Neighbors battle over beaver
A homeowners association decision to remove and destroy the beaver that’s set up shop in the Four Seasons Active Adult Community in El Dorado Hills has residents collecting signatures to save the creature while an intransigent HOA general manager insists the beaver’s fate is sealed.
The beaver lives in Grassy Creek, a headwaters tributary of Deer Creek that winds through the Four Seasons, serving as both flood control and a scenic wetlands corridor for the planned development.
The Grassy Creek beaver, as residents have taken to calling it, has turned the formerly well-defined, narrow creek into a shallow marsh between Covered Bridge Way and Monte Mar Drive.
Few residents have ever caught a glimpse of the Grassy Creek beaver, but dog walkers June Neil and Dorothy Walsh nonetheless reported enjoying having it around, and particularly liked the two pairs of Mallard ducks that now call the marsh home.
The shy rodents rarely live past 16 years, a clear violation of Four Seasons’ age restriction, but that’s not why some residents want it gone.
Retired Forester Ross Johnson’s home backs up to the wetlands. He supports the beaver removal on the grounds that it threatens sycamore and oak trees planted, perhaps unwisely, along the banks of the creek.
The beaver has knocked down at least one young oak tree, the pencil-tipped butt-ends of stump and now-horizontal trunk clearly visible from the adjacent hiking path behind Johnson’s back yard.
But the marsh itself is the real threat, he said, pointing to several healthy young trees now standing in water.
During a streamside tour on Thursday, he informed his beaver-loving neighbors that most trees won’t survive prolonged root emersion. “The willows will probably make it but all those sycamores and oaks are going to die out there, even if the beaver doesn’t knock ’em down,” he said.
The Four Seasons homeowners association agrees, and procured an eradication permit from the state Fish and Game Department in January. During the February meeting the board voted to exercise it.
The next step, said Johnson, would be hiring a trapper.
Four Seasons residents Dick Parsons and Jerry Baldo are circulating a petition to save the beaver and plan to appeal the association decision during the Feb. 29 board meeting.
Parsons and Baldo said beaver are well-established in the area, and removing one merely opens up the territory for another. Balso also argued that creekside trees can be protected with beaver-proof screen or plastic wrapped around their base, but had no solution for the trees in standing water, other than to wonder why any trees, much less those intolerant of excessive water, were ever planted in a watershed.
Other residents worry that the beaver dams could result in neighborhood flooding during a heavy rain, or that the beaver might wander into surrounding yards and start gnawing on the landscaping, neither of which is likely, according to Johnson.
State Fish and Game Warden Patrick Foy, reached by phone, reported that beaver problems in semi-rural subdivisions are common. “We can’t really take a problem beaver in one area and move it to another,” he said.
Beavers are routinely removed and destroyed, trapped underwater to drown or simply shot, he said, often over the loud objections of animal lovers.
He said the species is not endangered or protected, and is well-established along waterways in western El Dorado County, with known beaver communities along Deer Creek and Carson Creek.
Urban beaver dams can be breached with combinations of pipe and screening that lower water levels and might save some of the trees along Grassy Creek, he added.
The so-called “beaver relievers” prevent flooding but create frustrated beaver who often go to great lengths to clog the breach and restore their habitat, or simply move on.
Four Seasons Owners Association General Manager Scott Jefferson notified Parsons by e-mail on Friday that the eradication of the beaver was “in the best interest of the community” and was moving forward despite his petition.
“The membership lacks the necessary authority to overturn or postpone the implementation of an operational/maintenance decision of the board of directors,” he said, “regardless of the number of completed petitions that may be submitted.”
On Saturday a frustrated Parsons conceded that barring a miracle, his efforts to save the beaver had failed. “People here in our little community find this marsh and its inhabitants life affirming,” he said. “We want to live and let live.”
He lamented that his HOA board acted hastily and “entered into this with their minds made up.”
The next board meeting is 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 29 at the Four Seasons Lodge.