Town beaver's lair discovered
November 7, 2019
To local eyewitnesses, he goes by Timber, Cleaver, The Beavs and, for those determined not to get too attached, The Beaver. In six months of work, the juvenile beaver living in the murky storm water drainage ditch next to the Haines Senior Center has felled eight to 10 trees and, with them, built a complex system of dams inside the culvert. Halfway down the tunnel, under the bathrooms at Tlingit Park, The Beavs fashioned a nest where Haines' public works employees guess he planned to live all winter.
That plan was foiled last Thursday, when four borough employees went to work at undamming the drain by digging access points into the ground. One employee, Walker Blair, went so far as to army crawl into the underground pipe to assess the scene.
"It was full of sticks," Blair said. "I just started digging with my hands. I think he's a young beaver that doesn't know what he's doing. If he was a big beaver, it would be hard for him to make it through the grate."
By the end of the day on Thursday, the workers removed a dump-truck load of sticks and logs from the culvert, public works superintendent Will Hickman said.
If they hadn't, Hickman said the log jam could clog, and then stormwater would back up and flood the street. The vast majority of the grates around town drain to that primary stormwater culvert, he said.
"It's the low spot, so water from the entire town drains here," he said. "In the winter time, it will all freeze up."
The four-foot by four-foot grate, the entrance to the tunnel, was sectioned off by six-inch rods of metal, like a jail door. However, The Beavs was able to wiggle through with his loot of wood.
"The beaver has had a lot of fun taking down trees," resident Georgia Haisler, whose property borders the ditch, said. "When they say work like a beaver, they do that. He has taken down big and little trees and taken them apart and into his hole."
Residents first remember seeing the beaver on an irregular basis mid-summer, Haisler said. Many witnesses, including Hickman, echoed Haisler's sentiment- "People enjoyed seeing what he could do, and had no idea that so much damage was getting done underneath."
Jeremy Settem, a cook at the Senior Center, said the beaver was a hot topic this summer, when locals caught sight of him about once a week. "I'd go out there and check his progress out," he said. "There'd be a big group of kids riding their bikes joking about trapping it, and moms in their mom vans coming by and telling the kids not to trap the beaver."
Haines Senior Village manager Melissa Ganey said her kids loved watching the beaver, which they called Cleaver, all summer.
"It didn't have a care in the world, it was just busy busy working away on those trees," she said. Her son, 8-year-old Kaeden Ganey, described Cleaver as "brown, and it has big feet." He said he saw him three to four times this summer, and wishes him well. "I hope it doesn't get caught," Ganey admitted.
Chuck Mitman, another neighbor of The Beaver, who jokingly calls him "The Beavs" in an ode to the 1960s sitcom Leave it to Beaver, said the beaver only caused one major disturbance, when it gnawed into a tree at such an angle that it precariously tipped towards the road and threatened to fall into one resident's window.
Others, like 4-year-old preschooler Sage Bieberich, never caught sight of the nocturnal animal, though not for lack of trying. He went looking for it with his dad, but "never sawed it." "We haven't found the beaver yet and...beavers eat trees," Bieberich noted.
For now, public works has cleared out the debris and put fencing over the grate so that the beaver can no longer squeeze inside. They've placed live traps to catch him if he comes back-"There's a couple volunteers that have ponds on their property that said they would take him," Hickman said.