There was some unauthorized – or perhaps, unscheduled would be a better word – construction on a county creek recently. We learned about it through an email from a county resident:
“I just wanted to send a quick note about a Cross County Trail crossing just south of the Fairfax County Parkway. There appears to be something that has dammed Pohick Creek and has caused the cement pillars used to cross the creek to become submerged in water and impassable. I know some of the crossings become submerged in water when the creek is high, but this is different. All of the other crossings along this section of Pohick Creek are well above water and the creek is otherwise at a pretty low level right now. I’ve never seen this particular crossing submerged when the creek was otherwise at this low level. Additionally, the water in this area is quite still. I could see an area just downstream that looked, perhaps, like a bunch of dead wood that was possibly damming the creek, but I’m not certain. “
The email was forwarded to Area 4 Manager Ed Richardson, who oversees maintenance in parks in that area of the county. Richardson went to see what was going on and found the “bunch of dead wood.” Sure enough, it was a beaver dam that had been built just downstream of the creek’s fair weather crossing. Richardson opened the dam at both ends to give the water a path, hoping that storms would do the rest. Instead, the beaver rebuilt the dam within a couple of days, so a work crew was sent to demolish the structure.
“A final resolution depends on how committed the beaver is to damming the creek here,” Richardson said. “Hopefully it will move on without much fight.”
Senior Natural Resource Specialist Kristen Sinclair explained that the Fairfax County Park Authority follows a Standard Operating Procedure when it comes to wildlife conflict:
“Beavers, in particular, generate about 5-10 complaints each year involving trail flooding or tree damage. Beaver are tolerated whenever possible in our stream valley parks because they are a highly beneficial native mammal in Northern Virginia. Beaver-created habitat provides pollution control and helps mitigate erosion by slowing down streams. Progressive measures considered for resolving wildlife conflicts include tolerance, exclusion, harassment and, lastly, population control. In the case of Pohick Creek, staff must balance the need for public recreation against the beaver’s chosen spot to set up home, for now.“
This beaver may be lodging in the ground. Richardson said he didn’t see a lodge at the dam, but did see large burrow entrances with fresh spoils nearby. Sinclair said beaver sometimes do lodge inside banks.
If this beaver moves elsewhere, the problem’s solved. If the beaver rebuilds in the same spot, we’ll have to monitor it until he learns what we always have to keep in mind – that wildlife and people share the same places in this county. We each have to give a little in order to protect each other and the county’s natural resources.
There’s more information about beavers and wildlife conflict at these links: