County: Beavers damaging Park Road Park; must go

by Mike Parks

Damage isn’t too bad yet at the lake at Park Road Park, though beavers have taken down a few trees and built their lodge against the pond’s embankment with Park Road. The county is hiring a company to set traps to catch and kill the beavers at Park Road Park and Beatty Park. (Mike Parks/SCW photos)

It’s time for beavers to get out of Park Road Park.

The county’s Nature Preserves and Natural Resources Division will soon hire a wildlife damage control agent to trap and kill beavers at the lakes at south Charlotte’s Park Road Park and Beatty Park, near Matthews. It’s a matter of safety, according to natural resources manager Chris Matthews, who said the chance of beaver-damaged trees coming down on park goers is too much of a risk to leave the animals be.

The beavers are starting to chew up vegetation on the banks of Park Road Park’s lake, which the county has worked to restore over the last few years. Matthews said they likely moved in when the county drained the pond to work on a man-made dam, and now that the pond is refilled the beavers are starting to get to work doing what they do – chewing down trees. A couple large trees have been damaged, though Matthews said the situation isn’t too bad yet.

“Because Park Road Park is so active with so many people out there and paths running all around the pond … (we) decided, even though the department has a goal to keep wildlife in our parks, that this was one of those situations where we really have to get rid of those beavers.”

The Park Road Park beavers likely came from Little Sugar Creek, which runs along the park. Because of that, Matthews said it’s likely more beavers will eventually move in, even though the park is in the middle of “a pretty urban area.” The animals set up their lodge in the pond’s embankment with Park Road and plugged up a drainage hole in the concrete dam under the road. Matthews doesn’t think the situation is a serious problem, but could become one eventually.

There’s a much bigger problem at Beatty Park, near the town of Matthews, the natural resources manager said. He found close to 200 trees – all at least the thickness of a softball and some so big you can’t wrap your arms around them – with “moderate-to-fatal beaver damage.” That means the chance of those trees falling is high – something the county can’t risk with so many people using the park. There also are a number of structures at Beatty, including a hall that often hosts weddings, that could be damaged by a falling tree.

Matthews hates that killing the beavers is the only option. But because of how destructive they are, moving the beavers to another location isn’t a good option. If the county moved the beavers to an area that eventually became flooded or damaged due to beaver activity, the county could be liable for that damage. Also, beavers don’t handle being relocated well, Matthews said, and often die as a result of the stress.

So the county will hire a company to set traps up in Park Road Park and Beatty Park to humanely kill the beavers, Matthews said, then he’ll start preparing for more beavers to move in, which he knows is inevitable. One way to do that is by painting tree trunks with a mixture of paint and sand, which often stops beavers from chewing those trees.

But Matthews needs volunteers to help. His department also is currently dealing with something else that’s becoming a nuisance – coyotes – and Matthews was on his way Tuesday, Feb. 28, to set up wildlife cameras on the McMullen Creek Greenway to try and spot how many coyotes are in the area until a better method of tracking gets funding. A number of residents have complained to Matthews’ office of coyotes recently, with some saying the animals have attacked and sometimes killed their small pets.

Once that’s done, Matthews hopes to return his focus to an earlier project at Park Road Park. Now that the pond restoration is mostly complete, the county will release fish back into the pond. But that project had to take a back seat to the coyote problem, and now to the beaver issue.

That’s not to say the county always handles beavers in this fashion. Matthews said there’s been a couple instances where the county has actually purchased land with beavers, especially where their presence has created a unique ecosystem. But Matthews can’t move the Park Road Park or Beatty Park beavers onto county land where beavers already are because of how territorial they can be.

“We would love to leave the beavers alone, but it’s become too much of a safety issue,” he said.

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