Amherst stops beaver trapping to save trees

August 20, 2012 Updated Aug 20, 2012 at 6:46 PM EDT

By WKBW Admin

August 20, 2012 Updated Aug 20, 2012 at 6:46 PM EDT

Amherst (WKBW) - A growing beaver problem is causing a battle over animal rights and environmental conservation in one local town.

Now Amherst's Supervisor is stepping in to settle the dispute.

Several gnawed up trees along the Ellicott Creek Trailway are sparking a fire storm. Beavers have been targeting the memorial trees, bought by local residents at $350 each.

One tree has even been chewed to a stump. However, it's how the town is handling the problem that's riling people up.

The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation gave Amherst two options.

Mark Kandel explains "they can either wrap the individual trees with fencing or fencing off down the river. The other option we issued to them is a nuisance kill permit."

The DEC says Amherst chose the latter, and planned to use the permit to trap and ultimately kill the beavers. The permit does not allow trappers to keep the animals alive and move them.

The animal rights group, Animal Allies of Western New York, has been camped out by the trail lately.

Morgan Dunbar, the director of Animal Allies, says killing beavers is cruel and "these animals, like anybody, if you've ever been caught under water for a period of time, it's pretty scary."

Through a video, they showed how with just a few dollars, tree owners can create fences.

Activists have also been collecting signatures and sharing videos about beaver trapping.

The issue came to a-head at the Amherst Town Board meeting. Town Supervisor Dr. Barry Weinstein told the crowd he was not even aware of the issue. After walking the path himself, he noticed very few trees were damaged and ordered an end to the trapping.

Weinstein says he does not know if any beavers were killed, but the idea still horrifies animal advocates.

Rhonda Donovan spoke out at the meeting, calling it "inhumane." Another resident said people needed to learn "compassion over killing."

Bob Anderson, the Superintendent of Highways in Amherst, said he has "directed my staff to stop the NYSDEC 'guideline practice' of trapping nuisance beavers. We will continue to break up dams that interfere with the Town's drainage network of ditches and streams."