A beautiful new $50 coin has been unveiled by the Royal Canadian Mint. The silver coin features a picturesque design by artist Emily Damstra, showing a beaver swimming in a pristine lake. It is sure to be a hit with collectors who, throughout 2014, were able to purchase similar coins featuring a polar bear and a snowy owl.
While we celebrate any opportunity to showcase the importance of beavers, it’s also a sad irony: while our governments happily capitalize on the iconic imagery of the beaver, they do little – if anything – to protect them.
At a time when governments from Scotland to California are attempting to reintroduce beavers to help protect ecosystems, it remains legal to hunt and trap beavers throughout Canada. When beaver activity creates a concern for infrastructure, government agencies recommend trappers as the only solution. And the near-extinction of beavers in 19th century Canada due to trapping is rarely, if ever, discussed in classrooms.
We believe we can protect beavers – and that we should protect them. It is time to recognize that trapping may once have been part of our identity, but as a people and country, we have evolved. We are better than we were, and hope to be even better one day still.