No dams, floods since controversial trapping


HELMETTA – Now that the targeted beaver at the Jamesburg Park Conservation Area has been trapped, borough officials are hoping the town will no longer be dammed to endure flooding.

A lethal trap proved successful in capturing the 31.5-pound, 40-inch-long female beaver that had built a dam and plugged up culverts under Ditch Bank Road, according to Darren Doran, head of Helmetta’s public works department. The beaver was caught Sept. 12.

“Since the capture, there has been no new activity in the park,” Doran said.

The traps were removed after the beaver was caught, and no dams were rebuilt, allowing water to recede back to its normal level, Doran said.

Helmetta received a depredation permit, valid from August to Sept. 30, that allowed for beaver trapping outside of the normal trapping season. The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife issues the permits in situations when damage being done by animals affects public health and safety, or results in economic loss, according to Steven Toth, consulting wildlife biologist for the Middlesex County Parks and Recreation Department. He said the lethal traps are necessary because the state is overpopulated with beavers, and there is nowhere to put them if captured alive.

Doran said beaver activity caused the nearby cranberry bogs to fill to capacity with water, not allowing room for rainfall. When this happens, he said, flooding becomes inevitable.

Joe Sapia, an advocate for Jamesburg Park, which spans the borders of Helmetta, East Brunswick, Monroe and Spotswood, took issue with the lethal beaver trapping. He said the creatures are not the cause of flooding, which has been a longtime issue in the town. Sapia also questioned officials for killing animals in what is considered a conservation area.

“I think it could be setting a precedent, and I think they’re just off target, blaming it on this beaver situation,” Sapia said.

Doran said representatives of the Division of Fish and Wildlife visited Jamesburg Park to assess the situation before granting the permit.

According to Sapia, the flooding issue was blamed on the cranberry bogs in the past, though they had existed for 150 years and never posed a problem before. He said the real issue lies in the fact that the former snuff mill was water-powered, requiring it to be built over and near waterways.

“Helmetta is kind of a victim of its own history,” Sapia said. “Complicating the thing is, you have the railroad in there, holding back water.”

Sapia said the fact that the flooding occurs between waterways leaves no mystery.

“I think I have a pretty good knowledge of local history and the local environment,” Sapia said. “In Helmetta, if you were familiar with local history and the local environment, you would understand what’s causing the flooding- and it’s not the bogs, and it’s not a beaver.”

Also contributing to the flooding are erosion and waterways being silted in throughout the park, Sapia said. Much of this happens as a result of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) being illegally ridden through the park, an issue law enforcement and parks officials have a difficult time curbing.