This story was corrected on Jan. 23, 2014. An explanation of the correction is at the bottom of the story.
Hungry beavers may sound like the name of a children’s game, but the words are not fun for Greenbelt residents living near Buddy Attick Lake Park.
A recent increase in beaver activity near the man-made lake has left many trees damaged, said Alex Palmer, volunteer Maryland coordinator for Chesapeake Education, Arts and Research Society, a nonprofit that helps organize and fund environmental programs. “Almost every time I’m [at the park], I see another couple trees that have been recently chewed up and knocked down,” he said.
Damaged or weakened trees can threaten the safety of park visitors and also affect the aesthetics of the area. Palmer said officials hypothesize that the increased activity is the result of a male beaver, born to an existing group, who established a second lodge in the lake instead of finding new territory as most young beavers do.
Normally, beavers are an asset to any wooded ecosystem, Palmer said. Their dams form wetlands that filter water and are home to fish, frogs and aquatic insects, in addition to offering protection and a food supply for the beavers.
“In less developed areas, beavers could arguably be said to be nothing but beneficial to an area,” he said. “Even three or four beavers wouldn’t be that much of a problem. Usually beavers don’t go more than one mile from a body of water.”
The problem in a small area like Buddy Attick park is that beavers could severely thin the little bit of woods separating the water and developed areas, Palmer said.
Carolyn Muscar of Berwyn Heights visited the park Jan. 20 but usually walks near Lake Artemesia in College Park, where beaver activity is also evident, she said.
“Almost every tree over there has a cage around it,” she said. “And I have seen beaver-damaged trees there.”
Muscar said the dilemma over how to manage the beaver population seems like an inevitable one.
“That’s the problem with a park in an urban setting — you have to manage it by intervention rather than letting it be,” she said.
Tom Jones of Greenbelt said the city’s social media sites have been active with residents voicing opinions, which tend to fall into a “save the trees” or “save the animals” category. He said he has seen beavers around Buddy Attick Lake but has not noticed an increase in their numbers.
In February, Palmer’s nonprofit will partner with the Greenbelt Department of Public Works and community members to replace or add about 80 tree cages to those already installed in the Buddy Attick forest, Palmer said.
While the group will not be able to cage all the trees, they will focus on areas close to houses and developed areas. He said volunteers have registered to help with the installation and he is hoping for a large turnout.
“[The tree cages] might not be everywhere, but it will definitely be an improvement,” he said. “It would be really helpful for us to have the support out there.”
The tree-caging workdays will take place from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Feb. 1 and from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Feb. 8. For more information, contact Alex Palmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction: This story was changed to accurately identify Alex Palmer