Lawrence commissioners study problem of beavers

By Mary Grzebieniak

Commissioners promised that whatever solution they choose will be humane.

NEW CASTLE, Pa. — The beavers living in a swamp alongside the Stavich Bicycle Trail will be left alone for now.

At the Lawrence County commissioners’ meeting Tuesday, Commission Chairman Richard DeBlasio said that since discussing eliminating the beavers at last week’s meeting, he and his colleagues have been inundated with public reaction including the Humane Society of the United States.

“I have learned more about beavers in the last week than I have in my entire life,” commented DeBlasio. “We will be discussing this, and we will come to some type of compromise,” he added.

They agreed to consider a water- flow-control device or “beaver baffler” suggested in a letter to commissioners from Laura Simon, field director, Urban Wildlife Program of the U.S. Humane Society in Woodbridge, Conn. Simon said the device would solve the problem of beaver dams’ causing flooding at the affected culvert along the bike trail, which is owned and maintained by the county. Commissioners also promised that whatever solution they choose will be humane.

Commissioners had publicly speculated last week on ways to eliminate the beaver problem on the trail where more than $1 million in renovations had been completed in November. After being presented with some alternatives by Doniele Andrus of the county planning department last week, commissioners said they would look for a licensed fur trapper to eliminate the animals.

However, Craig said that since then, commissioners also have discovered that they cannot remove the beavers because their dams are located on private property. They also have learned more about beaver behavior and habitat which indicates that even trapping them would not permanently eliminate the problem because more beavers would eventually move in.

Wes Osborne, owner of “Crit-R-Done,” a pest-removal business in Pulaski, which had been consulted by the planning department over the problem, said that removing the beavers to another location now during cold weather would result in their deaths because they could not survive.

Commissioners said they will discuss the problem, but they do not expect a quick solution.

Also Tuesday, Craig said he will ask county Controller David Gettings to research the costs to Lawrence County from the state Legislature’s failure to pay its share of the costs of running local courts, despite several rulings by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The County Commissioners’ Association of Pennsylvania is awaiting an answer after a December hearing before the court requesting that the Legislature be held in contempt for failure to comply. Craig said he would like to present a bill to the Legislature for what it owes the county.

Craig said the state is obligated to pay all costs of all county common pleas and district justice’s staffs as well as juvenile and adult probation and domestic relations, the cost of all court proceedings and possibly the staffs of the prothonotary and district attorney’s offices.

The judges are already paid by the state, but their staffs are not, Craig said. He added that the state is also supposed to pay 60 percent of the district attorney’s salary but has not paid it for the last two years and paid only a part of the 2006 and 2007 salaries.

Craig said the Legislature’s failure to come across with money it owes has significantly contributed to Lawrence County’s financial problems, which resulted in layoffs last year.

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