DENVER (AP) — Lorraine Howenstein took one look at the neatly stacked logs behind her Vail home and figured a construction crew had been at work.
Then, she looked upstream and saw a miniature Hoover Dam. Natures engineers — beavers — were on the job.
Since Colorado voters outlawed trapping in 1996, the furtive, nocturnal animals have become active in Denver and other major cities, areas where their numbers had been decimated by two centuries of trapping.
Colorado wildlife officials said they could not provide an accurate estimate of the beaver population, but noted that it has increased significantly.
In Massachusetts, where a similar referendum was approved in 1996, state biologists estimate the beaver population has jumped from 24,000 to 60,000. Complaints have also soared.
Homeowners have reported trees downed and property flooded. Highway departments have had to unblock clogged culverts.
The beavers have more rights than I do, said Claude Desrochers of Methuen, Mass. I always wanted a duck pond, now I have a duck lake. Blue herons come by. My driveway is all cracked.
In Eagle County, where Howenstein lives, beaver complaints have risen from 20 a year to 120.
Wildlife specialists say that even with the increase in the population, it is only a small fraction of what it was before the fur trapping trade decimated beaver numbers. By some estimates, the U.S. beaver population may have reached 600 million at one point. Beaver expert Skip Lisle said it might be 20 million now.
I used to think the Platte River was a place where tires went to die. Now there are beavers in it, said Sherri Tippi of Denver-based Wildlife 2000.
Lisle, a wildlife biologist who handles beaver issues for the Penobscot Indians in Maine, said the tribe has a very large beaver population but few problems.
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have beaver-proofed our land for six years, he said. Lisle devised the beaver deceiver, a trapezoidal fence.
Other devices also are available, and wrapping trees in chicken wire can reduce problems.
Tippi said beaver critics have their priorities backward.
Beavers are supposed to be in the creek, said Tippi, who has relocated 500 beavers. When people move into a floodplain or a riparian area they are going to encounter beaver. It is very important for people to learn to co-exist with the beaver. The beaver is the keystone species to an aquatic system.
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