Chad Love: Leave it to Beavers

Here’s a story from the poetic justice files (a hat tip to the guys at Pale Morning Media for the link). It seems the folks in Massachusetts have a problem with their beavers. Now there’s nothing physically wrong with their beavers. On the contrary, the state of Massachusetts is apparently beaver heaven. And therein lies the problem: there are simply too many beavers in Massachusetts

From the story:

“_We have a huge problem,” said David Pavlik, an engineer for the town of Lexington, where dams built by beavers have sent water flooding into the town’s sanitary sewers. “We trapped them,” he said. “We breached their dam. Nothing works. We are looking for long-term solutions.”

Mary Hansen, a conservation agent from Maynard, said it starkly: “There are beavers everywhere.”

Big deal, right? Virtually every state has some form of beaver trouble. But here’s where the poetic justice kicks in.

Massachusetts banned the use of steel jawed leghold traps on land in 1975, and banned the use of both steel jawed and padded leghold traps entirely in 1997. A state wildlife official says the beaver population has since increased from 20,000 to 70,000, and the number of complaints of beaver damage has grown from about 400 to about 1,000. Massachusetts last year amended its ban on leghold traps to allow certain types of trapping, including the use of conibear “body-gripping” traps, when the public health and safety are threatened.

That data is from 2001, so obviously the problem has gotten much worse since then. Now you could certainly argue the fact that reinstating a trapping season wouldn’t have a major impact on Massachusetts’ beaver population, and you’d probably be right. You could argue that people who occupy the same space as native wildlife need to find ways to co-exist with said wildlife and you’d certainly be right. I live in a semi-rural area full of wildlife that at times can – quite frankly – be a real pain in the a** but they were here first and as such I don’t think I have the right to kill every “nuisance” animal just so I can have trophy roses.

But you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. The idea that you can simultaneously ban trapping while making the wilds of Massachusetts safe and convenient for transplanted urbanites isn’t a management plan, it’s ballot-box schizophrenia. Why is it so hard for so many people to grasp the simple concept that if you eliminate the predators which historically preyed on an animal, then ban the only human check on that animal’s population (in this case trapping) then that population is inevitably going to increase to unsustainable levels? That’s a fact, and no amount of wishful thinking or Kum-Bay-Yah New Age sensitivity is going to change that.

But we see this same thing happen again and again all over the country. A society raised on a steady diet of “Charlie the Lonesome Cougar” can’t accept the un-romanticized reality of nature, so it invents an alternate reality where all the animals would be fine and self-governing if we just stopped persecuting them.

So I say let them have their reality. Keep the trapping ban in place. Let those beavers do what beavers do best: breed and make dams and lodges out of all those expensive backyard shade trees. And when there’s a beaver in every back yard then maybe the citizens of Massachusetts can convene an inter-species dialogue to address the issue, maybe organize a beaver-human roundtable discussion to give the beavers some birth-control options. Hey, it makes perfect sense to me.