It’s now much more than a fight to save a pair of beavers taking up residence recently in the pond at Paul Lindsay Park in Stittsville. What began as concern over their future has now evolved into a movement to stop all trapping and killing of beavers in the city of Ottawa, moving instead to a strategy of implementing more progressive and sustainable, long term solutions to beaver activity.
About 50 people jammed a small upstairs meeting room at the Goulbourn Recreation Complex in Stittsville on Wednesday evening, Nov. 9 to hear about the role of beavers in the environment, to learn about ways to control their activity other than by killing them and to express their frustration that the city is not being more pro-active and progressive in its approach to beaver situations such as this one at Paul Lindsay Park in Stittsville.
At the meeting, by a massive affirmative show of support, a three step approach to the situation, as proposed by organizer Anita Utas of Stittsville, was approved for action. One step is to lobby the city to stop any planned killing of the beaver at Paul Lindsay Park and to consider alternative ways to handle the situation such as with a water flow device. A second step is to urge the city to hold a meeting as soon as possible on the beaver situation and on a progressive wildlife strategy, including involving experts on sustainable, long term, cost effective solutions for beavers at storm water management ponds that does not include killing the beavers. The third step wanted is for the city to develop a comprehensive wildlife strategy that includes what is done at storm water management ponds.
In her opening remarks at the meeting, Ms. Utas told how this beaver situation at Paul Lindsay Park is generating much interest across Canada and North America.
“This controversy is putting Stittsville and Ottawa on the map in a mega way,” she said, noting that she had been interviewed by a Toronto radio station, how she had been contacted by a city in California where a similar event had taken place and how a documentary filmmaker from the Nature of Things is now following the situation. A cameraman from CBC TV was filming at the meeting.
Ms. Utas said that it is not only inhumane to trap and kill beavers but that the placement of the traps presents a hazard for children and residents of the area.
She said that the city needs to be proactive, not reactive, in this situation, saying that the only things that make sense to her in this situation is to protect the trees against damage by wrapping them with wire mesh and to install a flow device to prevent the beavers from damming up the outlet to the pond and causing any flooding.
She herself believes that without an adequate food source at the pond, this pair of beavers will move on in the spring.
Donna DuBreuil of the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre told those at the meeting that for a few years now, residents of the city have indicated that they want the city to use more progressive ways of dealing with wildlife like beavers than simply killing them.
She lamented the fact that the city seems to regard storm water management ponds like the pond at Paul Lindsay Park as “somehow a sacred cow” where the trap killing of beavers is seen as the only way to maintain the pond’s storm water function. She said that there are flow devices now available that will do this while allowing the beaver to live.
Ms. DuBreuil explained at the meeting that the city had approved development of a wildlife strategy in February 2010 but that things have not progressed very far. In any case, the new wildlife strategy apparently is not to include storm water management ponds or large mammals.
“People are fed up with Ottawa’s approach to dealing with wildlife,” Ms. DuBreuil said, noting that the Ministry of Natural Resources even recommends trap killing of beavers only as a last resort.
In a presentation about beavers, their place in the environment and other ways to control their activity other than by killing, Kate MacNeil of the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre said that beavers play an important role in maintaining a healthy eco-system. Known as a “keystone species,” there are other species which rely on beavers and their activities for their own preservation.
Ms. MacNeil was adamant in her presentation that there are now new ways to co-exist with beavers and to prevent conflict with them.
“There are really good proven ways to co-exist,” she said, noting that there is growing public support for these more progressive solutions.
Possible points of conflict with beavers can be blocked culverts, flooding of property, problems at storm water management ponds, washing out of roads and loss of trees.
She said that up until recently, the one municipal response to such situations has been to kill the beaver and destroy any dams. She cited data which showed that after five years of such action being taken, beaver had moved back into the area in 90 percent of the cases.
She said that trapping is also a public safety issue, as pets or other species such as otters or people can be caught in a trap set for a beaver.
Ms. MacNeil cited situations such as in Oshawa and at the University of Waterloo where more progressive measures such as the use of flow devices have been used to handle beaver situations.
Culvert protection devices are among these flow devices that can prove effective in preventing beaver from damming up an outlet. These are like a page wire fence that extends out in front of the outlet, preventing direct access to the outlet by the beaver. The device even has a bottom on it to keep the beaver from digging under the flow device.
Data has shown that culvert protection fences are 98 percent effective even after seven years in place.
She summed up the advantages of the use of flow devices: they are a long term solution with proven successful results; they are cost effective; they are safe; they have the least negative impact on the environment; they preserve the habitat; and they are low maintenance.