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December 05, 2008

Can Man and Beaver Just Get Along?

300pxbeaver Last Friday, the Burlington Free Press ran a story about some "culvert-clogging" beavers in Essex. Apparently, the little critters built a dam that has flooded part of a trail at Indian Brook Park, and town officials have decided to kill 'em.

Local animal rights activists have organized a letter-writing campaign to help save the beavers. "Dear Humane Friends," begins an email explaining the cause, "As you may know from the previous alert, beavers in Essex, VT are to be killed because they caused a trail to flood in Indian Brook Park. This decision has already been made, the trapper has been hired, and traps are already in the water!! The beavers need our help now to stop the trapping and the killing! Please send a Letter to the Editor opposing this cruelty!"

As a results, Seven Days has been, er, flooded, with letters urging Essex officials to save the beavers. Unfortunately, we have a policy of not printing letters that aren't responding to content in our paper or on our website. Since we haven't written about these little guys, we won't be running the letters. Sorry!

Instead, we thought we'd share a few of them with you on our blog. Lindsey Deon writes:

I would like to express my concern for the beavers in Essex. I would also like to ask the Select Board to reconsider their decision to kill the beavers and look at other options so that both man and the beavers can exist together. I just don’t think it is right to destroy these beavers just because they have created a problem.

Continue reading the post to learn about more humane solutions to this dam problem, including "Beaver Bafflers" and "Beaver Deceivers."

I recently learned that the town of Essex is planning on trapping and killing a colony of beavers because they built a dam that caused a trail to flood at he Indian Brook Park.  I am asking the Essex Selectboard members to please reconsider their decision for the following reasons.

Beavers, like feral cats, will move into areas where the beavers (or cats) have been removed.  Trapping the beavers would only be a temporary solution as new beavers would likely move in.

Beavers are only one source of Giardia contamination.  The primary source of Giardia contamination of surface water by people.
The conibear trap causes the beavers to suffer terribly for a long time before they die.  As a modern society we should be able to solve our conflicts with wildlife in humane ways.
There are humane, economical solutions that really work.  The use of bafflers or levelers would control the water levels, eliminating the problematic flooding and allow the beavers to stay where they are for the enjoyment of others in the park who like to watch them and marvel at their work.  The Beaver DeceiverTM is another solution that uses fencing to keep beavers from damming areas that would cause flooding.

Thank you,
Pamela Towne
Milton, VT

I urge the Essex selectboard to reconsider their decision to drown the beavers near Indian Brook Park. It takes up to 18 minutes, once a beaver is caught by the head, for the animal to die. Those 18 minutes of slow drowning must be unspeakably painful.

There are humane methods of eliminating flooding and letting the beavers live: beaver bafflers. These economical and long-lasting devices enable humas to control the water level without disturbing the beavers. Well-designed dam pipes create a permanent leak in the beaver dam and prevent beavers from detecting the flow of water into the pipe. These flow devices keep the water level constant and prevent flooding.

There is a man nearby in NH who is an expert at installing the bafflers. Why not create a permanent solution instead of only a temporary one? And why not show kindness instead of cruelty? What kind of people are we — the kind with hearts or the ones who kill innocent animals for our own convenience? Please be the ones with hearts.

Jim and Ginny Hoverman
Middlebury, VT

To the Editor:

Trapping beavers is not necessary to solve any potential problems they may cause (“Essex on the Hunt for Culvert-Clogging Beavers,” Burlington Free Press, Nov. 28). There are a variety of systems now available that can solve flooding problems long-term, without even removing the beavers.

These systems, known as “water flow control devices” are based on deception and exclusion. They breach the beaver dam in a way that foils the beavers’ instinct to plug spots where they hear running water. Perforated PVC or flex pipes inserted through the dam control the water level, unbeknownst to the beaver. For additional protection, concrete reinforcement wire keeps beavers out of culverts and away from the inlet ends of the pipes. These pipe systems are inexpensive and maintenance is minimal.

Trapping doesn’t control beaver problems because after resident beaver are removed, others soon take their place. Trapping and removing beavers results in not only a waste of lives, but a waste of money when long-term solutions exist.

Luckily, we now have the tools to solve beaver flooding problems humanely. The HSUS New England Regional Office would be happy to work with the town of Essex on a solution that will serve everyone’s interests, including the beavers’.


Joanne Bourbeau
New England Regional Director
The Humane Society of the United States
Jacksonville, VT

Essex town officials should consider alternatives to trapping beavers in Indian Brook Park that are not only more humane, but also cheaper and more effective (Burlington Free Press, "Essex on the hunt for culvert-clogging beavers," Nov. 28).

Trapped beavers may suffer for hours before succumbing to suffocation, blood loss, or exposure. Beavers caught in underwater traps can struggle for up to nine agonizing minutes before drowning. Not only is trapping cruel, it does nothing to prevent more beavers from returning to an area, so trapping becomes an endless cycle—and an expensive one for the town.

