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Sarah Smith, Forum Communications Co., Published August 20 2010

Peysenske Lake residents frustrated by beavers

PARK RAPIDS, Minn. – A den of Mother Nature’s earthmovers has been wreaking havoc on an area lake.

Their days are numbered.

A chronic beaver problem damming up the freshwater inlet to Peysenske Lake has prompted Samantha Hunter, Hubbard County Department of Natural Resources conservation officer, to issue a special 10-day nuisance trapping season.

It’s been a four-decade struggle for the small lake association, numbering less than 30 homeowners. This year it reached critical mass.

In the past, frustrated homeowners armed themselves against the persistent threat to their lake’s water quality and went on midnight shooting parties.

“Citizens shouldn’t have to break the law” to get government to step in, said lake resident John Clauer.

Beavers have persistently plugged up an outlet under County Road 11 leading into the lake east of Park Rapids. The problems got worse when the county placed a new outlet a few years ago under the newly paved roadway leading south from the Dorset corner on Highway 34.

Peysenske residents sued. The court found that while the outlet wasn’t in the right place, it hadn’t irreparably harmed the residents, so they could not collect damages or force the county to lower it.

But the higher outlet, which frequently dries out and only replenishes the lake during rainy summers, now seems ground zero for a large beaver population in the middle section of Peysenske Lake on the east side of the roadway.

A colony of beavers begins bringing branches, weeds and underbrush up to the outlet by dusk. By dawn, the outlet has been choked off.

Because Peysenske ­doesn’t

have any other inlets or outlets, water gets stagnant, fish die, and the lake suffers, residents say.

“It’s their nature to keep coming back,” Clauer said of the beavers. “There’s 100,000 cubic feet of water running through that culvert a day, but it’s plugged 50 percent of the time.”

Lake association officials met with Hunter last Saturday and with county officials this week.

“I can’t go out and arrest a beaver,” Hunter told the lake residents. It’s illegal for humans to obstruct a waterway, but animals are something else. And the DNR isn’t responsible for the county’s culvert plugging up, she said,

“No one wants responsibility,” Clauer said. “Now the residents are left holding the bag.”

Hubbard County road maintenance foreman Herb McCormick has had his crews cleaning the outlet two days a week until the trappers can get to work, but road crews have numerous other responsibilities, he told the Peysenske residents.

County Engineer Dave Olsonawski called the lake residents this week to say the county would pay for the trapping. Lakeshore residents have signed up to clean the outlet the remaining five days of the week.

The trapping season “is only a temporary solution,” Clauer said. “The problem is that we’re going to fight this every year.”

It’s a fight going on around numerous other lakes, Hunter said, warning that county and/or DNR involvement could backfire.

“Everybody will want the county” (and DNR) to eradicate nuisance problems,” Hunter explained, adding, “You chose to live on a lake. Every lake has beavers.”

“We’ve chosen to live on the lake, but we pay heavy- duty taxes to live there,” said lake association president Les Hagemeyer.

Sarah Smith is a reporter at The Park Rapids Enterprise.