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Minneapolis clarifies what will be done with problem animals in city parks

Wildlife, such as beavers, have caused problems in some areas of the city.

Beavers and coyotes that cause problems in Minneapolis parks will not be killed unless all non-lethal methods to solve the issue are exhausted or there's an immediate risk to people's health or safety.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board on May 20 amended its cooperative services agreement for wildlife damage management services with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

It unanimously passed a resolution to add language to the contract specifying that the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service-Wildlife Services (APHIS-WS) "shall not conduct any lethal control of wildlife until all feasible non-lethal mitigation measures to address the conflict are exhausted."

A month prior, on April 22, the park board passed a resolution to enter into a three-year, $50,000 contract with the USDA-APHIS-WS for wildlife damage management services to deal with beavers that are destroying trees and coyotes that are a risk to public health.

The service would only be used as needed, and it is possible it would never be needed, Dawn Sommers, director of communications and marketing for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, told BMTN in an email on April 27. 

After the park board passed the resolution in April, activist groups and citizens expressed their concern that the park board would be killing coyotes and beavers.

This prompted the park board to add language to the contract that would require the USDA-APHIS-WS exhaust all non-lethal methods for dealing with problem animals before resorting to killing them. It also includes language that says USDA-APHIS-WS can use lethal methods to address an immediate risk to human health or safety.

This comes as good news to activists who pushed for this change.

“It’s a big relief that the park board listened to residents’ concerns about risks to people, pets and wildlife from cruel and indiscriminate traps,” Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.

"These brutal devices don’t belong in city parks, and I’m hopeful the board will use effective, nonlethal methods to prevent conflicts with wildlife.”

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Problem animals

Sommers said the focus of the contract with the USDA-APHIS-WS is beavers and coyotes. 

The city's forestry department has been dealing with beavers for years along the Mississippi River and more recently at Sumner Field Park, Sommers said. Their eating habits have killed trees and has caused them to be "structurally unstable," which poses a hazard to people and property. Meanwhile, beaver dams can cause flooding in residential areas.

"Due to their feeding habits, beavers have killed dozens of trees in the park. This has caused neighbors to contact the forestry department asking that something be done to stop beavers from killing trees," Sommers said. "Beaver activity at Sumner Field Park has made it impossible to establish trees that will add to much-needed canopy cover in the Sumner-Glenwood neighborhood."

Meanwhile, coyotes are a potential risk to the public as they have adapted and moved into urban and suburban environments. They've also become less wary of people, with Sommers noting incidents of coyotes attacking people have been documented. 

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