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March 8, 2007

Officials forming new plan to counter troublesome beavers

All's quiet on the beaver front ... for now.

At the end of Kondelin Road, the waist-deep pond they created two years ago by damming a culvert at the headwaters of Wolf Trap Creek stands frozen.

The lodge of the endearing, if exasperating, animal civil engineers - thought to be four to eight beavers from two generations - is barely visible from the road. At this time of year, they would be inside, waiting out winter's end, munching the fall harvest and the adults typically making a third generation.

On higher ground, human plans are afoot to allow the beavers to stay in the pond by making it smaller. This would prevent instances of flooding that previously have endangered the cold storage facility adjacent to the creek.

The Economic Development and Industrial Corp., the public agency that manages the Cape Ann Industrial Park, has initiated the action, hoping to stop more flooding.

It has contracted with ENSR, a global environmental engineering company, which has subcontracted with Beaver Solutions, a company specializing in "beaver/human conflicts."

For now, the Economic Development and Industrial Corp. has budgeted $17,400 and directed its hired experts to prevent further flooding without displacing the beavers - or worse - killing them.

The goal, said agency executive director Alan Hagstrom, is to "live happily ever after with the beavers."

That, of course, assumes the experts' counter-beaver technology works. A lot depends on the beavers, too.

The monogamous rodents with the big incisors and flat tails are a much-studied species, especially since they have reappeared in locations from which they were hunted, trapped, or displaced by civilization.

It has been found, for example, one beaver is capable of felling more than 200 trees a year for food and construction of dams that change wetlands into ponds - as they have done in Hamilton and Gloucester, and even recently in the Bronx River in New York City.

In Hamilton, the dams created flooding problems along the Miles River severe enough to warrant the granting of trapping permits.

The extreme strategy brought protests; with even the permitting authority, the Hamilton Board of Health, conceding trapping at best will only give the town "a chance to get ahead of the problem, at least for a while," as board Chairman Steve Druschel told the Salem News earlier this winter.

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