IOWA CITY, Iowa - A colony of beavers is leaving its mark along the banks of the Iowa river near downtown Iowa City. Nearly every morning for the past week downed trees have been found scattered across a path stretching from Burlington to Benton Street.
"It happens every year around this time because they're getting ready to hunker down," said Mike Moran, director of Iowa City's parks and recreation department.
But University of Iowa campus arborist Andy Dahl believes there may be a few more beavers than normal living in the area near the UI power plant.
"They're taking out a lot of trees," said Dahl, who's department helps maintain the trail. "We have (a) crew coming by every morning to pull branches off the sidewalk and make sure there are no trees that are ready to fall."
The beavers are attacking a naturally growing native green ash tree, Dahl said. "They're not real valuable trees as far as landscape trees, so they're eating them, we're not getting too worked up about it at this point."
Beavers work year round to build dams, but often their work isn't noticed until the fall, according to Joe Wilkinson of the Iowa department of natural resources. Wilkinson said beavers are typically extra busy just ahead of winter gathering wood, which will eventually be used as food.
It's not clear how many beavers are living in the immediate area, but Dahl believes their dam is on the east side of the river, not far from a campus service station.
"If they start attacking some of the more valuable trees in the parking lot, we'll fence (the trees)," he said. "But for now we'll just keep checking the path in the morning, it's all about safety."
According to the DNR 17 thousand people in Iowa are licensed to catch beavers. That number has grown by 3 thousand since 2009.