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'Is this the only way?': Fargo Parks beaver cull draws criticism

FARGO-A growing chorus of animal rights supporters wants the Fargo Park Board to reconsider its plan to trap and kill beavers in city parks along the Red River.

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Megan Bartholomay, an opponent of the Fargo Park Board's decision to cull the beaver population to prevent damage to trees, stands near the Red River in Fargo. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO-A growing chorus of animal rights supporters wants the Fargo Park Board to reconsider its plan to trap and kill beavers in city parks along the Red River.

One of the leading voices is Megan Bartholomay, a 38-year-old Fargo resident who believes the board's plan is barbaric.

"We're a civilized community living in 2015," she said. "Is this the only way? What else have we tried?"

The Park Board voted unanimously last week to start culling beavers after residents and park district staff expressed concerns about the animals destroying mature trees in Lemke and Trefoil parks-damage that's cost the city thousands of dollars.

In response to the board's decision, Bartholomay created the Twitter hashtag "beaverbacker" and drafted an online petition at pleading for a more humane solution that doesn't involve killing beavers.


"The Red River is about to earn its name," the petition says. "The beavers living along the banks in Fargo, ND will soon be slaughtered for no good reason."

As of Tuesday, the petition had received more than 950 signatures, which have come from people inside and outside the metro area, according to the website.

Park Board President Joe Deutsch, who said he hasn't heard from Bartholomay or anyone else opposed to the plan, acknowledged that board members did not discuss alternatives to killing the beavers. But he said the board is open to listening to any residents who are against trapping, which isn't expected to start until the fall or next spring.

John Paulson, a U.S. Department of Agriculture official who'll lead the cull, has said trappers may use body-gripping traps, which catch and kill a beaver as it passes through, or traps that grab a beaver and hold it underwater so it drowns.

"There's always other options," said Adam Hasbargen, who opposes the trapping plan. "I would hope that our leaders would find the other options and utilize them."

Hasbargen, a 40-year-old Moorhead resident, is part of an informal group of activists called Fargo-Moorhead Animal Rights.

Another member of the group, 44-year-old Tim Ness of Moorhead, said the park district, instead of killing beavers, should try to relocate the animals, guard trees with wire fencing or coat tree trunks with a beaver repellant.

Paulson has said fencing and repellants may be considered for protecting particularly valuable trees.


Bartholomay said she's not sure of the best way to solve the beaver problem. "But I think it's worth investigating a little bit more," she said.

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