Metro

Framingham officials declare war on beavers and their dams

A dam and the beaver lodge are within easy view of the cul-de-sac.
David L Ryan/Globe Staff
A dam and the beaver lodge are within easy view of a cul-de-sac in Framingham.

Officials in Framingham have declared war on beavers in two areas of the city.

The public works department recently got the green light to set lethal traps for the rodents in two locations because the dams they’ve built are causing problems, Framingham conservation administrator Robert McArthur said.

One of the areas is Singletary Lane because water has been flooding the roadway and freezing over, which results in black ice and creates a dangerous situation for school bus drivers, he said. “It’s a narrow roadway with no shoulder,” he said.

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Another dam on Baiting Brook has caused flooding “to the point where it was infiltrating a city sewer line” that runs parallel to Temple Street, he said.

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“Both issues were considered a threat to public health and safety,” he said.

McArthur said it would be difficult — if not impossible — to solve these problems while the beavers are living there.

If you were to make a small opening in a dam, in the hopes of slowly releasing the water, the beavers will get to work and repair it, he said.

“They’ll patch it up right away,” he said. “They’re quite the engineers.”

RELATED: 2012: Beavers expanding range, making homes closer to people

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McArthur said it’s against the law to catch and relocate beavers, so officials opted to hire a professional trapper to eliminate the beavers from those two specific locations.

“Given the circumstances, these situations had to be addressed,” he said. “You cannot relocate beavers elsewhere in the state.”

McArthur said the amount of rain we’ve received recently has caused water levels to rise and the ground to be saturated, which in turn has exacerbated the flooding problems.

McArthur said the plan to kill the beavers was decided upon as the most efficient method of addressing the problems. “Unfortunately, that’s what you’re left with,” he said. “By state law, you can’t relocate beavers to another area.”

RELATED: 2015: Along the Charles, a new tack in the beaver wars

The Framingham public works department submitted an emergency request and received permission from the Board of Health to trap the beavers and permission from the Conservation Commission to breach the beaver dams and bring the water levels down, he said.

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McArthur said the public works department has hired a professional trapper and “the trapping has begun,” he said.

McArthur said officials have received “a lot of calls” from citizens who are concerned about the plan to kill the beavers.

Jeremy Sarge, 43, lives in downtown Framingham and was surprised when he heard about the city’s plan to cull beavers. He was left with many questions and wanted to know whether there were any alternatives that the city could pursue besides killing the beavers.

“I’m concerned why they’re planning to do this. Is this trapper going to sell the furs?” he said. “There has to be other remediation efforts . . . and ways of handling this without going to the extreme. There are other ways to control beaver damage besides eradication of the beavers.”

McArthur said the trapping is a short-term remedy to address the problems in those two locations, and the long-term solutions will probably include nonlethal methods of controlling beaver activity and water levels. He said those options might include cleaning out an old culvert at the Singletary Lane location, or installing a device known as a “Beaver Deceiver,” which is a system of fencing that prevents beavers from plugging up culverts.

Beavers are common throughout Massachusetts, and adults can live to be more than 20 years old. They stay with the same mate for life and breed during the winter, and females give birth to anywhere from one to nine kits between April and June, according to the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife website.

Beavers populated the area long before Framingham existed, and, ironically enough, played a significant role in the city’s history. In his book “Framingham: An American Town,” author Stephen W. Herring wrote that soggy wetlands of South Framingham would have been “impenetrable” to Colonial travelers had beavers not built “a massive dam that had become so high and well packed with sod that it became a natural bridge.”

Emily Sweeney can be reached at esweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.