By FRANK CARINI/ecoRI News staff
CUMBERLAND, R.I. — A family of beavers has grabbed the attention of town officials, who are concerned that the dam it built on Sylvie's Brook near the athletic fields at Diamond Hill Park will lead to flooding problems in the area. They also are concerned about the beavers causing tree damage in the popular park.
In fact, local officials are troubled enough by these potential problems that trapping and killing the beavers has been discussed. The town would first need a special permit from the state Department of Environmental Management (DEM), which considers such requests on a case-by-case basis.
The beavers continue to take down trees in the area’s growing expanse of dammed-up water, according to town officials. Their idea to trap and kill the animals, however, is being called cruel and inhumane by some area residents.
Local resident Deborah Vine-Smith is among those concerned the beavers will be killed. “Aren’t we supposed to be compassionate to wildlife?” she asked.
After reading a story in the April 17 edition of The Valley Breeze, Smithfield resident Nicole Waybright sent an e-mail to DEM that read, in part, “Is there another alternative? I can picture the town making a quick, zero-researched decision. Can something be done to prevent this tragedy? Acre by acre of R.I. is being developed. ... I sometimes wonder where the animals will go. People see them as ‘nuisances,’ but is the answer to kill or destroy animal after animal for human comfort until extinction? There must be a way for park wildlife, environment and humans to co-exist without destruction.”
Fellow Smithfield resident Jim Bastian was so upset after reading the same story that he fired off an e-mail to various media organizations across the state, including ecoRI News.
“Once again, the arrogance and cruelty of human beings towards nature shows its ugly head,” he wrote. “Cumberland officials are moving towards killing the family of nuisance beavers that reside in their park. Isn’t that a great example of our handling of nature? Isn’t it a park ... where we want wildlife to have at least something of a safe haven so on weekends we can ‘get back to nature?’ Or do we really mean, a very controlled nature where we force it to meet our petty narrow perimeter of what we need nature to be? It is not animals that are the nuisance, once again it is human beings.”
For those who have asked why the beaver family can't be relocated, Charles Brown, a wildlife biologist for the state in the management of furbearers, told The Valley Breeze that relocating an animal such as a beaver isn't something that is done because of habitat concerns.
In a spring 2008 DEM publication, Brown wrote that “after an absence of more than 200 years, beavers have made a dramatic comeback in Rhode Island. With protection and the advent of modern wildlife management, beavers are once again common throughout much of their historic range.”
He also wrote that “beavers are often referred to as a keystone species because of their ability to alter the landscape and create wetland habitat beneficial to a variety of wildlife species.”