Animal control officer's reasons for action unclear.
Municipal officials are investigating the shooting of two beavers in
Pettoranello Gardens in Community Park North on Friday evening by the
Princeton animal control officer.
Kathleen Hutchins, a township resident, said she learned of the
killings when she ran into the officer, Mark Johnson, in the park as she
was walking over to see the beavers on Friday evening with her dog. She
said she was told to leave the park by the officer about 7:30 p.m. The
officer said he was “going to get rid of them.”
”I asked him why they were not relocating them and he said he was
told to kill them,” she said.
She said she asked for a reason and that he said the beavers were
raising the water level in the pond, clogging the spillway and damming
up the pond and eating the vegetation around the pond.
”They were adorable, they were a lot of fun to watch, they should have
been relocated,” said Ms. Hutchins.
”(The animal control officer) said it wasn’t his idea, but there
wasn’t anything he could do about it,” she said. “It’s terrible, people
could have come seen it. If they were shot, that’s appalling.”
The beaver dam was described by Ms. Hutchins as a pile of brush
pushed up against the spillway.
She said the officer told her the Division of Fish and Wildlife, a
state agency, ordered the killings.
There was no permit issued for the trapping of the beavers or any
beaver activity with the state Division of Fish and Wildlife, said
Lawrence Hajna, spokesman for the Department of Environmental
Protection. The Division of Fish and Wildlife falls under the DEP.
A permit is needed for the trapping of a beaver. It is illegal to
shoot beavers, which are a protected species in New Jersey, according to
the game code of the state.
”The game code does not allow for the shooting of beavers,” said Mr.
Hajna. “You can’t shoot a beaver.”
According to sources, a 22-caliber rifle was used.
The DEP does not allow for relocation of beavers, said Mr. Hajna. A
permit may be granted for trapping the beaver in a conibear trap or a
live trap, but if a live trap is used the animal must be euthanized.
Euthanization methods may include shooting it, but the animal may not be
shot from a distance and it must be trapped first, said Mr. Hanja.
”For this particular instance, we are deferring to the local police
and it is my understanding they have been asked to look into this,” said
Robert Bruschi, the borough administrator, said municipal officials
are looking into the issue and are sensitive to animal issues.
Mr. Bruschi said the animals were shot in the park after dark and not
trapped. The action was taken after the park had closed to the public,
As for the reason for the shootings, “He (Mr. Johnson) deemed them a
nuisance,” said Mr. Bruschi.
Municipal officials are working with the state to find out if Mr.
Johnson had the authority to take the action he did and if he followed
appropriate state procedures.
He said Mr. Johnson did call Fish and Wildlife and spoke with
representatives as to what to do about the beavers. It’s not clear what
transpired from there and municipal officials have calls into the state
”He wrote a letter explaining what he did,” said Mr. Bruschi, and an
investigation is ongoing.
”I’m treating it as a personnel matter,” said Mr. Bruschi. “If Mark
did not follow the regulations from the state, there might be some
discipline from that.”
After the investigation is complete, the matter may then be looked at
from a policy standpoint.
Mr. Johnson is on vacation this week.
”He happened to be off. When he comes back on Monday, we’ll pick up
from there,” said Mr. Bruschi.
Mr. Johnson has served the two municipalities for almost 20 years,
and is still on duty.
”He’s still working without any issues,” said Mr. Bruschi. “He’s a
very dedicated employee. I’m not saying we didn’t make an error in
judgment or process, but at this point I’m not saying otherwise.”
Health Officer David Henry, who oversees animal control, also said
the situation is under investigation.
Mr. Henry said the beavers were not sick or aggressive.
Ms. Hutchins said she has seen beavers in Mountain Lake before and in
streams, but this is the first year for them at the gardens. She has
been going to see them for a “couple of weeks.”
She has been to the park since Friday has not seen the beavers and
the dam is gone.
”I’m concerned about the event that occurred from a safety
said Township Mayor Chad Goerner. “I’ve asked the township administrator
to work with the borough administrator in investigating the incident.
Once the report is received from their investigation, we will take any
action as necessary.”
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