An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified a spokesman for the U.S. Park Police as Eduardo Delgado. The spokesman's name is Thomas Twiname. The story has been corrected.
The Park Service used the incident as a time to remind people to keep their dogs leashed. Federal regulations require all pets to be leashed, and owners can be subject to fines of up to $80.
In the May 14 case, the dog owner was not fined, Park Service officials said Thursday. Sgt. Thomas Twiname, a spokesman for the U.S. Park Police, said in an email Sunday that the dog owner had “left the scene” before law enforcement arrived and no one had identified the dog owner. He said police have “documented” the incident and they’re working with the Humane Rescue Alliance in D.C.
Beavers are native to Rock Creek Park, and they often build dams along the waterways from nearby trees. Chelsea Sullivan, a spokesperson for the Park Service, said Thursday that the “dog was off-leash and saw the beaver, went over and attacked it.” She said the beaver was “in the water and hanging out on a rock when it was attacked.”
Officials didn’t have statistics of how often such incidents occur, but Sullivan said “it is an issue with people having dogs off-leash and there’s a negative interaction like that.” Sometimes, Sullivan said, an off-leash dog spooks a horse, or other people may not feel comfortable with an off-leash dog near them.
“It is so important to keep a dog on-leash,” Sullivan said. “It’s not only for the safety of other people and other animals, but also for the safety of your pet.”
And remember — Rock Creek Park is home to wild animals.
“Just because you think your dog is well-behaved or won’t do anything, it doesn’t mean a deer, coyote or foxes will appreciate a dog that’s off on a trail and not on its leash,” Sullivan said.
Jeanne Braha, executive director of the Rock Creek Conservancy, said the organization is seeing more beavers in Rock Creek so there are “more chances for dogs and beavers to interact” if the pets are off-leash.
Dogs being off-leash and off marked trails in the forest also creates troubles for other wildlife, including squirrels, chipmunks, groundhogs and birds, she said. For example, D.C.’s official bird, the wood thrush, is a ground-nesting bird so a dog that’s “running in the woods can disrupt those nests,” Braha said. Even the scent of a dog can agitate the birds and get them stressed, she said.
“They may shake or expend more energy looking for food,” Braha said. “They may leave the area and go somewhere else because they’re scared or they smelled the dog.”
Plants can also be trampled by dogs that are off-leash, Braha said, or the animal’s fur could be carrying the seeds of plants that could be invasive.
Outdoor experts said they encourage dog owners to take their pets to the city’s dog parks for exercise and being off-leash. Anyone with information about the May 14 incident involving the beaver and dog is asked to contact USPP_tipline@nps.gov.