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Beaver Problems

For information about certified trappers for beaver depredation, please contact Michel Boucher, President of the Association provinciale des trappeurs indépendants, Conseil Outaouais at 819-210-9840 - MRC des Collines

 

A beaver on my Property!

By Mélanie Renaud, in collaboration with Michel Leclair, president and CEO of Éco-Odyssée and expert in beaver management.

A brief history

The presence of beavers on our land dates back to the period of pre-colonization. It is therefore safe to say that beavers have been at home here for as long as humans have. The first impact on the habitat of the beaver occurred with the arrival of the first Europeans. Indeed, the beaver was sought mainly for its fur, which was used for the making of hats intended mainly for the upper class. At that time, the beaver pelts were very expensive. The Hudson's Bay Company, better known today as "The Bay", became a household name thanks to the trapping and trading of beaver furs. The trapping almost eliminated this animal from large portions of the land for more than 250 years. It was also on the verge of extinction in Europe. In 1975 in was officially designated as the national animal. It appeared on our coins and stamps. As a national symbol, the beaver was chosen to be the mascot of the 1976 Summer Olympics held in Montreal with the name "Amik" ("beaver" in Algonquin).

It was also parallel to this symbolic appearance in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada that the beaver reappeared and reappropriated its lands. The value and prestige of its fur is no longer what it was, and the trapping of the beaver has consequently lost its purpose. These practices were traded for a simple desire to pursue a tradition, to transmit these values ​​or out of love and / or necessity??. Trappers are now scarce or non-existent. However, this does not prevent our rodent from continuing his task and from colonizing the territory.

Beaver ecology

The beaver is the largest rodent in North America. Being heavy, it moves slowly on the ground, making it an easy prey, but in the water it‘s the opposite. When startled or threatened, a swimming beaver will rapidly dive while forcefully slapping the water with its broad tail.  The beaver can stay under water for as long as fifteen (15) minutes. It mainly feeds on bark of trees, but also on wood, leaves, grass and aquatic plants. Beavers prefer the wood of poplars, maples and willows, but when these species are scarce, they adapt to most other species available.

The beaver is best known for his talents as a builder. Its way of life is directly linked to harvesting of trees to build its lodge and feed itself. On average, a beaver will cut about 215 trees, up to 40 cm in diameter, per year. Depending on the location, the beaver's tendency is to build a dike to expand the underwater lodge to which it will have access during the winter. Its goals are to create a pond that is deep enough so that the bottom does not freeze in winter, have access to the lodge and food throughout the cold season and be safe from predators.

Since the beaver is mainly guided by hearing, it will tend to build a dike where the current is stronger.?? This dam is usually built from severed branches, mud and stone and can have a remarkable scale.

The lodge is built in the fall and the beaver covers it with mud at the time of freezing to create a solid, predator-proof coating. It has two emergency exits in addition to a feeding area and a dry rest area. The beaver is also skilled in digging channels in its territory. These channels serve to facilitate the transportation of food and building materials. They can reach 1.5 meters in width and 1 meter in depth. Occasionally, it may divert a neighboring stream to maintain a good water level in its channels.

Who is responsible?

Even though their dam building skills can impress, they can give a headache to many who have to pay the price of the damage caused by this rodent.

Who is responsible for the damages done? The owner of the land where a beaver dam is located is liable. The owner must ensure that the dam is not a risk to the safety of property and persons. This means that the owner is responsible for ensuring the safety of the beaver dam and is financially responsible for any improvements required. Since few people have the tools, knowledge and resources to intervene in developing such a habitat, it is essential not to do things without being very well prepared. It is also important to remember that there is no magic solution and that each case is unique. Several reference books are available on planning techniques, but it would be better to refer to an expert before initiating an experiment. Such experiments could prove to be very costly and may have to be redone all over again the next year. At the same time, it is important to know that it can be very dangerous and very damaging to the environment to blindly destroy a beaver dam due to the phosphorus loads that this may entail. It’s a safe bet they will come back to rebuild it soon after.

 

What can we do?

Obviously, the ideal solution to the presence of beavers would be one where the land owners, with the support and funding of the municipal and provincial authorities would join to solve the issues. In addition, the watershed approach should be advocated because the impacts of beaver dams are not only found on the land affected, but rather on the entire lakes and rivers system of the said watershed.

Unfortunately, this "ideal" is not easy to achieve and currently, citizens who lack the required knowledge are still struggling with beaver problems and lack of information.

On the other hand, since we now know that beavers are particularly fond of trembling aspen, paper birch, maple and other fruit trees, it would be wise to avoid planting these species if we are aware of the presence of the beaver in one’s surroundings. Moreover, there is a very simple solution if you already have these species on your property and want to protect them from beavers; and that is protect your trees by surrounding them with a strong metal mesh, up to a height of at least one (1) meter.

A new family of beavers is looking to settle on your property? Monitor its activities closely and call on a professional trapper. Be aware however that another beaver family can quickly replace the former one if the conditions are right. As mentioned earlier, a beaver can build a new dam quickly enough.

However, if you are dealing with an existing dam on your property and you are concerned that damages can happen, that your safety or that of others are at risk, ask an expert who will guide you step by step.

A little hope…

Be aware that the issue of beaver management is currently being studied by several stakeholders and experts in order to find and implement solutions to work on the whole water network. These solutions must favor the cohabitation of man and animal, in a mutual harmony. For it must not be forgotten that man and beaver are both here to stay!

Expert and passionate

Extracts from the website http://www.eco-odyssee.ca/:

"Michel Leclair is extremely passionate about nature. He is knowledgeable about the fauna and flora and when questioned, he captivates anyone with embellishments and with magical and fascinating anecdotes. This would be normal for a man who spent his life in the forest and rubbed shoulders with his work colleagues: animals, trees and natural phenomena. Following his work experience as a wildlife conservation officer in the Gatineau Park, he started his own "SOS Wildlife" business, whose main vocation is to manage the beaver and its habitats and the marsh. A question arises: can we cohabit with the beaver or do we have to eliminate it? For Michel Leclair, the answer is obvious. The human being can cohabit with this animal and for this, it is necessary to manage its habitat adequately. Over time Michel has developed a unique expertise in the management of beavers and their environment. Today he is recognized as a specialist in the field and he can be proud of it. Gatineau Park has 152 monitoring points, over 500 beaver dams spread over 360 km² and over 200 water level control devices that limit the negative impact of the beaver on our way of life. "

In addition to participating actively as President and CEO of Éco-Odyssée, the ecotourism company he founded, Michel Leclair also dedicates his time to conferences and training on beaver management, such as the one he gave at the community center at Thibault Park in Val-des-Monts.

If you have any concerns and / or you are considering altering and adapting a beaver habitat, please be advised that you can contact him for valuable advice and expertise by e-mail at michel.leclair@eco-odyssee.ca