Beavers causing trouble for Lyndeborough crews

LYNDEBOROUGH -People frequently complain – with tongue firmly in cheek – that beavers forget to obtain the required permits before they start their construction projects. That often leads to flooded roads and blocked culverts, much to the annoyance of highway departments.

One problem with overly industrious beavers reached the selectmen’s office in town last week.

The Road Department was concerned about rising water, and some residents became upset when a small pond owned by Guy and Vera Holt of Cram Hill Road was partially drained during the cleaning of a blocked culvert.

“In the last two years, beavers have been a very large problem,” Road Agent Mark Chase said. “Most of the beaver dams are on private property, but they threaten the integrity of town roads.”

He recalled an incident from several years ago where a dam was breached, and the freed water took out two other beaver dams, washed out Cram Road, filled a basement with water, and then heavily damaged a portion of Route 31 before entering Stoney Brook.

“All the town can do is write a letter (to the landowner),” Chase said.

Beaver dams, like manmade dams, fall under the control of the state Department of Environmental Services.

All the road crew was doing at the Holts’ house last week, he said, “was cleaning out the culvert (under Cram Hill Road). We have an understanding with Guy that the water should be at a certain level. We aren’t trying to get rid of the beavers.”

The beavers, apparently, aren’t part of the agreement on water level.

Since then, the pond level has been gradually rising again.

Chase noted that the old culverts under Wilton Road, which bisects the pond, have partially collapsed and will have to be replaced next year.

“We have already applied for our permits,” he added, laughing.

Conservation Commission Chairman Andy Roeper said he has looked at the situation, and mentioned a beaver box that was installed some years ago. These devices are placed through the dam with the intake some distance upstream. It is believed that beavers react to the sound of running water, and because the box runs quietly they ignore it. These devices have to be regularly cleaned and replaced, Roeper said.

“We will see about re-installing it. We co-exist with the beaver,” he said. “We have to look at (incidents) case by case. If they are trapped out, there can be a problem, since they do a good job of maintenance. You have to ask, if by removing the beaver (and therefore the dam) are you creating another problem?”

Besides, in dam building, he said, “Beavers usually do the better engineering job.”

The beaver is the largest North American rodent, weighing between 30 and 50 pounds. Because of the value of their fur, they had been eliminated in New England by the late 1800s, but were reintroduced between 1926 and 1930. The entire state was repopulated by 1955, and the numbers continue to increase. Beavers are monogamous and usually mate for life. Three to five kits are born in the spring and stay with the family for two years, when they are driven out to find their own homes.

They have few enemies and are true vegetarians. They eat trees – leaves, bark, twigs, sprouts, fruits and buds – as well as aquatic plants, sedges and rushes, within 100 yards of their ponds. Since their favorite food is aspen, poplar and willow trees, they occasionally anger landowners who like their stream banks forested.

They will stay in an area until the food is exhausted and then move on. Without maintenance, a dam will eventually break and the pond will drain, leaving a clear space that becomes a meadow with grass and vegetation preferred by deer and moose. As the bushes return, other animals are attracted, and when there are trees again, the beaver will return to begin the cycle again.

Beavers do their work at night, Chase said.

“We work during the day,” he said. “It takes two guys about an hour and a half to check all of the culverts after a heavy rain. You try to make everybody happy, and you’re not going to do that.”

Several publications dealing with beavers can be obtained from the Cooperative Extension Service in Goffstown, or at