The beavers living in the lakes around Kentlands continue to be a source of consternation and concern for homeowners. The conversation regarding these hardworking rodents has escalated on the social network Nextdoor between residents concerned about potential damage to their property and residents who want to protect the beavers and have them remain in our lakes.
According to Kevin Roman, the city’s Neighborhood Services Division chief, a private contractor hired by the city began trapping the beavers the third week of March. The city’s “goal was to remove the adults and let them re-establish prior to late May or early June when adult females generally give birth,” Roman explained.
Gaithersburg City Manager Tony Tomasello confirmed that three adult beavers were trapped and relocated. Two young adults were sighted, but they have not been captured. No beavers have been spotted in Kentlands’ lakes since the three adults were relocated. Tomasello noted that it is in the beavers’ nature to find more expansive territory, so it is quite possible that young adults have moved out of the neighborhood.
To protect the relocated adult beavers from “further interaction with people (most of which we believe would just be curiosity) at a time when the animal is trying to re-establish itself in a new area,” Tomasello noted that the city is not disclosing the location of the beavers’ new home. “I understand they are still within the city,” he added.
Kentlands’ last encounter with beavers was seven years ago in 2012. “In 2012, Maryland state law prohibited the release of trapped beavers,” Roman explained. “The law has been changed and beavers now can be relocated under certain conditions.”
The city has not been faced with beaver damage since 2012, so when tree damage appeared last fall, the city didn’t have a supply of tree-wrapping materials on hand. The city considers this a lesson learned and plans to have supplies at the ready in the future so tree wrapping, which encourages beavers to move to another place, can begin immediately. The city wrapped 168 trees surrounding Kentlands’ lakes this year. Tomasello stressed, “If there’s a danger to property, we will act.”
Tomasello added that ultimately, we will need to find a way to co-exist with the beavers in our community; they have acclimated to suburban settings like deer and fox. “It is in the best interests of all parties to understand that beavers are beneficial, and it’s in our best interests to live together,” Tomasello said. “This isn’t a nuisance like noise. There’s a benefit, and it involves a living animal.”
Councilmember and Kentlands resident Neil Harris said that the city is conducting research on how other communities have addressed the presence of beavers in their neighborhoods. Park City, Utah, experienced similar issues. While Utah and Maryland are very different in many ways, Harris said we can draw on Park City’s experience as we move forward.
Ultimately, Tomasello and Harris agree that we need to coexist with the beavers. Lakes in the neighborhood are far too appealing for “nature’s architects,” and trapping and relocating is only a temporary fix. Harris added, “Beavers have a positive effect on local environment. Beavers are contributing positively and mitigate effects.”
Bernard Unti, a Kentlands/Lakelands resident and senior policy adviser and special assistant to the president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), reached out to Gaithersburg’s Mayor and City Council to offer his viewpoint, which was shared on Nextdoor. Unti expressed his concern about relocating our beaver community and offered multiple reasons for reconsideration. First and foremost, he noted the “special significance for a community envisioned from the start s one that seeks to preserve suitable and viable wildlife habitat for ecological, aesthetic, and emotional reasons.”
Furthermore, Unti said that relocation does not solve any problems for homeowners. “Beaver choose to dwell in these sites because of the suitable habitat and resources they provide; attempting to trap and kill, or trap and relocate them, has inherent limits. Above all, such responses fail to address the particular dilemmas associated with their presence for the long-term, and that’s the flaw, because other beavers will inevitably migrate to the site, and place that community back at stage one of the self-same cycle.”
Unti noted that tree wrapping has proven to be the best defense against the critters’ handiwork and has the benefit of being cost-effective as well. He also shared insight regarding potential flooding issues. “Best management practices call for site-specific flow devices that keep the dam in place and the basin draining at the appropriate rate by hiding the outflow and preventing the beaver from obstructing it.” This approach ensures that the area will not flood.
Lastly, Unti added the USHS would offer “consultative and practical support” in developing and implementing a long-range plan that would mitigate any negative effects of the beavers’ residency in our lakes.
The City of Gaithersburg will continue its research and consultation with proper authorities and experts. However, all signs are pointing toward finding a way to coexist with beavers, reap the benefits they provide to our local environment, and remain vigilant and respond quickly to the first signs of tree damage.