Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 21
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
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Local Officials Meeting to Discuss How to Handle Beaver Situation

Anne Levin

The killing of two beavers in the Pettoranello Gardens section of Community Park North nearly two weeks ago sparked outrage among animal-loving members of the community. Princeton Borough and Township administrators are awaiting word from the State of New Jersey as to whether animal control officer Mark Johnson followed appropriate procedures in shooting the aquatic creatures. Dams built by the beavers were contributing to flooding in the park.

In the meantime, representatives from Princeton Township, Princeton Borough, and the Health Department will meet with Mr. Johnson on Wednesday to talk about how to address the growing problem of handling beavers and other troublesome animals. Borough health officer David Henry, Township administrator Jim Pascale, Borough administrator Robert Bruschi, and Mr. Johnson will gather, “not just to recap where we are with the beaver situation, but also to discuss how to deal with nuisance animals in general,” said Mr. Bruschi.

Among the creatures to cause consternation in recent weeks was a black bear sighted the morning of May 18 moving through the area of Ober Road, the Russell Estates development, and Winant Road. The bear has not been seen since and Township police feel the sighting was an isolated incident.

At the pond in Community Park North, workers had attempted to take down dams that were constructed by beavers. But the dams, which made the water level in the pond rise, were rebuilt by the animals. According to reports, Mr. Johnson said he checked with state officials about how to remove the beavers and thought he had gotten verbal approval to kill them. The beavers were shot after dark when the park was closed to the public.

Beavers are a protected species in New Jersey, and it is illegal to shoot them. The animals were not trapped. A permit is needed for trapping a beaver. No permit was issued for the trapping of the beavers or any beaver activity with the Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, according to Larry Hanja, DEP spokesman. Illegally trapping a beaver is considered a municipal offense. If a beaver is deemed to be causing a problem by The Department of Fish and Wildlife, a permit to euthanize the animal can be obtained.

In the recent public outcry about the killing of the beavers, there were several calls for relocating the animals. But the DEP does not allow for that. “To relocate them is just relocating a problem,” said Mr. Hanja. “They do present a problem.”

State officials are currently reviewing documents from Princeton before advising local officials on how to proceed. “We completed our investigation and sent information to the state. We’re just waiting for word from them,” said Mr. Bruschi.

Mr. Johnson, who came back to work this week after a vacation, returned calls asking for comment but said he is not at liberty to discuss the matter at this time.

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