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  •   Beaver Chomps Into Cherry Blossom Season

    Julia Long, a biology technician with the National Park Service, discusses damage done by a beaver at the Tidal Basin. (Michael Williamson — The Washington Post)
    By Linda Wheeler
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Wednesday, April 7, 1999; Page B01

    The beaver has struck again. One more flowering cherry tree and three white cedars near the Tidal Basin were gnawed through sometime Monday evening or yesterday morning, according to National Park Service biology technician Julia Long.

    The beaver first struck Thursday night, when it took down a cherry tree in full flower in an area just north of Outlet Bridge, not far from the Jefferson Memorial. Its most recent work, which Long discovered, was about a city block in each direction from the first casualty; the cherry tree was on the far side of the memorial, and the three cedars were on the Washington Channel side of Outlet Bridge.

    Long said the beaver might have come across dry land to reach the cedars because the area where they were planted has a fence along the water side.

    Tree
    This mature cherry is alive, but in danger, after the beaver struck. (By Michael Williamson The Washington Post)
    "This is one optimistic beaver," she said. "He thinks he can build a dam across the Tidal Basin."

    Park Service spokesman Earle Kittleman said the beaver must be frustrated. "As fast as he can take down a tree, we come along and take the tree and cut the stump," he said. As soon as the cut-through trees are discovered, a crew is dispatched to remove them so no one will trip on the stumps, he said.

    Kittleman said Park Service officials are quite concerned about the damage and are anxious to remove the beaver from the famous cherry tree grove. "We call him blankety-blank. Our people are really upset about the trees."

    Tree
    This stump was cut clean after the beaver felled the tree. (By Michael Williamson The Washington Post)
    Several of the park's larger and older cherry trees have teeth marks about six inches above the ground, and although the beaver didn't bring those trees down, the damage may be enough to kill them, Long said. When beaver damage first showed up last year, crews put protective shields around trees in the area where the rodent was active. This year's damage is in different areas.

    The cherry tree grove around the Tidal Basin and near several of Washington's presidential monuments is a traditional springtime draw for tourists who come to see the pink or white flowering trees, which are now at their peak.

    According to Long and Kittleman, the beaver is a bachelor and has been living near the Tidal Basin for about two years. The animal is believed to have arrived there when it rode some debris down the Potomac River during a flood. Downtown Washington isn't considered beaver country.

    Long said beavers prefer to live in the dams they build out of fallen trees, but because this one has not been able to build a dam, it most likely has burrowed into the ground.

    Kittleman had said humane traps were to have been set for the beaver over the weekend after the first cherry tree was found. Yesterday, he said workers had yet to set the traps because they didn't have any on hand, and he wasn't sure when they would have some.

    Long said the Park Service doesn't see the beaver as an enemy but rather as a wild creature "who does what beavers do. Our job is to manage the trees and the beaver. I just wish he wouldn't take out our cherry trees."

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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