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Beaver is bad guy at cherry blossom time

image strip
From beautiful blossoms to pieces of bark, one or more beavers keep munching cherry trees in Washington, D.C.
CNN's Jonathan Aiken surveys the damage and gets the lowdown on the suspect
Windows Media 28K 80K

April 7, 1999
Web posted at: 11:01 p.m. EDT (0301 GMT)

From Reporter Jonathan Aiken

WASHINGTON(CNN) -- National Park Service rangers are on the trail of a buck-toothed rodent who's bent on downing the capital city's famous cherry trees.

This is the time of year when the city celebrates the gifts to America from the people of Japan. The National Cherry Blossom Festival parade will take place Saturday morning along Constitution Avenue.

The blossoms, at their peak since Easter, turn the area around the Potomac tidal basin into a delicate palette of pink and white.

But now there are gaps where an elusive beaver has gnawed the life out of four cherry trees and five white cedars.

"We actually got calls into the office that someone -- a human -- had come in and chopped down a cherry tree, much in the fashion of George Washington," said Park Ranger Julia Long.

"But we came over to investigate and found obvious evidence it was a beaver," Long said, pointing to the tooth marks on another tree.

Once a tree is damaged, the Park Service tries to save it, but sometimes it's too late, and the tree must be cut down.

So far, no one has seen the beaver, only evidence of its destructive habits.

And there is no evidence that the beaver is doing something else that comes naturally to a beaver.

"It would be a very industrious beaver that would want to build a dam across the tidal basin," Long said.

Rangers have a plan

The beaver's cravings are getting expensive. Some of the cherry trees are over 100 years old. Each costs $250 to buy and plant, and thousands more to maintain over the years.

Bite marks and other damage to about 30 trees have appeared since 1996. But now that the critter is actually felling trees, park rangers are making plans to catch the rodent with the tree appetite by setting a trap.

"He's generally pretty large -- 3 feet long, 30 to 40 pounds -- a pretty big guy who requires a big trap," Long said.

No one wishes the beaver ill, National Park Service spokesman Earle Kittleman said. "We want to get him back into an area where he can do his natural thing."

See related U.S. stories

1999 National Cherry Blossom Festival
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