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Resident Rainbow Lake beavers to be killed

(6/1) The town has declared war on Rainbow Lake's beaver population, and has hired a trapper to capture and kill the renegade rodents.

The 11.5-acre, 33 million-gallon Rainbow Lake serves as a water reservoir for Emmitsburg. Under normal conditions, the town is authorized to process as much as 168,000 gallons of lake water a day for public consumption.

For the past couple of years, large amounts of algae, known as blooms, have hampered efforts to withdraw and treat Rainbow Lake's water by clogging the filters, which must then be changed frequently.

Town staff believes the algae blooms are fueled by nutrients provided by resident beavers, although they are not the sole source, according to water plant Supervisor Dave Fissel.

Conibear traps may be used

Local trapper John Miller has been asked to remove the beaver population, according to Town Manager David Haller. Miller has disposed of several beavers at Rainbow Lake in the past, according to Haller, including one weighing in at over 60 pounds.

Haller shared an e-mail from water plant Supervisor Dave Fissel, saying that Miller had initially stalked the beavers in March, killing two.

Miller, Fissel wrote, had "developed a personal vendetta against the beavers," adding that the beavers "quickly caught on to what was happening and changed their entrances to their lodges."

The plant manager said he believes there are three or more beavers left in the lake, and that they seemed to clear an area about 35-feet in diameter before relocating their lodge or dam.

According to Fissel, the town paid Miller about $360 in March, based on, he thought, $25 per beaver and $20 per day. Once the traps are set they have to be monitored. However, Miller can only operate during normal hunting seasons established by the state and cannot begin again until fall.

Using a state-approved hunting contractor, who could carry out the kills year round, could be prohibitively expensive for the town, Fissel said. Using a state contractor, "It would probably cost thousands of dollars to get rid of those beavers up there," according to Fissel.

Trapping process explained

Fissel told The Dispatch that the trapper would take a boat out onto the lake and place conibear traps into the water. He said he believed these traps clamp onto the animal's leg, holding onto it until the animal drowned or was disposed of by the trapper.

However, according to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' Web site, (, conibear traps "crush animals' necks, applying 90 pounds of pressure per square inch. It takes animals three to eight minutes to suffocate in these traps."

PETA provides an even bleaker assessment of simple leg traps: "… the trap's jaws slam on the animal's limb. The animal frantically struggles in excruciating pain as the trap cuts into his or her flesh, often down to the bone, mutilating the animal's foot or leg."

Some animals, PETA states, "especially mothers desperate to get back to their young, fight so vigorously that they attempt to chew or twist off their trapped limbs."

Fissel said that live capture and relocation was "not really considered. Most animals will come back" or "somebody else would have a problem with them then."

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