by Linda Duxbury
EAST TOPSHAM—On Sept. 16, some hapless Welch Road beavers were damned because they did what beavers do, built a dam.
The demise of the semiaquatic rodents and the damage to their dam is the result of an onsite visit from a representative from Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission, an entity which advises Vermont towns on land management.
What is considered as advice by some may be considered as meddling by others.
The beaver dam in this case was built on some low property wetlands, which are privately owned. A small pond resulted.
According to Topsham Selectboard Chair Larry Hart, during an inspection of Topsham’s potential problem sites, a TRORC representative deemed the situation at risk of possible overflow in heavy rains, causing a flood and possible erosion of Welch Road and placed the site on a list as an area needing repairs.
If the dam broke, it was believed a nearby culvert would be blocked.
It was up to the Topsham road crew to heed the recommendation of TRORC.
With the knowledge and permission of the property owner, the road crew shot, euphemestically referred to as “lethal reduction” by Vermont Fish and Wildlife, the creatures and dismantled sections of the dam, much to the dismay of the beavers’ admirers.
Richard Barsotti, a retired teacher and 28-year resident of East Topsham, lives across the road and uphill from the site.
“A good number of people enjoyed the beavers’ presence. They were quite upset,” he said in a telephone interview.
He added that it was educational for the kids.
“The beavers are a keystone species and by creating small ponds, they create habitat to draw in other species.”
“We saw great blue heron, mallards, kingfishers, and cedar waxwings.”
Burnice Dow was chagrined when she heard the shots and is sad about the loss of the beavers.
“They were such fun to watch,” she said.
Those who observed the beavers remark that the dam was built far enough from the culvert so there was no flooding of the road even after heavy rain.
Barsotti says he does not have any ill will against the town’s road crew.
He commends them for doing the job right and breaking up the two low ends of the dam so water would not wash any sticks into the culvert.
“The site was on the list for repairs and the dam was on the list as a problem. So what can you do?” said Brad Calhoun, who is the road liaison between the Topsham Selectboard and the crew.
Locals who decry the death and demolition are sorry there was no chance to discuss the situation and have their concerns heard before such action was taken.
Local game warden Mike Scott reassured Barsotti that the beaver population in Vermont is robust and they are extremely resilient.
The Vermont Fish and Wildlife website contains information on “Best Management Practices for Resolving Human-Beaver Conflicts.”
Included in the information are materials lists and instructions on possible ways to lower water levels, install beaver exclusion fences, and water control structures.
According to the website, “Due to a decrease in pelt values and a corresponding decrease in trapping pressure, beaver populations in Vermont increased by as much as 130 percent from 1980 to 1990 and continue to exist at high population levels today.”
Beavers will no doubt regroup and rebuild at the Welch Road wetland site.
That is what beavers do.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. This article is republished from the Journal-Opinion, a weekly community newspaper published in Bradford. For more information about the JO, including subscriptions, click here.
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