Beavers are unmatched in the animal kingdom at being able to alter and control their environment – unless, that is, they run into an environment already controlled by humans.
That's what happened recently on a piece of Harford County-owned land in Perryman, where a resident reported the most intense beaver dam he has seen in three decades.
The local beavers' hard work at a small lake on Forest Green Road, off of Perryman Road, has created a headache for residents and the county has begun dismantling their efforts.
"Some enterprising beavers started to build a dam" at the beginning of March, Richard Dixon, who has lived on Park Beach Drive since 1980, said Monday.
The dam, about 50 yards from Forest Green Road, has been causing mild flooding on the road, but has not created major traffic issues, he said.
Although the area has seen beaver dams before, they were "not like this," he said. "This is really kind of quick."
Beavers use dams and flood areas to protect themselves from predators, help grow their food supply and create underwater access to their lodges, according to the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife.
The dams also create habitats for many other species and improve water quality by reducing sediment flow that eventually reaches the Chesapeake Bay, according to the Montgomery County Department of Parks.
Dixon added that "beavers used to clog up the pipe that went underneath Clubhouse Road," near Forest Green.
Harford County did put up small signs reading "High Water" in the area, Dixon said.
The 102-acre property housing the lake was acquired by the county in pieces from the Harford Land Trust, with the bulk of it being taken over in 1995, county spokesperson Cindy Mumby said.
The site came with restrictive covenants, requiring it to be a natural-use area, she said.
The county also received authorization from the Department of Natural Resources in 2001 to allow it to deal with beavers on the site, if they are a nuisance, she said.
The nearly 15-year-old letter, signed by former regional land manager Ronald Norris, authorizes the county's public works department, or its designees, "to remove nuisance beaver from regional stormwater management facilities and other problem sites when there is a concern for public safety," according to a copy of the letter provided by Mumby.
The letter urges the county "to enlist the services of a licensed trapper," states the permit will remain in effect until revoked by the Wildlife and Heritage Division and asks the county to provide the state with "an annual tally of the number of animals destroyed at the end of each year."
Mumby called the dams "a recurring issue" and said the county has been trying to break them up.
"We have sent someone down who has been going down once a week trying to break up the dam that the little critters have built," she said. "This is something that we have had to deal with in the past."
She said the county has received some calls about it and is aware of the concern.
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"We don't want it to affect public safety," she said.