PITTSFIELD -- They can keep their lodges, but they can't have their dams in certain places.
That is the message being sent by the city of Pittsfield to the local beaver population.
Friday at a pond in the Wild Acres conservation area, the city removed a beaver dam and put in pipes to take control of the water level from the semi-aquatic rodents.
"Everybody in the pool," Dan Osterander yelled out, as he and other city workers stepped into the pond and installed a fence to keep out the beavers Friday morning. The crew used an excavator to remove twigs and mud that formed the dam.
They were joined by Michael Callahan of Beaver Solutions, who was contracted by the city to find a humane solution to a flooding problem city officials blame on the critters.
On Friday, Callahan took 50 paces into five-feet deep pond waters to place a cage that will connect the pipes to where the city has its own dam to control the water.
Callahan has a thriving business thanks to a Massachusetts law which prevents the lethal trapping of beavers. Any disturbance of a beaver dam requires a special permit.
Callahan was paid through a $1,700 grant secured by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for his work.
"What we are trying to do is keep the beavers from controlling the water level," he said.
If his solution is successful, more dams could be uprooted in the city. Friday's effort is considered the test case.
Rob Van Der Kar said beavers have been a problem in the city, causing properties to flood on Crane Avenue, Brattle Brook Park, and the Fort Hill Avenue area.
"It's a great solution to the issue," said Jim Conant, chairman of the Pittsfield Conservation Commission.
So far, homes haven't flooded due to the beavers, but lawns have, Conant said. Sackett Brook Park and Kirvin Park also have been hit with flooding.
The beavers construct the dams to pool water. Before Friday's work, the water on the beaver side was three feet higher than the water on the other side.
Conant said he has seen the water rise to five feet or more.
For beavers, dams are self-preservation 101. They stockpile food into a shelter they build in the middle of the water to keep out predators and other unwanted intruders. The dam ensures a high water level to keep out coyotes and other pesky neighbors.
At the Wild Acres pond, in a conservation area off South Mountain Road, the issue is balancing the needs of a nearby farm and the Bousquet Ski Area.
The owner of the farm has complained about high water levels at the pond, said Jim McGrath, Pittsfield's park and open space planner.
The Bousquet Ski Area needs the water for snowmaking in the winter.
Van Derkar, a Pittsfield conservation agent and former wildlife biologist, said beavers shouldn't be negatively impacted by the city's work.
"It shouldn't affect them. That's the whole goal," Van Derkar said. "We need to be able to work with them."
To reach Nathan Mayberg:
or (413) 496-6243.