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Parks Superintendent Statement on Beavers in Madison Parks

April 4, 2017 3:33 PM

As previously detailed, Parks staff inspected the area around the lagoon at Warner Park and confirmed more than 12 trees had irreparable damage or had recently fallen to beaver destruction. Staff also determined that a number of the damaged trees would need to be removed due to their now hazardous condition and locations.  If the beavers are left alone in the Warner lagoon, there is a high likelihood of continued tree and landscape damage.  Additionally, beavers can modify the water levels in their environment very effectively which can lead to slowing the flow of water.  In the case of the Warner lagoon, it is important to recognize that the lagoon is not simply a pond in the park.  The lagoon functions as the primary discharge location of stormwater runoff for more than 1,100 acres on the northside of Madison.  It is critically important to allow for this stormwater to be taken into and through the lagoon in order to avoid flooding issues. 

The lagoon is located within a community park that incorporates active (e.g. soccer, dog exercise area, biking, etc), community based (Warner Park Community Recreation Center) and nature based (e.g. birdwatching and trail walking) recreational opportunities for Madison residents and visitors.  The Warner Park master plan contemplates this harmonious balance by providing relatively large areas that are not planned for additional active recreational use.  Over the past decade there has been an increased interest in our community to ensure that we embrace and enhance the less developed portions of the park.  Parks is deeply appreciative of Wild Warner leading this focus and we are proud of the great work that has been accomplished on this front.  The restoration of the island formerly used for Rhythm and Booms, as well as the elimination of the concrete cunette and reestablishment of Castle Creek along trailsway are great examples of this work.

Parks staff works diligently to provide wildlife management that applies ecological knowledge to populations of vertebrate animals and their plant and animal associates in a manner that strikes a balance between the needs of those populations and the needs of people.  Our wildlife management work includes preservation, indirect intervention and direct intervention methods.  Preservation methods are those that essentially let nature take its course. An example of this is allowing predators to maintain a presence in conservation parks to balance population of select species.  Indirect intervention methods include vegetation and habitat modification.  An example of this is the reduction in the amount of mowed turf next to water to reduce the desirability of the location for geese.  Direct intervention includes population reduction strategies.  This includes trapping, population control measures and other lethal taking methods.  Parks staff does not take the decision to authorize lethal taking of animals lightly nor do we enjoy doing so.  We do so only after considering these varying options based upon the totality of the specific circumstances.

Parks has historically relied on the expertise of licensed trappers in determining the type and placement of traps to provide the highest likelihood of a successful trapping operation with the lowest likelihood of unintended consequences such as inadvertently trapping a non-targeted species.  The contracted trappers can use either live trapping or lethal body gripping traps authorized for use by the Wisconsin DNR.   The Wisconsin DNR has stated that live trapping and relocation is, in most cases, not a good idea (WI DNR, Beaver Damage Control).  There are a number of reasons for this, but an important one is that suitable relocation of a beaver is very difficult, if not impossible.  Staff is unaware of any situation where a trapped beaver was able to be successfully relocated from a Madison park. We are interested in this discussion for potential relocation as an option and that we will be made aware of a location where beavers can be successfully relocated through this process.  We have heard the concerns related to the use of lethal body gripping traps and we will be reviewing relevant research on this important topic.

Parks staff will continue to listen to the input from the many voices on this matter.  Madison Parks appreciates the significant input we have received in regard to the issue of the recent limited trapping operation in Warner Park.  We are impressed by the passion of those that have contacted us and their advocacy for a different plan of action.   Parks staff will be working with the Wisconsin DNR, who owns land that is being impacted, as well as with City of Madison Engineering, who are responsible for stormwater management in Madison, to monitor the situation at Warner Park during the coming months. 

Sincerely,

Eric Knepp
Madison Parks Superintendent

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