Beavers slain because bureaucrat feared blocked culvert

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.

Beaver young with adult – photo credit Vermont Fish & Wildlife

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: lduxbury@jonews.com. 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.

Categories: Environment

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11 replies »

  1. “With the knowledge and permission of the property owner” So I guess that is not enough ? So the neighbors and anybody else that enjoyed viewing them should have been consulted ? I suppose the State could have trapped and moved them, making them someone else’s problem. Hopefully the meat was donated to a good cause, it’s not bad !

  2. Maybe after we educate the beavers to only build their dams in “beaver friendly” areas we can get woodchucks to not dig holes in horse/cow pastures, raccoons and bears to stay out of the corn, and the deer to only cross where there are “Deer Crossing” signs ? Only at Disney Land………..

    • What a terribly ignorant and dangerous mindset. Beavers are awesome critters and some of my fishing was in beaver ponds.

  3. We as a state move further and further away from a farm community where animal control such as this… wouldn’t be news worthy. I have worked on wetlands restorations . A beaver dam can/ will raise havoc. Ive witnessed serious damage due to a beaver dam blow out. Good job to the Topsham selectboard and town crew.

  4. In the early 80’s, a beaver dam let go and washed out railroad track and bed in williston sending an Amtrak train into the mess, and killed some people. National Guard convoys enroute to Fort Drum from VT and New Hampshire were diverted to rescue and transport people to a safe place, some going to the hospitals, and some going to the morgue.
    Afew years later the same thing happened in Sharon to a Canadian National freight train. Massive destruction occured.
    We cannot wait until the disaster hits to take care of potential problems, that become disasters. We forget all too soon.

  5. I don’t disagree with those who know more about beavers than I do, but I think that letting everyone know would have been good, as it would have eliminated complaints, which is what they’re getting now. It’s harder to let a neighborhood know in advance, to answer their questions, and address their concerns, than it is to shoot a beaver.
    [Though in all fairness, I’m not a shooter – I’m more of a beaver.]

  6. Our game warden always told us to hire a humane trapper. But it really sounds like it wasn’t a big problem. The other warden was wrong. Beavers have been on the decline for quite awhile! And if you don’t want beavers, keep the brush and saplings trimmed back!

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