CHICAGO — Here's something to chew on: There are beavers in Chicago — and they're making a mess.
A portion of the William Powers Conservation Area looks like a deforested wasteland after beavers recently gnawed down nearly 10 mature trees.
"It just broke my heart to see those trees down," said Bernie Drosos, 61, a lifetime Hegewisch resident and retired city plumber.
Drosos visits the conservation area at 12949 S. Avenue O near Wolf Lake once a day. Beavers were a rare sight during his teenage years, when the animal was nearly extinct in the state, but he routinely sees them now.
Tom Shepherd of the Southeast Environmental Task Force said the Southeast Side has consistent issues with beavers felling trees. Last year, more than 100 saplings were planted at William Powers to replace larger trees that had been chewed to pieces by beavers.
"They've picked off a lot of trees here and there throughout the park," Shepherd said.
Beavers can be found in any Chicago waterway, including Downtown in the Chicago River. They also can be legally trapped, but it's highly regulated, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Beavers played a big role in Chicago history.
The fur trade was the most important business in Chicago during part of the 1800s, according to the Chicago History Museum. Beaver pelts were used to make hats and clothing. Fort Dearbon was built in 1803 to protect the fur trade. By 1857 with the end of the fur trade, the fort was torn down.
Drosos thinks the beaver issues at William Powers will only escalate.
"They're in control of the lake," he said. "They're a problem, and it's only going to get bigger."
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