Beavers are busy in Canandaigua

Philip Anselmo

Whether city residents welcome them as natural wonders or revile them as pests,  beavers are their new neighbors in Canandaigua.

Evidence of at least one family of the water-dwelling rodents is all over the trails and stream banks of Lagoon Park, behind the retail plazas on Routes 5 and 20.

When Canandaiguan Lynn Perkins first spotted the drag marks that gouged the trails and the matted grass lanes, she didn’t know what to make of it. Maybe some big beast was dragging deer in and out of the underbrush. But she saw no hoof or paw prints. And there was nothing in the water where the paths led.

The decisive evidence was farther out in the stream.

Smack in the middle of a bend in the lagoon, the stripped limbs and tattered mud-sunk sticks of a dam made it clear beyond a doubt that the beavers have again made their home in the city.

“They have been at it for about a year,” said Public Works Director Lou Loy, whose crews are right now replacing a plugged-up pipe barely a stone’s throw from the dike.

“We’re doing anything we can think of to discourage them because they are stripping the place clean.”

The pancake-tailed critters are gnawing up all the saplings around the park trails to build up their dens and dikes, he said. And they are creating stagnant basins of water and diverting the normal flow of the stream.

Ron Newell, fish and wildlife technician with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, says not to worry. The beavers will ship off and do it all over again somewhere else in a couple years. They usually do. Only a few years back, they chewed up twigs and tree limbs in Sucker Brook next to the elementary school on Pearl Street.

“They come into an area, develop a site, then they’ll eat themselves out of house and home and move on,” said Newell.

But beavers have rights. And it’s up to folks like Newell and his pals at the DEC to see that those rights are protected — within reason, of course. The wood-eaters are allowed to chew up no more than 20 percent of the habitat, he said. If they get pulp-happy, the government calls in trappers to slim down the population. If the beavers get to eager — if a dam rises the water level enough to flood backyards, plug up culverts or wash too near to railroad tracks — then the dam has to come down.

In that case, bit by bit, the dike is dismantled. Not too much too fast — no backhoes — or you will release the water too quickly and create even more problems downstream. At the same time, as soon as even the heel of a shoe sinks into the structure and a rivulet is let loose, the beaver hears it and comes out to repair the damage.

Newell urges folks to remember that Lagoon Park is a natural wetlands site and beavers live and make home in wetlands. As long as they don’t cause too many problems, they are there to stay — until they go.

“There have been beaver here before, there will be beaver here after,” said Newell. “Enjoy the view. It’s like having the Discovery Channel outside your window.”

Philip Anselmo can be reached at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 322, or at panselmo@mpnewspapers.com.