Police roust holed-up varmint
Marion police were busier than beavers this past week — never more so than last Monday.
That’s when assistant chief Steve Janzen faced a tense standoff with a Central Park intruder.
It wasn’t so much an intruder, perhaps, as it was a shifty suspect, forced to hole up in one of the park’s signature features.
“I was present as a witness,” police chief Clinton Jeffrey recounted. “Gene Winkler videoed the endeavor, which may have shown assistant chief Janzen scream at a higher pitch than he would probably care to admit.”
The intransigent interloper was officially identified as Castor Canadensis — the scientific name for a beaver.
The animal apparently had wandered into a park fountain from nearby Luta Creek. Low water had stranded it in the fountain’s slick-sided pool.
“It was trapped with the low water,” Janzen said. “It wasn’t able to climb out of the slanted sides. you could see where it had tried but was unable.”
Employing a pole normally used to capture stray dogs, Janzen wrangled the beaver and eventually relocated it back to the river.
His scream, Jeffrey said, came when the beaver “lunged towards the pole and did a barrel role.”
Although in northern climates, beavers dam ponds and build lodges out of tree branches, in Kansas, where steep river banks are common, they typically burrow dens into the banks.
Perhaps the fountain seemed an exceptionally sturdy alternative, offering an opportunity to trade up to a new home. The concrete of the fountain pool proved a bit harder to excavate and traverse than did mud along the river bank.
Although not as common in Marion County as they are in most adjoining counties. beavers can be found on almost all Kansas streams with a year-round water supply.
Hunting by pioneers made the animals nearly extinct until laws protecting them were enacted in 1911. Their populations recovered sufficiently that legal trapping on a limited basis resumed in 1951.
Beavers may be diminutive by human standards but by no means should be considered tiny. The largest of North American rodents, they often weigh between 40 and 60 pounds. One Kansas beaver was known to have grown to 110 pounds.
Giant beavers, weighing more than 600 pounds, were common in the area during the prehistoric times of the Pleistocene epoch, which ended with the ice age that piled up the region’s Flint Hills.