Beaver activity gnaws at Greylock Glen

Wednesday November 24, 2010

ADAMS -- Recently, the Greylock Glen has been vexed by four-legged foes as beavers in and around the gazebo area are taking down dozens of trees at the site.

The damage isn't limited to just the to trees that are a few inches thick as the beavers are downing some as big as five or six inches in diameter. They are also attacking not just naturally occurring trees but trees recently planted at the site for aesthetic purposes.

Adams Director of Community Development and project manager for the Greylock Glen project Donna Cesan said that since the property is still technically owned by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, any solution to the new beaver problem has to come from it.

"I have had a few people express concerns about increased beaver activity and I did pass it on to [DCR representative] Cathy Garnett and she has passed it on to the regional headquarters," Cesan said, "What their plan is, I don't know yet."

Cesan said she is not overly concerned about the beaver activity effecting the Greylock Glen's development as it progresses because both the town and the state have always understood the Glen to be a dynamic, changing environment. Cesan said that when designers of the project were being selected, both the state's and the town's consultants had subcontractors that had specific experience with beavers, the way they act and how they move from place to place.

"We have always understood that they wouldn't stay in one place forever and will continue to move with their food source," she said. "It's just something that needs to be monitored and and then managed."

One method for dealing with the beaver infestation is using something called a beaver deceiver -- a trapezoidal shaped fence used in areas of flowing water that is effective in eliminating beaver dams at culverts.

A beaver deceiver works three ways with the first being the length of the fence making it difficult to dam the whole waterway. Second, the shape of the fence forces the beavers to dam away from the culvert, which is against their nature and third, forces the beavers to dam along the fence. This means that as the beavers dam away from the opening of the stream into the body of water gets further away, the sound of flowing water diminishes. The sound of flowing water triggers the beaver's natural instinct to dam.

If the sides of the fence are at least 12 feet long, beavers will typically not even bother to dam there. Cesan said it may be time to consider using beaver deceivers at the Glen.

In years past, the upkeep of the Glen has faced the challenge of beaver damming but it hasn't caused any major tree damage before. However, it has often caused flooding if left unchecked. The state's maintenance teams often find it difficult to keep up with clearing beaver dams because special permits are required to move or destroy beaver them.

The damage to the trees and increased beaver activity has mostly been observed by locals using the Glen. Jodi Fijal has been bringing her black lab/ golden retriever mix dog Ben to the Glen for last two and a half years and said she has definitely noticed an upswing in beaver activity recently. Early in August, Fijal's dog was attacked and bitten by a beaver that was uncharacteristically out during the day.

Fijal said there was a commotion in the pond and Ben decided to jump in. She said when the dog saw the beaver, he decided to swim out but unexpectedly jumped back in. The beaver dove and bit the dog in his groin and began pulling him under water. The dog eventually got free and needed nine stitches.

"We're lucky that he's with us," Fijal said. "And we don't let him swim in the beaver pond any more."

Fijal was told by the animal control officer that Ben had to be quarantined for 45 days at her house and had to get a rabies booster.

Larry Bishop, a fellow dog walker at the Glen, said he has been coming to the Glen for years and it was unusually for the beavers to be out at the Glen during the day and stick around when people are close. He said the beavers are doing a number on the smaller trees in the area and also causing flooding. In years past, he said, it was possible to walk from the gazebo, along the main pond and get into the areas beyond but added that a lot of it is now flooded.

"Not long ago, we came up and there was a huge beaver sleeping near where they're doing some of the culvert work," Bishop said. "I wasn't sure it was a beaver at first or if it was alive, but I walked over to it and shouted and it perked up. It just slid into the pond and splashed around and annoyed the dogs. But it was sound asleep in the open. It's almost like it had too much to drink the night before and didn't make it home."


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