Correcting BC Hydro’s messaging: trapping beavers isn’t humane

a photo of two beavers in a pond
Two beavers in a pond. Photo by Jillian Cooper / Getty

The terms ‘euthanasia’ and ‘humane’ are often used when companies and governments publicly announce they will be killing wild animals. But the methods used in these killings are anything but humane.

BC Hydro, a Crown corporation of British Columbia in charge of constructing the Site C dam, has stated that they will be killing beavers in the Watson Slough in order to drain and log the wetland. The company has provided more details in an information document.

The Fur-Bearers has reached out to BC Hydro for more information but has not received a response. We have been contacted by concerned citizens across BC regarding the company’s plans to kill beavers in the Watson Slough. Supporters have expressed their disagreements about the terms ‘euthanasia’ and ‘humane’ used in the company’s messaging to citizens.

BC Hydro has also provided comments to media saying that trapping is humane:

Are traps humane?

In an email shared with The Fur-Bearers, the Site C Project Team has confirmed that conibear traps will be used to kill beavers in the Watson Slough.

The Fur-Bearers disagree with the characterization of conibear traps as being humane. Under the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS), to which Canada is a signatory, a trap is effectively deemed ‘humane’ if it works 80% of the time, leaving a failure rate of 20% – a significant margin for animal suffering. Any type of trap is not guaranteed to work all of the time and the conibear is no exception. A 2020 study criticizes the standards (which are over two decades old) and their negative impacts on fur-bearing animals:

“Our evaluation shows conclusively that the AIHTS standards do not reflect state-of-the-art trapping technology and that continued maintenance of these outdated standards perpetuates animal pain and suffering.” (Proulx et al., 2020)

Conibear traps are set both on land and underwater. In case where conibears are used underwater and fail, beavers will struggle in the trap underwater for 10-15 minutes before drowning to death. Similarly, where conibears fail on land, beavers will struggle in excruciating pain trying to free themselves from the trap before succumbing to their injuries, other animals, the elements, or eventually be killed via other means by the trapper.

BC Hydro also stated in the media that they don’t have an estimate of the number of beavers that will be killed. Not having an accurate estimate of beavers is problematic, as traps might kill a mother beaver and orphan her young without BC Hydro’s knowledge. Leaving orphaned wildlife to fend for themselves because of a company’s action is inhumane, as these young animals might not have developed the ability to survive on their own.

British Columbians won’t be fooled into believing that traps are humane. Companies and governments have a obligation to communicate accurate information to the public and need to do better to retain the public’s trust.

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Established in 1953, The Fur-Bearers is a charitable, non-partisan organization whose goals are to end the commercial fur trade and promote solutions for wildlife coexistence in communities. Your donation is tax-deductible. Charitable registration number: 130006125RR0002

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