Mark Fischenich: Ask Us: Beavers not routinely trapped in area parks (unless they're a dam nuisance)

Mar. 12—Q: This question is directed to the "The Ask Us Guy." What government entity or individual is responsible for ordering or allowing the trapping of beavers at the Red Jacket Trail Park and the Kiwanis Dog Park? Is it a government-contracted activity or is it just private individuals trapping for sport? I witnessed an individual removing a dead beaver from a trap at the Kiwanis Dog Park on Nov. 28. Unlike at the Red Jacket Park, no signage, flags or other warnings were posted indicating traps were in use. The wood chip trail along the river at the Kiwanis Dog Park is designated as an off-leash area. Unmarked traps are an obvious danger to dogs and other people recreating in the area. (Including children, who like dogs, love to explore the world around them.)

A: This question relates to two distinct park systems. Red Jacket Valley Park, located just southwest of Mankato along County Road 1, is owned by Blue Earth County. Kiwanis Recreation Area, which includes a dog park, is owned by the city of Mankato and is on the city's north side just off of Highway 169.

Both are very water-focused parks. Red Jacket Valley Park is bordered on three sides by the Le Sueur River and has a lake-sized pond as a prominent feature. Kiwanis Recreation Area is on the floodplain along the west bank of the Minnesota River.

So, no surprise that human and canine park users would find themselves sharing the landscape with beavers.

County Public Works Director Ryan Thilges said the county contracts with private trappers when necessary to protect property when beavers get a bit too busy with tree-cutting and stream-blocking.

"We run into periods where the beavers are a nuisance animal in that they create damage in the park," Thilges said, conceding that trapping can be a contentious issue.

"It's not something we like to do, but it's to protect our parks and make sure they stay beautiful and wooded and the flows stay as they should."

The practice is also sometimes required in the county ditch system, but the parks present the unique situation of trappers sharing the space with the general recreating public.

That's why, as the reader noted, the county posts signs informing people that traps have been placed.

"Just kind of advising people to keep their pets on a leash and stay on the trails for the couple of weeks that we're out," Thilges said.

As for the dead beaver seen at the Kiwanis Recreation Area, that may not have been on city-owned parkland, according to Assistant City Engineer Michael McCarty. That riverfront includes some Minnesota Department of Transportation property.

"Not knowing exactly where the trap is, it may be on non-city property," McCarty said. "Some of the wood-chip trail along the river is owned by MnDOT."

In any case, the city does not authorize setting of traps by members of the public who do it recreationally or as a source of income, he said. Anyone trapping on non-city land would have to be permitted by the Department of Natural Resources.

The one exception on city-owned land is, as with Blue Earth County's policy, the prevention of damage and to preserve proper drainage. And the traps are ones that capture the beaver unharmed.

"Trapping may occur if there is an impact to a drainage way or stormwater pond from beaver activity," McCarty said. "City staff works with the DNR to deploy a live trap to remove any beavers and properly relocate them. The beaver dam can then be removed."

Contact Ask Us at The Free Press, 418 S. Second St., Mankato, MN 56001. Call Mark Fischenich at 344-6321 or email your question to; put Ask Us in the subject line.