Orange to proceed with beaver trapping 

  • Beavers will be trapped off Jones St. by the transfer station. Staff Photo/David McLellan

  • Beavers have become a nuisance and will be trapped at the end of North Main Street and Wheeler Pond Road in Orange, as well as other areas of town, this fall and winter. —Staff Photo/David McLellan

Staff Writer
Published: 10/10/2018 11:59:13 PM

ORANGE — They will be trapping beavers.

Despite some backlash, the Orange Selectboard has authorized a contract between the town and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to trap beavers in three areas of town: off Jones Street near the Orange Transfer Station, the end of North Main Street near Wheeler Pond Road and Royalston Road.

The decision comes despite objections from some residents concerned about the use of lethal body-hold traps called conibear traps on the large rodents, as well as from a letter from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, known as PETA, which objected to the use of lethal traps.

But the Selectboard decided on Wednesday to go ahead with the conibear traps, citing past examples where the nonlethal and PETA-recommended “Beaver Deceivers” have not worked.

“I don’t know what else we can do about it,” said Selectboard Vice Chairwoman Jane Peirce.

Normally, conibear traps are outlawed under state law enacted through a referendum several years ago. However, they are allowed in “emergency” situations when towns have a serious beaver problem.

At the last Selectboard meeting, Highway Superintendent Colin Killay said clearing dams and debris from beaver activity has become a struggle for his six-person department. He said the struggle has become a “losing battle,” and members of the Highway Department are spending at least eight hours a week clearing the beavers’ work, which can cause flooding.

The contract authorizes the town to spend $7,500 for the USDA’s trapping services, which will be carried out on 14 days this fall.

Originally, members of the Selectboard were concerned themselves about the humaneness of the traps, but their apprehensions were assuaged after hearing from the USDA’s Erik Shaffer, who will be trapping the beavers.

Shaffer pointed out that he has used conibear traps in Orange in the past with permission from the town, including last year off of Holtshire Road. He said the areas will be well marked with signs in both English and Spanish that include the phone number of the USDA’s Amherst office.

Shaffer also said the conibear traps are humane, despite what some may think.

“From my experience, and I’m going to tell everybody, conibear traps are probably the most humane and efficient trap there is,” Shaffer said. “It’s a quick-kill trap.”

Shaffer said the traps will be mostly submerged in water, and that they are more-or-less “species specific” and unlikely to trap anything else. However, he did admit that he has occasionally caught otters.

“This is an urgent situation. We don’t have a lot of resources to apply to this. We don’t have time to experiment with this thing or that thing. We don’t have a lot of people to put on the problem, and there have been a few individuals who have protested the fact that we’re going to have to remove some beavers,” Peirce said. “But, generally speaking, I think it rises to the level of a public health and safety issue that we’re going to have to deal with, so I am in favor of signing this agreement with USDA which will do some very targeted removal in the specific problem areas that we’ve talked about.”

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