CUMBERLAND – Gail and Jeff Whitfield have lived at 4 Sunnyside Drive in Cumberland since 1986, and until two years ago, had never seen the water behind their home encroach on their property.
Thanks to the increased activity of a rapidly growing population of beavers in the area, the Whitfields estimate that the water from the swamp out back has crept 20 to 30 feet up their yard, with more ground saturated 10 to 15 feet beyond that. After it rains, the issue is far worse, they said.
The Whitfields have been planning to put up a new shed for some time now, but say they don’t want to do so until after this issue is resolved. It’s fortunate, they said, that there’s such an upward slope to their home, or this would be a more urgent problem.
“It just keeps encroaching,” said Jeff Whitfield. “We don’t know how far it’s going to go.”
Highway Supt. Dennis Vadenais visited the Whitfields last week and confirmed their suspicion that the water near their home is the result of dams the beavers have built near the nearby Cumberland High School football field, one of the newly problematic areas Vadenais previously noted.
While Jeff Whitfield and others have suggested that the town might be moving toward a plan to legally trap the beavers, Vadenais said only that they’re looking at taking some “progressive steps to deter the beavers” that have been wreaking havoc on residents’ properties. .
Whitfield said a tree in the swampy area behind their home recently came down, and others will probably follow. Though he doesn’t necessarily hate that the beavers are clearing out an area behind the home where his family at one time was able to go ice skating, he said the situation is far from ideal.
“They’re quite active,” he said. “They’re machines, these animals, they’re nonstop.”
He added that he quite frequently sees the “cute little animals” out back chomping away at the next small tree until it’s felled and then dragging it away.
The Breeze reported in late March that beavers are causing unprecedented damage locally as they plug up waterways, with rising waters in various locations threatening roadways and homes. Town crews have been spending many hours clearing out beaver dams with heavy machinery and are in the process of installing more “beaver deceiver” wire boxes to keep water flowing, but Vadenais said for that story that the dams often return within days.
Gail Whitfield said it wasn’t until reading the previous Breeze article, which described new dams being built near the high school and its neighborhood, that she realized the rising water level at their home must be because of that beaver activity.