If you live in Warren County and have a beaver dam on your property, you’re probably going to hear from the county attorney’s office in coming weeks.
The county Board of Supervisors asked county Attorney Martin Auffredou to send letters to those who own property on which beavers have built dams, after county highway crews conducted a survey.
The goal is to inform property owners they may be liable if a dam bursts and damages public or private property, and supervisors hope property owners will decide to remove the beavers and/or their dams safely, said Chester Supervisor Fred Monroe, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors Legislative & Rules Committee.
The directive came after county officials debated for months about how to address what some consider a growing problem — increasing numbers of beavers damming up streams and creating ponds that, when the dams burst, wash out roads and railroad tracks. Warren County has had at least three road or train track washouts in the last few years linked to beaver-built dams. A large train track washout occurred several years ago in Saratoga County, as well.
Jim Lieberum, district manager for Warren County Soil & Water Conservation District, said it can be "catastrophic" when a large beaver dam bursts.
A survey last year found at least 20 dams in Warren County threaten public property, particularly roads.
“There’s a surprising number of them,” Auffredou said.
The decline of the trapping industry has led to a growing beaver population, Monroe said.
“Property owners need to understand there could be some liability if a beaver dam goes,” he said. “If it’s on public property, the municipalities can take care of them, but it’s a difficult problem if it’s on private property.”
The state Department of Environmental Conservation can issue permits to landowners and municipalities to have nuisance beavers trapped and their dams removed.
“We get a nuisance permit in our town every year and get rid of them,” said Horicon Supervisor Ralph Bentley.
"There's no silver bullet," Lieberum added.
Stony Creek Supervisor Frank Thomas said the DEC should handle removal of nuisance beavers, with Monroe pointing out the animals technically belong to the state.
Auffredou said the DEC has indicated it will assist the towns by working with landowners.