ANCHORAGE - Staff members at the Diamond Animal Hospital on Tudor Road have posted a sign by its reception counter:
"Beaver Alert! There is a beaver at the University Lake dog park that is biting swimming dogs."
As luck would have it, the lake is a popular dog park among human and canines and a popular log park among beavers. A colony has feasted on cottonwoods and other trees there for years, state biologist Jessy Coltrane said - long before the lake became an off-leash area for dogs.
"The beavers were there first," she said.
And lately they are all too eager to interact with dogs that invade their space.
Jocelyn Krebs racked up a $1,000 vet bill last Tuesday when a beaver attacked both her mixed-breed dogs while they were swimming near the beaver lodge.
The beaver bit Kona, a 75-pound female, in the belly. Then, with a slap of its flat tail, it dove underwater and attacked Decaf, a 90-pound male who wound up with bloody gashes in his right haunch.
"One of them was swimming around a grebe, which is one of their favorite activities, and a beaver swam right past him and Decaf was immediately sidetracked and started following him," said Krebs, who visits the park routinely. "Kona jumped in and started following.
"They definitely had this coming. They went swimming in the beaver's territory."
A biology professor at UAA, Krebs knows about animal territories and behaviors. She thinks the attack beaver is a female protecting babies because this is the time of year beavers give birth.
One thing's for sure: One or more of the lakeside beavers have developed a taste - make that a distaste - for dogs.
Cindy Edlund, Susan Lane, Christine Hanson and Trish Jenkins were on their daily walk around the lake Tuesday morning with their pack of eight dogs when asked if they knew anything about the beavers.
They answered all at once.
Hanson isn't thrilled about coexisting with beavers, who are perhaps the world's most efficient loggers.
"They've almost denuded the lake, in my opinion, and I'm not happy about it," she said.
Lane thinks otherwise.
"It's a part of life here at University Lake," she said. "I don't like getting charged by a moose either, but it's part of life here too.
"I don't like the construction either," she added as a cluster of heavy-equipment vehicles beep-beep-beeped not far from where she stood. "I don't like all the beer cans. I don't like the people who don't pick up after their dogs."
In other words: There can be worse things to encounter than feisty beavers at University Lake.
Unless you're a water- loving dog.
Beavers are basically 3-foot-long, 50-pound chewing machines with razor-sharp teeth that match their size.
A beaver's bite can be vicious, said veterinarian Ginny Kunch, who mended Kona and Decaf last week.
"Beavers are members of the rodent family," she said, "so take a mouse tooth and multiply by a beaver's size. It's pretty substantial."
All three of the dogs Kunch treated for beaver bites required surgery. She thinks only small dogs are at risk of mortal wounds, but she posted the "Beaver Alert!" sign in the hope that no more dogs come in gushing blood like Decaf.
The sign's advice - "Please do not allow your dogs to swim in this area" - is worth taking, Coltrane said.
"Usually the problem is the dogs are chasing the beavers," she said.
Chances are the beavers will stay at the lake until they run out of timber, Coltrane said. "It could be years and years," she said.
Typically, she said, Fish and Game doesn't intervene when beavers do their thing in a park.
Anchorage is home to about a hundred beavers, Coltrane said, and each year anywhere from five to 20 are trapped and killed because of the havoc they create.
"In cases of property damage or impending doom, we have trappers take them, usually a couple at a time," she said. "We never relocate them. It has to be a good place for beavers, and if it's a good place for beavers, there are probably already beavers there - and they're so territorial, usually it doesn't work. And it's difficult to live-trap them."
Krebs returned to the lake Tuesday, a week after a beaver took a chunk out of each of her dogs. She kept Decaf and Kona on a leash, but Decaf's attention was riveted on the beaver lodge.
In the future, she said, she'll play it safe and either avoid that part of the trail or put her dogs on a leash when approaching it.
Such thinking makes a world of sense to Lane, the woman who believes the beavers have every right to keep their homestead. "If you see a hornet's nest," she said, "don't put your hand in it."
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