The Natick Conservation Commission held a public meeting this week regarding how to handle increased issues with beaver dams and activity, and came away with a to-do list that includes getting some hard numbers on what it would cost for a contractor to come in and regularly breach dams as well as how much it would cost to trap and remove beavers (how much per pelt).
Commission Chair Matthew Gardner summed up thoughts shared at the meeting by town officials, commission members, and members of the public by stating that the consensus “is that beaver eradication is a thing of last resort.” After all, we’re talking about “a population of beavers doing what beavers do,” he said.
One possible solution raised on the beaver trapping front, though, is enlisting our Nipmuc neighbors. Claire Rundelli, Natick’s planner and conservation agent, said there has been some interest from that community in being the town’s trappers if needed.
Gardner said the data collection he cited could be done with an eye toward regularly removing the dam along Hunnewell Town Forest that has flooded the main trail, significantly affected water levels in Jennings Pond and Little Jennings Pond, and threatened Rte. 9. Neighbors from the Jennings Pond area have banded together and tag-teamed their comments during the Conservation Commission meeting to emphasize the downstream damage caused by the dam. Beavers are squeezing out frogs, birds, and other regular inhabitants of this wetlands area, the neighbors said.
That area is just 1 of many affected by beavers in town. Others include Pickerel Pond, Lake Cochituate, and around Cottage Street, Course Brook in West Natick, and Broadmoor in South Natick. Some property is owned by the town, other land is under the Commonwealth’s Department of Conservation and Recreation’s control. The combination of beaver-related issues and climate change (this year’s severe drought) has only increased and complicated the impact.
The commission is looking to develop a multilayered approach to beaver management, and Gardner proposed coming up with a decision tree-based set of policies that would help Natick handle different situations, from a Rte. 9 flooding to rising backyard water levels to significant water level drops in public water bodies (We’d be a bit worried about beavers sinking their teeth into that decision tree). In some cases the town would take action, in others it might not. Gardner said it’s possible some decisions could be in place as soon as next spring depending on what the data shows.
One option the town has used at Pickerel Pond is a water flow device, or beaver deceiver, that eliminates the need to breach dams. But this only works in areas that meet certain conditions, including deep enough water to install the device. Dredging could be used to pave the way for device use, but dredging is expensive and involves a complicated approval process that includes permission from the federal government (we’ll surely be learning lots more about dredging when the human-made South Natick Dam is removed). Still, the topic was raised at the meeting, with discussion about whether it would be worth the cost in the long term vs. constant dam removal that could add up.
In the meantime, as temperatures drop and we head toward likely freezing waters, beaver activity will slow in the months ahead as the critters rest up for more action in the spring.