River­side beaver “over­pop­u­la­tion” causes ex­ten­sive dam­ages

The Drumheller Mail - - Front Page - Kyle Smylie

Twenty beavers have been eu­th­a­nized along River­side Drive over the last two months as the area is show­ing signs of over­pop­u­la­tion, ac­cord­ing to Drumheller’s di­rec­tor of pro­tec­tive ser­vices.

The beavers were elim­i­nated in the area along the river from the old hospi­tal build­ing on 6th Street East and the lift sta­tion near 19 Street East, where a num­ber of trees have been felled by the large, pri­mar­ily noc­tur­nal, semi­aquatic an­i­mals.

Drumheller Pro­tec­tive Ser­vice’s Greg Peters says there have been “signs of over­pop­u­la­tion” like scratch marks and wounds on the bod­ies of elim­i­nated beavers which show they are fight­ing and bick­er­ing for re­sources here. While the town cur­rently con­tracts a trap­per to elim­i­nate wildlife, Peters says he only elim­i­nated 25 last year through­out the sum­mer. This sum­mer’s num­bers are much higher, at 20 over the last two months.

“It’s like any­thing, the big­ger the pop­u­la­tion you have, the more re­sources they need for more ac­tiv­ity,” Peters said.

Beavers fell trees for a num­ber of rea­sons. They’ll knock down large trees in strate­gic lo­ca­tions to form the ba­sis of their dams. Dams pro­tect against preda­tors and pro­vide ac­cess to food in the win­ter by al­low­ing them to store food in caches. They work at night and can re­build their pri­mary dams in an evening.

Peters says the beavers have been de­stroy­ing trees along the river there and if they’re lost the in­tegrity of the river bank starts di­min­ish­ing due to ero­sion.

“It can man­i­fest it­self in weird ways. We don’t want any­thing to erode the strength of the river bank.”

The town con­tracts a li­censed trap­per who sets un­der wa­ter traps along the north­east side of the river, away from peo­ple and walk­ing trails.

Tim Schowal­ter, a lo­cal nat­u­ral­ist, says there are two rea­sons why mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties might need to elim­i­nate beavers: to pre­vent flood­ing caused by their dams or to save trees in ar­eas such as parks or neigh­bour­hoods.

“It poses a le­git­i­mate con­flict. Roads can be washed out or if they de­stroy your 30 year old tree, you won’t like that,” Schowal­ter said.

Beavers are con­sid­ered a key­stone species in an ecosys­tem be­cause they cre­ate wet­lands that ben­e­fit other species. The species are thought to have the most in­flu­ence on shap­ing a land­scape, other than hu­mans.

In­creased rains this year and an abun­dance of wa­ter and, sub­se­quently, food in the river ecosys­tem might be bump­ing the pop­u­la­tion this year, or maybe a beaver pop­u­la­tion from an­other area such as Michichi Dam could have mi­grated to the area this sum­mer, Peters and Schowal­ter said.

It can man­i­fest it­self in weird ways. We don’t want any­thing to erode the strength of the river bank.”

Greg Peters, Di­rec­tor of Pro­tec­tive Ser­vices Town of Drumheller

mailphoto by Kyle Smylie

The an­i­mals knock down trees along River­side Drive.

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