The maintenance crew at Brookside Elementary in Lake Forest Park had a wildlife-removal firm set up traps to catch and kill a beaver at a creek by the school. Then they heard from moms and kids. The traps are gone.
It took less than three days for the Shoreline School District to capitulate to the moms and kids.
The order had gone out to trap a beaver that had arrived at Brookside Elementary in Lake Forest Park.
On Monday, a sign from a firm called Northwest Nuisance Wildlife Control was placed at the creek bordering the school:
“FOR YOUR SAFETY PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH THE TRAPS.”
Left unsaid was that the trapped beaver likely would have been killed, with a shot to the head, as the state doesn’t encourage relocation. Relocated beavers have a poor chance of surviving.
On Wednesday afternoon, the district backtracked with this mass email:
“The traps are being removed from the area. The District will be researching viable approaches to manage this situation. We appreciate community support and insights we have received this week.”
The thing about maintenance workers is that they do maintenance. They’re not hired for their public-relations prowess.
For them it’s simple.
Problem: A beaver. Solution: Get rid of beaver.
Sometime this spring, the beaver had made its way up this creek, one of many that eventually join the larger McAleer Creek, which then empties into Lake Washington.
Before development, beavers thrived here, as in much of Seattle, and their instinct is to return.
As the maintenance crew saw it, the problem at Brookside Creek, after which the school is named, was what the largest rodent in North America specializes in — building dams.
So they decided the beaver had to go, so it didn’t contribute to the regular flooding of the Brookside playfield. The school is built on wetlands, and the creek was diverted to make room for it.
Maintenance crew, meet Jenny Muilenburg, librarian at the University of Washington and mother to kids attending Brookside.
On Monday morning, returning from a swim team practice, she saw the sign right across the road from her home. Peering from the edge of the road, she saw the metal traps.
This is how protests begin these days.
You take a smartphone picture of that sign. You post on Facebook. You send out news tips to media outlets.
You email, then have a phone conversation with the Lake Forest Park Stewardship Foundation.
Its president, Jean Reid, then pays a personal visit Tuesday to City Hall, which is surprised to hear about the traps. Pressure on the school district mounts.
Muilenburg writes, “Like many schools in the area, the school teaches environmental education, and each year releases salmon into the stream abutting the property … The kids love the beaver …
“Can someone help us figure out why, when local and state governments and nonprofits and volunteers are all working year-round to improve our waterways and greenspaces to encourage wildlife, that a nondestructive, harmless animal that provides a learning opportunity for children and adults alike must be removed?”
By Tuesday, neighborhood kids put up signs by the creek: “We love our beaver.” “Save the beaver!”
Joey Eck, 8, decides the beaver’s name is “Billy.”
Free Willy, Free Billy.
By Tuesday, Lake Forest Park police have been contacted by the wildlife-control company reporting that somebody has been springing the traps with a stick.
Police Capt. Paul Armbrust checks up on the law, and, yep, you’re not supposed to interfere with fishing and wildlife gear.
Of course, the cops would have to have eyewitness or video accounts of somebody wading into the creek with a stick.
Says the captain, “Our position is one of mediation.”
This isn’t the first time, nor the last time, that beavers will become a neighborhood issue.
Last year, there was controversy involving neighbors who wanted beavers removed from Golden Gardens, as they were mowing down trees.
The city declined to do so and the beavers have stayed, with maintenance workers pulling out sticks from the structure built by the beavers to keep flooding down.
Says Craig Degginger, spokesman for Shoreline Public Schools, about what next to do with the beaver, “We’re going to have to talk to experts.”
The district has already learned some lessons about social-media activism.