By Lesley Fox
The recent rainy spring weather likely means beavers are getting busy. While few people have had the chance to witness Canada’s emblem up close, the Castor canadensis can be found living in every community throughout Metro Vancouver.
What you also might not know is that several local municipalities constantly struggle to coexist with beavers. These animals often get blamed for fallen trees and flooding. They also can get a bad reputation because they occasionally jam culverts with sticks (which technically is not their fault because beavers are naturally spurred into action when they hear the sound of running water).
So what do municipalities do with so-called “nuisance” beavers? Kill ’em, and pay for it with your money? That’s right. Municipalities use your tax dollars to hire trappers to come in armed with snares and Conibear traps to kill our furry friends.
Snare traps are wire loops designed to strangle animals to death, and Conibear traps are supposed to break an animal’s neck or spine. Other devices can also be set outside a beaver dam with the intent to drown the animals.
Make no mistake, cruel trapping is happening right here in our own backyards. Some of the worst offenders include the municipalities of Surrey, Langley, Richmond, Maple Ridge, and Pitt Meadows. Keep in mind traps not only kill beavers, but they have the potential to kill other wildlife and even our pets.
But despite years of local beaver trapping, the problem persists. This is largely because trapping is just a Band-Aid solution. No matter how much trapping is done, attractive habitat and an ongoing food source mean more beavers will return to the area.
Instead of funding cruel and wasteful trapping, taxpayers should press their city council to implement non-lethal and cost-effective devices. These water flow devices are inexpensive to build. When installed correctly, upkeep is minimal and less than the cost of removal strategies, and they can last for many, many years.
In addition to water flow devices, simple measures such as tree wrapping and fencing have also proven to be effective to prevent beaver problems. You can also prevent beaver gnawing by coating tree trunks with a sand and paint mixture.
Any efforts our municipalities can take to coexist with beavers are worth it.
There is little scientific doubt that beavers are essential to creating vital wetland habitat which can help reduce forest fires, regulate water flow, and filter pollutants. Wetlands also provide important habitat for fish, plants, insects, birds, and a whole wealth of other species.
So what do you say? Can we give the “beav” a break?
Lesley Fox is the executive director of Fur-Bearer Defenders.