UVM's Beavers Earn a Reprieve from Trapping | Off Message

UVM's Beavers Earn a Reprieve from Trapping

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The University of Vermont has removed kill traps set for a family of beavers living in Centennial Woods and will rethink how to deal with the animals in the coming weeks.

Last month Seven Days covered the story of a family of beavers that had taken up residence in a UVM stormwater retention pond. Field naturalist Teage O'Connor (pictured) and his students had been studying the animals for years. But UVM worried the dammed pond could flood and set traps.

Now the university has put the trapping on hold, according to Sharon MacNair, the president of Green Mountain Animal Defenders. MacNair learned about the beavers after several GMAD members forwarded her a link to the Seven Days story. She says she subsequently put out an alert to GMAD members, urging them to contact UVM, and penned her own letter to the director of UVM's physical plant department, Salvatore Chiarelli.

Within 24 hours UVM came back with this update: They were pulling the traps — at least for the time being. The university plans to reconsider the issue after classes reconvene on Jan. 14. 

GMAD are old hands when it comes to beaver conundrums: The group intervened a few years ago after the town of Essex began trapping some "culvert-clogging" beavers in Indian Brook Park. MacNair says trapping isn't a long-term solution to problems like these. She supports alternatives — such as "beaver deceivers" or "beaver baffles" — that prevent beavers from creating damaging dams. Essex ultimately chose to go this route, and according to MacNair, "it's been working beautifully over the years." 

She hopes UVM will consider something similar, and already has two experts — the Vermont inventor of the beaver baffle, Skip Lisle, as well as a licensed wildlife rehabilitator — lined up to weigh in. 

"We’re quite confident that we’ll be able to come up with a win-win situation," says MacNair. "I was thrilled that they listened. I really felt that they did a wonderful job being very timely. They took action immediately, and they’re willing to listen and they’re willing to reconsider."

What about the beavers in the meantime? Field naturalist Teage O'Connor (pictured), an adjunct professor at UVM and the Community College of Vermont who has spent hundreds of hours studying the Centennial Woods beavers, says the surviving beavers (he believes there are just two of the former family of four) are "pretty safely secured under quite a bit of snow and ice" these days.

"They're pretty much locked in now until it thaws," says O'Connor, who added that the beavers aren't immune to trapping under the ice. "They have that cache of all of their food. That hopefully will be enough for them to make it through the winter." 

File photo by Matthew Thorsen.

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