in the park who like to watch them and marvel at their work.  The Beaver DeceiverTM is another solution that uses fencing to keep beavers from damming areas that would cause flooding.

Thank you,
Pamela Towne
Milton, VT

I urge the Essex selectboard to reconsider their decision to drown the beavers near Indian Brook Park. It takes up to 18 minutes, once a beaver is caught by the head, for the animal to die. Those 18 minutes of slow drowning must be unspeakably painful.

There are humane methods of eliminating flooding and letting the beavers live: beaver bafflers. These economical and long-lasting devices enable humas to control the water level without disturbing the beavers. Well-designed dam pipes create a permanent leak in the beaver dam and prevent beavers from detecting the flow of water into the pipe. These flow devices keep the water level constant and prevent flooding.

There is a man nearby in NH who is an expert at installing the bafflers. Why not create a permanent solution instead of only a temporary one? And why not show kindness instead of cruelty? What kind of people are we — the kind with hearts or the ones who kill innocent animals for our own convenience? Please be the ones with hearts.

Jim and Ginny Hoverman
Middlebury, VT

To the Editor:

Trapping beavers is not necessary to solve any potential problems they may cause (“Essex on the Hunt for Culvert-Clogging Beavers,” Burlington Free Press, Nov. 28). There are a variety of systems now available that can solve flooding problems long-term, without even removing the beavers.

These systems, known as “water flow control devices” are based on deception and exclusion. They breach the beaver dam in a way that foils the beavers’ instinct to plug spots where they hear running water. Perforated PVC or flex pipes inserted through the dam control the water level, unbeknownst to the beaver. For additional protection, concrete reinforcement wire keeps beavers out of culverts and away from the inlet ends of the pipes. These pipe systems are inexpensive and maintenance is minimal.

Trapping doesn’t control beaver problems because after resident beaver are removed, others soon take their place. Trapping and removing beavers results in not only a waste of lives, but a waste of money when long-term solutions exist.

Luckily, we now have the tools to solve beaver flooding problems humanely. The HSUS New England Regional Office would be happy to work with the town of Essex on a solution that will serve everyone’s interests, including the beavers’.


Joanne Bourbeau
New England Regional Director
The Humane Society of the United States
Jacksonville, VT

Essex town officials should consider alternatives to trapping beavers in Indian Brook Park that are not only more humane, but also cheaper and more effective (Burlington Free Press, "Essex on the hunt for culvert-clogging beavers," Nov. 28).

Trapped beavers may suffer for hours before succumbing to suffocation, blood loss, or exposure. Beavers caught in underwater traps can struggle for up to nine agonizing minutes before drowning. Not only is trapping cruel, it does nothing to prevent more beavers from returning to an area, so trapping becomes an endless cycle—and an expensive one for the town.

Humane deterrents such as pipes that distribute water in ponds and lakes and “Beaver Deceivers”—fence systems that prevent beavers from damming culverts—permanently and humanely solve conflicts with beavers at a fraction of the price of exterminating these sensitive animals.

The antiquated lethal "best management practices" for beaver-human conflicts recommended by the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department and the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation need to be replaced, and Essex can lead the way.

Lori Kettler

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About The Author

Cathy Resmer

Cathy Resmer

Deputy publisher Cathy Resmer is an organizer of the Vermont Tech Jam. She also oversees Seven Days' parenting publication, Kids VT, and created the Good Citizen Challenge, a youth civics initiative. Resmer began her career at Seven Days as a freelance writer in 2001. Hired as a staff writer in 2005, she became the publication's first online editor in 2007.


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