Metrolinx finds the natural rival to invasive plants, so it has come up with a plan

A beaver mess isn’t only bad for the young beavers’ swimming skills.

It also inconveniences residents of suburban Burlington Township, New Jersey, who use a pond in a local playground as a hangout for themselves and their dogs. So, on June 20, over two dozen of the beavers had their meandering pens emptied, with not a mussel in sight.

“They are beloved in the town because they eat the invasive plants that have taken over,” said Nancy O’Leary, a nearby resident.

Nor is Metrolinx, the region’s public transit agency, alone in attacking beavers. Other municipalities have begun taking the beavers’ side. In the city of Newark, the beavers are “regenerating the land,” the New Jersey Star-Ledger reported. In St. Albans, New York, a man said the hogs have been turning his property into “an outdoor living room.” In Hamilton, New Jersey, officials are “trying to decide what to do” with the beavers.

But Metrolinx is not planning to dig up the beavers and replace them with rust-colored lawnmowers.

The agency said it chose the beavers’ side because there was no natural competition for their habitat — because “Metrolinx had no choice but to release the beavers.” The agency did not respond to a request for an interview or comment.

“At this point, Metrolinx has been in contact with Ecology and the Park Stewards to find out more about the beavers,” spokesman Andrew Robinson said in an email.

Robinson said Metrolinx has other residents eager to see beavers next to the playground, or living under the school fence. Metrolinx is “currently looking at other ways to ensure we do not impact the land too negatively,” Robinson wrote.

The beavers in Burlington County live in at least four pens near the youth sports fields in a wild space in the woods, the Burlington Reporter said. Metrolinx found the natural predators nearby, including foxes, coyotes and coyotes, which are all “adoptable,” Metrolinx officials said in a June 20 memo.

Young beavers are just adapting and expanding the territory, said Robinson.

“It’s the first time they have settled down for awhile,” he said. “We have consulted with the state, and he department approved that release plan.”

The drama over beavers has been building since 2010, when Metrolinx started the process of pursuing a move away from a trackless system that was established in the 1920s, with the goal of making it easier for a person to go from point A to point B. In 2009, Metrolinx purchased two acres of property in Burlington County. It will eventually construct a trail that will connect to a trail already up and running, along the Trammell Crow Parkway.

Robinson said Metrolinx completed a feasibility study in 2015 that assessed the impact of “railway tracks and playground equipment” on the beavers.

“The areas that are affected by Metrolinx tracks are areas that are naturally disturbed, and without that natural disturbance, the beavers would be food-wise,” the environmental impact statement said. “Therefore, Metrolinx anticipates the portion of the animal species population and habitat that uses these areas will be disrupted.”

While Metrolinx officials said “finding adequate habitat for them would be a challenge,” the study said the beavers would be able to move to undeveloped land.

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