By JEREMY COX
The Daily Times of Salisbury
SALISBURY, Md. (AP) — It prowls the banks of Beaverdam Creek under the cover of night, hunting for its favorite meal.
Its success is evident in the multiplication over the past year of wood shavings and freshly fallen alder trees.
And now there may be more than one.
The elusive beaver — or perhaps family of beavers — has chewed its way through 30-40 trees in the City Park at last count. The main targets appear to be the lower trunks of alder trees, widely described as one of the beaver’s most preferred foods.
Gone is the wait-and-see approach adopted by city officials when the beaver showed up. All options are on the table, Mayor Jim Ireton said, emphasizing that the absolute last among them is euthanizing the creatures.
“Nobody wants to kill a beaver,” he said, “and nobody wants a tree to fall down.”
City officials have floated the idea of trapping the beaver and relocating it elsewhere. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources refuses to allow that to happen, saying the animal could spread rabies or simply become someone else’s problem.
“It’s the city’s water, the city’s park, the city’s beaver. But it’s somebody else’s rules,” Ireton said.
It could join its brethren at the Salisbury Zoo, some have suggested. But that would entail testing it for rabies first and making sure the existing beaver habitat could support a third animal, Ireton said.
That leaves protecting the trees themselves. But Chris Roberts, chairman of the City Park Committee, said a key Public Works Department official told the advisory board recently that may get expensive.
For its part, the Humane Society of the United States recommends a handful of ways to keep beavers at bay, including fencing off the trees or wrapping the lower 3 feet of the trunk in galvanized wire. “Some success” has been seen with coating the lower trunk in a mixture of exterior latex paint and coarse mason’s sand, according to its website.
The wild beavers already have left damage that will be visible for years to come. Here and there, alder trees stand precariously on gnawed trunks. Others lie on the ground, their bark whittled to rounded-off points.
“I was absolutely shocked at the amount of it,” Roberts said, recalling his view while driving recently on nearby North Park Drive. “I could tell from up on the hill that it was beaver damage.”
A park visitor said recently that he too knew at once that the fallen trees were the work of a beaver. But Adrion Parks, who lives in Princess Anne, said he doesn’t think the animal should have to pay with its life.
“He’s just doing what he knows how to do,” said Parks, 18.
The beaver’s lore has grown along with the destruction.
Contrary to rumor, Ireton said the beavers aren’t zoo escapees, which is part of the City Park. Nor did the city inadvertently attract the beavers by planting the alder trees during a shore stabilization project a half decade ago along Beaverdam Creek; the trees predated the effort.
For better or worse, the problem appears to be contained within the park. At the Elks Golf Club across the street, operator Gary Lucks said he hasn’t seen any signs of beavers.
But “if he shows up,” he added, “I guess we’ll do a `Caddy Shack’ movie or something.”
Information from: The Daily Times of Salisbury, Md., http://www.delmarvanow.com/
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)