Canada's national emblem, the beaver, is so much more than a face on our nickel. The castor canadensis is a 'keystone species' responsible for creating vital wetlands that support almost half of the species on Earth. In fact, 50 per cent of North America’s threatened or endangered species rely on beaver wetlands for survival. They are also the only animals (other than humans) who are able to completely transform the landscape.
Sadly, the beaver is commonly perceived to be a nuisance, which is a troubling misperception. Not only are beavers family-oriented, monogamous animals whose demonstrable intelligence astounds scientists around the world, they also offer us vital ecosystem services.
Landowners and municipalities are justifiably concerned by the presence of beavers, as the dams and lodges they build can influence the flow or level of surface water and lead to infrastructure damage. As they build these dams and lodges, they take down some trees of specific species, which can frustrate property managers.
Often these issues result in municipalities or landowners hiring trappers to kill families of beavers. And while lethal trapping may seem effective, it is only a short-term solution. More beavers will soon return to the area to fill the open niche. This is an especially tragic decision because there are many cost-effective, non-lethal options to prevent flooding from beaver dams and to help control tree-chewing. These non-lethal approaches, in addition to respecting beavers, values the vital ecosystem services beavers provide for our environment.
The Fur-Bearers utilize non-lethal, co-existence methods that are beneficial to the ecosystem, the public, and the beavers themselves. Flow devices (developed and refined by innovators like Skip Lisle and Mike Callahan) are an ideal solution. The three types utilized in our programs include:
- Pond Levellers: a length of tubing is extended through an existing dam. The upstream (or pond) end is sunken with a large cage around it to avoid blockages. This allows for water to continue to flow through the dam at a desired level (set at the time of installation), keeping the beavers in place and mitigating the risk of flooding or infrastructure damage. Beavers are unable to plug the hole and actually cement the pipe into their dam.
- Exclusion Fences: using heavy gauge fencing in an pentagonal shape forces beavers away from a culvert or other location they want to dam. Not only are the unable to dam across (as they naturally want to), but as they move further away, their desire to dam (caused by running water) reduces, too.
- Combo device: in small spaces, connection areas, or even shallow zones, a device that includes the features of both pond levellers and exclusion fences can be used.
Though each device and situation varies, the principal is to allow water to continue flowing through an existing dam, or to prevent damming from occurring with tested and successful fencing and tubing combinations. These long-term solutions last for years and can be installed in less than half a day by a two-person crew that has been properly trained.
When tree felling is the primary concern, simple tree wrapping using a heavy-gauge wire mesh can prevent most damage. The Fur-Bearers recommend avoiding chicken wire, and three to four feet high. It's also important to leave space between the tree and the wire to allow the tree to grow. Additionally, simple changes to landscaping such as replanting hardwood trees and shrubs as opposed to softwood trees (that beavers love) can prevent conflict.
In addition to being the humane choice, these co-existence methods they are effective because they are the only approach that is long-term. They strike at the root of the damming and chewing issues, and do so in a way that respects (and even works with) the beavers’ natural impulses. These devices also offer significant financial savings to municipalities, not only because they are built to last, but because lethal approaches carry with them the burden of repeatedly hiring trappers and/or paying to have dams destroyed.
To learn more, please contact Wildlife Conflict Manager Adrian Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org, or download our free Beaver Book today!