Humane deterrents such as pipes that distribute water in ponds and lakes and “Beaver Deceivers”—fence systems that prevent beavers from damming culverts—permanently and humanely solve conflicts with beavers at a fraction of the price of exterminating these sensitive animals.

The antiquated lethal "best management practices" for beaver-human conflicts recommended by the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department and the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation need to be replaced, and Essex can lead the way.

Lori Kettler

Can Man and Beaver Just Get Along?

It sounds like we can with a little deceit.


Unfortunately, we have a policy of not printing letters that aren't responding to content in our paper or on our website.

That has never been a good policy. It must disqualify a lot of good and interesting letters, or discourage them from ever being written.

It seems to me that Shay just opened the door for publishing letters from the beaver lovers.

I mean, Seven Days just wrote about the issue ... so they can publish letters on the subject, no??

Haik, we already get lots of letters responding to our content, and we have limited space available. That's why we have the policy.

Perhaps now that I've written about this on the blog, we would allow beaver lover letters...? It's not my call, but it seems possible, especially if the letters were responding to the blog post somehow. Just a thought.

Haik, we already get lots of letters responding to our content, and we have limited space available. That's why we have the policy.

Do you print every single letter you get? Because if not, you're already vetting and selecting some over others, so limited space does not qualify as a valid reason for limiting the topics for discussion.

To me the policy seems very self-aggrandizing and even arrogant. And willfully ignorant. It's like 7D is saying 'nothing is worth talking about we bring it up first, so Nah!' Or, 'here's the box- now think inside it, or be eliminated, Nah!' It's a bad policy and self-defeating for your paper.

I meant to say "It's like 7D is saying 'nothing is worth talking about unless we bring it up first, so Nah!'" Arrrg. It's like I have a writing blind spot or something.

I guess I could have done without the gratuitous use of 'Nah' in the last comment to. You probably got the point without it.

And I should disclaim myself by saying I like 7D and everyone I've met who works there too. I'm grateful that we have a free weekly in Burlington. It's "hipsterrific." It's just that I think the letters policy needs revision.

Several times in the past I've toyed with the idea of writing a letter about the letter policy, which should be allowed since the letter policy is in the paper. But I figured I wouldn't be the first, it may not be published, it probably wouldn't do any good and it wouldn't be worth my time.

Yet here I am now writing my third off-topic comment about it this string. I may as well keep going now that I've started. I've thought of a couple more things-

One, you must already be vetting the letters to make sure they conform to the policy, so you could shift to vetting for conformity and quality, to just vetting for quality if you wanted. If you get too many letters to actually read on your budget, then just don't read them all. Who says you have to?

The other thing is that the current policy forces the letters to all be reactive. Not pro-active, or as original or creative as they might me.

To bring it back around to the topic at hand- here we have a group of people with outrage, compassion and a message about cruelty to beavers. For each who wrote, there are probably ten who feel the same way but didn't write. You want these people to pick up your paper, but you're not going to print a single letter about Beavers. I don't know why you would want to tie your own hands like that. I mean- the poor beavers! You know?

Ok, I'll shut up now.

Haik, I'm glad you qualified your original comment, but I didn't see it until just now. Honestly, the first one put me in such a crappy mood on Saturday that I couldn't bear to read your next comment until this morning. Now I feel better!

Let's talk about this letters policy for a minute. Yes, we do vet letters. We have limited space in the newspaper (print costs money, as I believe we've covered in an earlier discussion about the potential for thinner papers in the future). If we have to choose between printing 10 pages of letters to the editor and running some actual news stories, we're going to pick the stories.

Sometimes we get 15 letters on a topic. We may not print them all. We print the best, most eloquent letters we get. If you want to be assured of seeing your letter in print, say something unique, and say it well. Chances are, it'll make it into the paper eventually.

As for running letters that don't respond to stuff in 7D, well, we have to draw the line somewhere. And besides, most letters we receive are actually responses -- meaning that if you missed the original story, you won't know what the heck the writer is talking about.

Honestly, I think in most cases, this policy works really well.

But yes, there are times when we'd like to give some exposure to a concern that comes up in a letter. We've come up with different ways of doing this. We've run some long letters as op-eds in the past. We've put them on the blog, as we did here. And there have been times over the past few years that a letter to the editor has prompted us to assign a writer and run a story of our own.

As far as I can tell, our letters policy is not stifling the forces of creativity. It's just giving some structure to the debate that takes place within our pages, and on our website.

But hey, if you've got a creative rant about this, send it in. Maybe we'll print it.

Honestly, the first one put me in such a crappy mood on Saturday that I couldn't bear to read your next comment until this morning.

Jeez, I'm sorry I made you feel bad, but there's no way anything I write should affect your mood like that, especially about a policy you don't control. Your attempts at defending the policy are valiant, but they haven't persuaded me. I still think it's unnecessary and comes off arrogant. But that's just one person's opinion. You shouldn't let it get to you. It's certainly not personal at all.

SAVE THE BEAVERS. My nickname growing up was Eva the Beavah, I feel for them, truly I do.

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