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Natural Resources Police Investigate Lake Churchill Beaver Deaths

April 5, 2016

When Andi Chesser came across the first dead beaver near Lake Churchill back in January, she was sad. When she found second beaver carcass two weeks ago, she was curious. When she found a third dead beaver last Wednesday, she was angry and reported the deaths to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police to investigate.

   “I can’t see how three beavers can die in three-and-half-months,” said Chesser, who has been living and hiking around Lake Churchill and Little Seneca Lake for six years and had never seen a dead beaver before. “It doesn’t seem right. It seems strange.”

   Lake Churchill is a man-made lake, as all Maryland lakes are, which just east of Little Seneca Lake, which surrounds Black Hill, Regional Park.

   Candy Thomson, the spokesperson for the Maryland Natural Resources Police, said that DNR Police Officer Daniel Thomas spoke to Chesser about the beaver deaths.

   “Three months ago she found a dead beaver, with its head severely damaged/eaten,” according to DNR police. “sometime after that, she located skeletal remains. Recently she located a large beaver near a chew that was dead, but vultures were already on it.”

   Thomson said that Tom Decker from DNR’s Wildlife and Heritage Service is aware situation and advised Natural Resources Police that no testing was conducted because the carcass was significantly stripped by vultures.

   On Wednesday, March 23 Chesser was walking her dog again and found the third dead beaver on the peninsula which juts out into Little Lake Seneca, which is adjacent to Lake Churchill. “He was very fresh and had not been dead long. That was when I got pissed. The beaver was near a tree that he had been working on. There was fresh shavings on the ground. I was trying how the hell the beaver would just die in the middle of working on a tree. There were no obvious signs or anything.”

   The beavers have been residents in the area of Lake Churchill for years. The walking trail which loops around the lake has many trees and stumps displaying the tell-tale signs of the bucktoothed, flat-tailed creatures. Trees chewed down to hour-glass shapes or finally left as stumps that come to a point.

   Some residents enjoy the idea that they are neighbors with woodland creatures known for gnawing through trees and living in large dams they use as homes, still other residents see the beavers at a nuisance destroying the trees.

   According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website, Beavers are social animals that tend to live in colonies consisting of a breeding pair and two generations of their offspring. Once the young, called kits, reach two years old, they are driven out of the colony to find their own territory. Beavers mark their territories with musk from their scent glands. Beavers are active from dusk until dawn.

   While they are the largest rodents in North America and can grow to be 60 pounds, beavers do have a number of natural predators, including the coyote. Young beavers sometimes fall prey to foxes and hawks.

   “Maryland Natural Resources Police has not received any other reports of beavers dying elsewhere,” according to Thomson.  “If anyone has any additional information, we will follow up on any leads,” said Thomson. Anyone with any information is asked to contact the Maryland Department of Natural Resources at Central Region Office at (800) 628-9944.



Top: One of the beavers that live near Lake Churchill. Photo by Laurel Weetall.

Next: Another one of the beavers that live around Lake Churchill in Germantown. Photo by Laurel Weetall.

Next: Evidence of beavers. This tree was chewed by a beaver in the Lake Churchill area. Photo by Germantown Pulse.

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