Bob Haider wasn't sure what he'd find when he heard his wife's screams.
Rushing into their home office, Haider found his wife staring out the back window watching a three-foot beaver carry their newly planted pear tree across the back yard.
Three years later, Haider, who lives near a pond on the city's southeast side, can laugh about the theft. But some of his neighbors who've lost trees to the animals aren't nearly so amused.
The beavers are also creating problems by damming up city storm drains on both the southeast and north sides of town. Without proper drainage, the ponds fill quickly, creating flooding concerns for nearby residents.
And while some property owners like the look of "waterfront property," the beavers have created something of a conundrum for city staff.
Every now and then, city's Streets and Parks Supervisor TJ Heinricy throws on his wet suit and dismantles the blockage, though he and Engineering Resources Manager Brian Welch know it's a losing battle.
"You remove it and they come back," said Welch, pointing out that beavers are attracted to the sound of running water.
Most of the ponds in the city's southeast side are manmade retention ponds, meaning they're part of Northfield's infrastructure. But when the ponds, which hold stormwater runoff, are dammed, it reduces the amount of water they can hold, increasing the likelihood of flooding even following a moderate rainfall, said Welch.
The increase in water level, he said, can alter how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers categorizes a retention pond and surrounding areas — and that can impact future development. Welch said those changes could have the corps denying development in certain areas if Northfield doesn't meet corps guidelines regarding existing wetlands within the city.
Dealing with the critters has been no simple task. While one man was cited by police earlier this year for trying to shoot a beaver within city limits, the city's tactics have also been met with opposition.
Though the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recommends trapping and killing beavers, that method was criticized by some residents.
Haider, who lost a tree to a hungry beaver, says he enjoys seeing the wildlife — muskrats, beavers, ducks, eagles and even geese — from his property.
But he also understands why some prefer the beavers stay away.
"I can see both sides," he said. "If they're really making a mess at some point you're probably going to have to trap them."
And while it's Welch's job to find solutions, he notes that it's a problem of our own making. Fifteen years ago, none of the ponds in the city's southeast existed.
"We've created an environment for (the beavers) and we're living in that environment," he said.
Friend or foe?
In many cases, beaver damage cannot be effectively managed unless the animals are killed. Removing a dam without removing the resident beavers generally results in the dam being immediately rebuilt. Live relocation of beavers is not legal in Minnesota without a permit.
For more information about beavers, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/livingwith_wildlife
— Suzanne Rook can be reached at 507-645-1113.