ANCHORAGE — The situation had gotten so bad between beavers and dogs that parks officials recently posted a sign at University Lake warning of aggressive beavers.
Beavers defending their watery turf have chased dogs out of the lake and sent at least half a dozen pooches to veterinarians for stitches or worse, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
The battles serve as a reminder that living in Anchorage means sharing the city with a menagerie of animals.
Dogs have been going after beavers at University Lake a long time, said state Fish and Game biologist Jessy Coltrane. “They were harassed for years. And they finally said, ‘that’s it,’” said Coltrane, the Anchorage area wildlife expert.
University Lake is the only place beavers have been reported to regularly attack dogs. But beavers have chewed down trees freshly planted for a road and trail improvement project on Romig Hill near Westchester Lagoon. They’ve gnawed vegetation up and down Campbell Creek. Their construction projects have raised the water level and contributed to basement flooding near Windsong Park east of Muldoon Road.
In Anchorage, the Fish and Game Department generally leaves beavers alone unless they cause flooding in somebody’s yard or basement, or they’re dropping trees along power lines or on cars and houses, Coltrane said.
“We don’t just remove beavers if they’re taking down trees in a park,” she told the Anchorage Daily News. Or even if they’re biting dogs in a park. By remove, she means kill.
Killing beavers is so controversial that when Fish and Game thinks it has to be done, they usually do it clandestinely, at night, said Coltrane.
If a beaver colony has become too much of a problem, sometimes the animals are shot. Sometimes they’re killed in traps.
“Beavers are great fun to watch, but in a residential area it doesn’t quite work out,” said David Doering, a homeowner on Reflection Lake.
Several years ago, beavers dammed an area next to his property, flooding some of the land and chewing down trees behind other people’s houses. Eventually four beavers were shot and another four were trapped, Doering said.
Dr. Ginny Kunch, a veterinarian at the 24-hour Diamond Animal Hospital & Emergency Services, said people should know that University Lake beavers are actively attacking dogs right now.
Kunch recommended posting warning signs at the lake after a beaver bit a wading Weimaraner earlier this month. It was the fifth or sixth beaver-bitten dog to come into the clinic this year, she said.
Stacy Smith’s 11-year-old pitbull Willoughby was bitten in early June.
Smith said she’d been going to University Lake for years and never saw a beaver until a couple of days before the attack, when she saw one on land. “It was slamming its tail and angry,” she told the Anchorage Daily News.
On June 2, Willoughby was swimming when Smith saw the beaver heading for him, and called him out. He wasn’t fast enough, and got bitten in the thigh.
Even though her dog was injured, Smith said she doesn’t feel the beavers should be taken out. “The lake is their home and they deserve to be there,” she said.