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Wanted in D.C.: Tree-Eating Beaver

April 7, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The hunt is on for a beaver that’s toppling cherry trees near the Jefferson Memorial.

The National Park Service began preparing traps Wednesday to catch the sharp-toothed rodent who’s chewed his way through nine trees in less than a week, said spokesman Earle Kittleman. The beaver has damaged four others that officials don’t expect to survive, he added.

Officials bemoaned that he’s chosen the middle of the capital’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival for his destructive campaign. The festival celebrates the gift of 3,000 trees from Japan in 1912. The trees, which ring the Tidal Basin near the national Mall, flower for just two weeks each year and have been at their peak since Easter.

``And here comes this beaver who is certainly upstaging us all,″ Kittleman said. ``We’re a bit chagrined, to say the least.″

While there may be more than one culprit, officials believe it’s a solo job, Kittleman said. Tourists and a Park Service naturalist, Julia Long, have spotted the flat-tailed varmint floating in the Potomac River, but they’ve only seen one, Kittleman said.

He’s been a busy fellow, said officials, noting that bite marks and other damage to some 30 trees have appeared since 1996.

Now that the critter is actually felling trees, the Park Service is determined to trap him, but Kittleman said no one wishes him ill: ``We want to get him back into an area where he can do his natural thing.″

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