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Friday, April 9, 1999 Published at 22:46 GMT 23:46 UK

World: Americas

Washington gripped by 'beaver fever'

Traps have now been set

By BBC Washington Correspondent Stephen Sackur

Some call it "Beaver Fever", others, aware of Washington's recent history, call it "Beaver Gate".

Call it what you like, it has got the nation's capital trembling at the knees, or should that be "trees".

The brutal truth is, Washington's finest natural asset, thousands of cherry trees, currently blossoming in shades of white and pink, are being destroyed by two rogue rodents seemingly intent on building a dam across this city's Potomac River.

The beavers first struck last week. Now more than a dozen trees have been chewed up.

Thousands of American tourists, clogging Washington's streets in search of cherry blossom, have every reason to be alarmed - except they do not seem to be.

Instead, they seem to be rooting for the bad guy beavers.

One little girl said: "The beavers need the wood. They need it to make their homes. They need it. There are plenty of other trees here."

But official Washington is not taking such a relaxed view. After all, the cherry trees in question, were a gift from the Emperor of Japan.

Beaver jail

God forbid that two beavers could cause an international incident.

[ image: People are the biggest enemy beavers have]
People are the biggest enemy beavers have
The truth is no-one knows what to do.

America's national television networks are now reporting on the beavers' every move.

Some say they are part of a vast right-wing conspiracy.

One insider claims they have been offered an immunity deal by Kenneth Starr, but they chewed it up and spat it out.

Ultimately, of course they will be captured and locked away in beaver jail.

But for now, every American has a sneaky admiration for these two beaver outlaws.

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