Suspect sought in dam destruction

MERRIMACK – Town police are assisting state Fish and Game Department officials in seeking a suspect who destroyed at least five beaver dams in White Pine Swamp.

Four of the dams were located in the town-owned Horse Hill Nature Preserve, and one – the first dam to be destroyed – was on private land owned by the Watanic Bowman Archery Club.

Fish and Game is working with Merrimack police on a composite sketch of the suspect based on a witness’ description, said Todd Szewczyk, state Fish and Game Department conservation officer.

Merrimack Police Chief William Mulligan said Thursday that police hope to have the composite sketch released soon.

The suspect faces charges of destruction of a beaver dam, a violation subject to fines up to $1,000 per incident, Szewczyk said.

The destruction of the dams lowered the water level in the swamp by roughly 4 feet, killing fish and threatening the habitat of great blue herons, which nest in the swamp and feed off the fish. Some officials estimated the swamp could be affectedfor two years.

Town conservation officials said beavers haven’t been spotted on the land since the dams were destroyed over the winter. However, some of the damage already has been corrected.

“The water level is already coming up,” Szewczyk said.

That’s because of snowmelt and the work of residents, who patched some of the dams with sticks and mud, he said.

“It may not take up to two years, even,” for the swamp to be restored, Szewczyk said.

It’s not unusual for residents, particularly property owners, to destroy beaver dams, Szewczyk said.

In fact, years ago the state would destroy beaver dams to control flooding along roads, though it no longer engages in that practice, he said.

“We like nature to take its course on its own,” he said.

Andy Powell, town Conservation Commission chairman, said beavers will rebuild the dams in time, especially yearlings kicked out of home lodges to fend for their own.

“If the habitat is there to support them, they’re going to come back, build the dam, and we’re back in business,” Powell said.

Patrick Meighan can be reached at 594-6518 or