Nearly two years after a dozen serviceberry shrubs were planted along the City of Radford’s Memorial Walkway, their remains were found shard and destroyed.
Park authorities feared they had been vandalized and immediately notified police, but they soon realized that this was no ordinary crime.
Chief Don Goodman had his suspicions.
“When I first arrived at the scene, it was clear that the damage was done by wildlife,” he said.
He noticed sheered teeth marks on what was left of the stumps that could only be the work of the Castor Canadensis family: “beavers.”
And beavers are no strangers to the Memorial, located at Bisset Park.
“They have been coming through the area for years,” Goodman said.
The bushes just so happened to be a delicacy this year. They were favorably sized; small enough to cut and maneuver, but big enough to store under water for the winter.
It was the perfect crime, and even though the beavers were destructive, they were just as much a natural part of the attraction as the bushes were.
“I think we can do some things to make the site less attractive to the beavers, but we can’t trap every beaver that comes down the New River. What’s going to happen is the next family of beavers is going to come down the river and move in, as they’ve done for years,” said Goodman.
Wire fencing was wrapped around the remaining shrubs at the memorial, but there have been no plans to plant new ones.
The beavers were let off easy.
According to the Agriculture Conservation Service’s Wildlife and Snake Management, beavers are the number one “nuisance” animals to cause property damage. Their dams are responsible for bridge obstruction, pond draining, erosion damage, and most destructively, flooding. Flooding can cause extensive damage to timber, agricultural crops, lawns and roads.
The most manageable and traditionally accepted solution for beaver problems is trapping. Using a conibear trap, the trapper catches the beaver under water in an escape-free device. The animal then struggles for several minutes, sometimes as long as 20 minutes, until it finally loses oxygen and drowns. The technique can be extraordinarily stressful and cruel to the animal. For this purpose, exercising the practice must be well rationalized.
So what are the factors that justify wildlife intervention?
“It really depends on how much damage the animal is doing,” said Program Manager Allen Boynton of Terrestrial Wildlife for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF).
“Sometimes the damage is more in the people’s minds than it really is a problem. It’s usually more expensive in the long run to minimize damage too. So, we know there must be some sort of medium level to reduce damage.”
The best information for nuisance problems can be obtained from the VDGIF website. VDGIF offers a variety of solutions and standards to abide by when addressing wildlife concerns.
Reference numbers are available for anyone to call, as well as a list of licensed trappers who are “willing to assist landowners with certain types of wildlife nuisance problems,” including bobcats, coyotes, foxes, minks, muskrats, nutrias, opossums, otters, raccoons, skunks, weasels and beavers. The department also provides state, regional, and county numbers for VDGIF headquarters, and the telephone number for obtaining wildlife damage management information in the area. Licenses are distributed to those who are willing to help with population and damage control, as well.
Most of the circumstances Boynton deals with are property damages, as opposed to personal injury.
“Deer damage to vehicles is a real problem. Damage to crops and livestock is another big one. Either way, wildlife is obviously very important to people, especially to those who lived tens and thousands of years ago. They depended on wildlife to survive. Now people are almost completely dependent on agriculture, and thus, wildlife has become a problem,” Boynton said.
In essence, our society has made wildlife the enemy.
“People seem to want to kill the animals, and that happens, but sometimes that doesn’t really solve the problem; such as deer vandals. You can’t hunt deer in the city, and you can’t kill them all,” Goodman said. “There are things that people can do to reduce the problem over time.”
Bisset Park is Radford’s largest city park. It encompasses 57 acres of river-front land in the Blue Ridge Highlands region. There are walking trails, athletic fields, picnic shelters, a children’s playground, a sand volleyball area, and bird watching stations. Among other things, there is a vast environment for wildlife. Species of all types thrive in the mountainous areas of Radford.
“I think one of the joys of living in a place like Radford is that you get that wildlife interaction every now and then,” Goodman said. “Driving down the road, we always see deer, or we’ll have to stop because we see a skunk crossing the road. There are not many places where you can experience that. It enriches our lives every day because we have those interactions. I don’t think it’s appropriate to let the animals run our community, but they sure do make it nice to live here.”
In other words, sometimes, the best way to reach harmony with nature is to embrace it.
VDGIF Radford (276) 783-4860- Allen Boynton
VDGIF Pulaski (276) 783-4860
Board of VDGIF Charles S. Yates firstname.lastname@example.org
Animal Control (540) 731-3688
Chief Don Goodman Police (540) 731- 3624 (5002)
City Manager David Ridpath (540) 731- 3603 email@example.com