NEWPORT, Minn. - An unusual culprit is being blamed for wreaking havoc this fall.

The city-owned properties between Cedar Lane and the Mississippi River have seen at least 12 trees up to 75 or 100 feet tall chewed down by beavers, Public Works Superintendent Bruce Hanson said, and many more left half-felled.

"It's to the point I believe it's becoming a safety concern," Hanson said at the Nov. 2 meeting. "So many (trees) are girdled that I believe there's an urgency to go down there and take care of it. ... There are a lot of areas that deal we this ... we just haven't before."

The city hired trapper Andy Shoemaker to remove the beavers. He said he's caught six of them so far, and thinks two to four more may be making trouble in the area.

Some of the trees were dropped, but others hung on, possibly ready to drop anytime. Others, when they have been cut down by the beavers, leave "razor-sharp stumps," Shoemaker said.

Public works staff has cut up the trees on the property to keep them from causing further damage, and will work on taking the lumber off the site after the ground freezes.

One of the critters he trapped weighed 55 pounds. Shoemaker - who's been trapping for over 45 years - said the largest he said he's ever caught was 82 pounds.

Shoemaker said he surveyed the area to estimate how many there were, and came up with the best ways to trap the animal. He mostly set snares and traps near the riverbed. Since they are set up in a city and on city property, he wanted to make sure there was no danger to anyone.

"If you're out enjoying the dry land, there's no danger whatsoever," he said.

Shoemaker said Newport isn't the only place dealing with beavers this year, and they seem to be increasing each year.

"Beavers are not scarce," he said. "They're all over the place this year."

He said it's possible they came from Fort Snelling, where there is a wildlife reserve that can get overpopulated.

Likely around 10 beavers built a lodge near a dock on the riverside with dozens of sticks and branches.

The city got a special permit from the DNR to trap the beavers because they had to start before season.

Though there may be a few more to trap at the Newport site, Shoemaker said he expects the beaver activity to slow down now.