Dealing with the beavers of Black Hall Pond
Because of their valuable pelts, beavers attracted numerous fur trappers to Connecticut in the early years of European colonization. Unrestricted trapping, along with the deforestation that accompanied development of early farms, eliminated the large rodents from the state by the mid-1800s.
Fortunately, a century later the beaver population that can be so beneficial in protecting and enhancing wetlands was brought back to a healthy level by conservation efforts. Beavers were reintroduced to Connecticut, thrived and multiplied.
While beavers generally are considered beneficial, they also can cause flooding and destroy trees. So, as beaver populations continue to grow, also increasing is the likelihood of sometimes unpleasant human-beaver encounters of the type now occurring around Black Hall Pond in Old Lyme. Such encounters, much as those that occur between humans and coyotes, black bears, fishers and other wildlife that also are reclaiming their natural habitats throughout the state, are inevitable.
The most appropriate way to handle these encounters can vary. Most wildlife encounters do not pose a human danger and these are best handled with a light-handed approach. Humans should educate themselves about the species’ behavior and take steps to minimize the likelihood encounters will become dangerous to themselves, their pets and properties.
There are instances when more intervention is warranted to manage damaging wildlife, however. We think this is the case currently in Old Lyme. Black Hall Pond resident Dave Berggren has lived in his house for nearly 60 years and told The Day that beaver dams built on property at the opposite end of the pond — property he doesn’t own — have caused the pond’s water level to rise so drastically his back yard is underwater, his septic system is failing and his house is sinking.
Berggren claims neither local nor state officials have provided him any assistance in solving the problem. Generally, officials have said there is little they can do. If their hands are tied, what is an individual homeowner supposed to do?
Out of extreme frustration, Berggren has ventured into the swamps south of the pond himself in an effort to break up the beaver dam. Not only wasn’t this a wise move for safety's sake, it was also not a particularly effective one as beavers are tenacious about rebuilding wrecked dams.
Because of what is apparently extreme damage in this case, we urge public officials to take a more active role. Locally, for example, officials should assist Berggren in pinpointing who owns the land on which the beavers have built their dam — it is only that property owner who can seek a trapping permit — or provide Berggren permission to secure such a permit. Trapping could alleviate the beaver damage. Connecticut laws allow beaver trapping and in cases in which property damage is severe, it is warranted.
Local officials also have the responsibility to determine the extent of the problems and a possible solution for Berggren’s septic issues. If the system is failing, especially so close to a pond, it poses more than a nuisance to Berggren. It’s a public health issue, and local officials must be responsive.
On the state level, officials at the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection should visit the property. Water level control devices installed on beaver dams can keep water level rise to a minimum. DEEP personnel can determine if such measures would be effective in this instance.
We agree that it’s not advisable nor likely would it be effective to break up the beaver dam in the swamp near Black Hall Pond. Neither is it acceptable, however, for local and state officials to take a completely hands-off position here, when a resident’s home appears at risk and a possible public health issue could exist.
The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.
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