Guidelines for managing “human-beaver conflicts” were adopted by the Stowe Select Board Monday night.
Beaver dams can cause flooding, and Town Manager Charles Safford said Protect Our Wildlife, a local nonprofit, is pressing the town to use non-lethal methods of dealing with beavers.
“Trapping is just not only grossly inhumane but it doesn’t really offer a long-term solution, because every year or two, you’re going to end up with new beavers inhabiting that area. Nature (abhors) a vacuum,” said Brenna Galdenzi, executive director of Protect Our Wildlife.
The new guidelines say the town will use non-lethal methods where possible, but town officials reserve the right to trap in emergency situations.
If the town does trap, the guidelines say it should notify the public that trapping is taking place.
Stowe has been trapping nuisance beavers for years. In 2016, Safford said, the town trapped five or six a year.
Beavers build dams to ensure a supply of deep water, but those dams can change the flow of water and, if they collapse, damage public and private properties.
Large beaver dams will be removed only between June 1 and Oct. 1, and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources should be consulted before a dam is removed, the guidelines say. However, the guidelines also say town officials’ first priority is the protection of people and infrastructure.
“The historic predators of beaver are no longer here in numbers large enough to control beaver numbers on a landscape scale,” the town guidelines say. “Coupled with the fact the Vermont’s infrastructure was essentially built at the time when beaver had been lost due to unregulated harvest and drastic habitat changes, the beaver population currently reproduces and grows without many of the natural controls that existed prior to European settlement.
“The most significant remaining natural predator of beaver today is the trapper. Regulated trapping plays a role in helping to manage the current beaver population on a local level and maintain public support for the role beaver play in the ecosystem.”
The town will look into the possibility of working with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department to install “beaver baffles” at some areas around town. The baffles allow some water to pass through a beaver dam without damaging it, thus reducing any threat to downstream property.
Vermont has about 100 functioning beaver baffles, said Kim Royar of Fish & Wildlife.
“Finding ways to work with the beaver is really the way to go,” Galdenzi said. “You will never outwork a beaver. Finding ways to coexist is always our motto, but in the rare cases where infrastructure and public health is a concern, we would be open to lethal options, if that were the absolute last resort.”
Other board business
Also Monday, the select board:
• Agreed to warn a public hearing June 24 to discuss the town water and sewer budget, plus future capital projects.
Stowe Public Works Director Harry Shepard called the water and sewer budget for 2019-20 “pretty much a status quo budget.”
Sewer rates would rise 3 percent and water rates would drop 3 percent, he said.
In 2021, the town hopes to replace a water main on Depot Street, and two pumps at the Village Green Treatment Plant will likely need rehabilitation in the near future.
• Eliminated the passing zone on Stagecoach Road after holding two sparsely attended public hearings.
The change was requested by Ryan and Courtney Percy, who live on Stagecoach Road; they say speeding traffic made it dangerous for their children to wait for the school bus and for them to work on the family farm.