CFN – On Friday, June 29th, City of Ottawa workers destroyed the home of the two famous Stittsville beaver, Lily and Lucky. These are the same beaver that Mayor Watson, after a huge public outcry last year, saved from being being trapped and killed. That the City destroyed their home on the day leading up to the holiday weekend when they knew few would be around to oppose it or get the media involved, shows that they knew it was wrong. There is something sadly ironic that Canada’s national emblem, the beaver, would be attacked on the Canada Day holiday.
Just hours after the lodge was destroyed, I videotaped an adult beaver, desperately trying to rebuild their home. Since the lodge has been removed, Lily has been frequently seen with two very young kits, approximately 5 weeks old. At this stage, they are still nursing and unable to dive without assistance. Lucky has not been seen and it is believed that he was killed as male beaver never abandon their family. Lily has attempted to rebuild a lodge, but City staff continue to remove the branches. I photographed homeless Lily and her vulnerable kits asleep on the bank of the pond, at 8 am, a few days after her home was obliterated.
Due to the drought, these beaver have nowhere safe to go because nearby waterways have dried up, as has the Poole Creek wetlands. If the beaver leave the pond, they will either end up in the Amberwood Golf Course water system or another Stittsville storm water pond where they will be killed.
The City of Ottawa replied to concerned citizens’ emails by claiming that no beaver lived in the lodge before it was destroyed, and that the beaver in the pond were coming from elsewhere to visit. That they could destroy a beaver lodge at a critical time when kits are so young, is cruel and tragic.
While residents of Ottawa and people as far away as Vancouver flooded Mayor Watson’s office with emails and phone calls, the City blatantly destroyed a beaver dam belonging to another beaver family that lived downstream from Lily and Lucky. The beaver were very likely trapped and killed because if they were allowed to remain, they would simply repair their dam. In my discussions with Nick Stow, the City Wildlife Biologist, I was told that he would keep me informed about the plans, if any, for this dam and lodge, that these beaver were in a location that was not a problem for flooding property, and that it was a good location to try a flow device. I was not notified about the destruction of the dam, and clearly, no flow device was used.
Ottawa continues to trap and kill a large number of beavers every year because it is too backward to use proven, cost-effective, progressive solutions like tree wrapping protection and water flow devices to prevent flooding. These are humane solutions that are increasingly used in other North American cities so what is wrong with this City? It is not surprising that Ottawa is earning the reputation of being the most “Wildlife Unfriendly City in Canada.”
The City’s explanation for why they destroyed Lily and Lucky’s lodge does not stand up to any knowledgeable scrutiny:
The City claims that trees are being taken down by the beaver and that residents are complaining. In fact, all of the significant trees were wrapped long ago by volunteers and only a few residents have complained.
The City quotes a ‘biologist’ who refers to kits ‘born this winter’ as an indication they would now be old enough to relocate. How can anyone have confidence in this lack of knowledge? Beaver kits are born in the late spring, in this area, typically from May to June, so they definitely could have been put at risk with the destruction of their lodge.
The City indicates that beavers cause degrading water quality in the pond. In fact, it is well established that beaver activity contributes to the health of a waterway, taking up excess nutrients, filtering heavy metals and toxins and removing bacteria in water.
The City claims that the beaver activity was blocking the pond culverts. The beaver were not blocking the culverts. The pond has poor water flow and is therefore full of debris and plant life. In fact, the beaver were helping keep the pond healthy by feeding on their favourite food, the lily pad and roots, which are choking the pond and stopping sunlight from reaching the water.
The City states that Ottawa consists of a large rural area with substantial wetlands. What it conveniently doesn’t say is that much of this rural area is under significant development pressure and that wetlands are always the first to go. Goulbourn and Kanata are cases in point and even wetlands that are classified as ‘provincially significant’ such as Leitrim afford no protection as beavers are regularly trapped in that area as well.
The City of Ottawa would like to advise homeowners surrounding the stormwater facility in Paul Lindsay Park of its plans to remove the beaver lodge from the facility within the next two weeks.
After careful review and consideration, the City has concluded that the activities of beavers in the stormwater facility interfere with its functioning, creating a risk of flooding to surrounding homes and degrading water quality in the pond and receiving watercourses.
City stormwater and natural systems staff have also concluded that retrofitting of engineered stormwater facilities with “beaver deceivers” or “beaver bafflers” is neither practical nor safe, and that it would not constitute good engineering practice.
The City will soon release its draft Wildlife Strategy for public review and comment, which will include a more detailed evaluation of its beaver-management practices.
The City has refrained from interfering with the beavers in Paul Lindsay Park since they colonized the stormwater facility in late 2011, in order to provide them with an opportunity to relocate on their own in the spring. However, it appears that an abundance of aquatic vegetation in the pond may have provided a sufficient short-term food supply for the beavers to remain.
The City has expended considerable resources conducting twice-weekly inspection and frequent maintenance of the facility, keeping the outlet clear of debris created by the beavers’ activities. Surrounding property owners have continued to contact the City to report damage to trees. In addition to these continuing costs, the increased risk of flooding from blockage during summer storm events requires that the City act to resolve the situation.
The City does not take this action lightly. The city values beavers and wetlands greatly, not only for the many ecosystem functions that they provide, but also for their contributions to biodiversity and for their own sake. Ottawa has the largest rural area of any major city in Canada. Approximately 20 per cent of Ottawa is covered by wetlands, much of which is protected as “provincially significant.”
These wetlands both support and benefit from a thriving beaver population. However, engineered stormwater facilities are not designed to function as wetlands, and they do not provide suitable habitat for beavers. Nor can wetlands and beavers provide the same level of environmental and property protections within urban and suburban environments as do properly engineered and maintained stormwater facilities.
The City anticipates that removal of the lodge from the stormwater facility in Paul Lindsay Park will prompt the beavers to relocate from the stormwater facility to a more appropriate, natural habitat nearby. Any second-year beaver kits (i.e. young beavers) should already have begun the process of dispersal. Any first-year kits (i.e. born this winter) should now be capable of leaving the lodge with their parent. Removal of the lodge will occur late in the day, allowing the beavers to relocate at night, along the same routes they used to reach the stormwater facility. Removal of the lodge will begin by hand to ensure protection of the beavers, and will continue with equipment once any resident beavers have exited the lodge.
Stormwater ponds will continue to attract beavers from time to time, mainly because we are eliminating their wetlands through urban sprawl. We need a more progressive response rather than a reactive and controversial ‘trap and kill’ policy that also puts our children and pets at risk given the use of deadly traps around our neighbourhood ponds.
The City has said it will soon release its long-overdue Wildlife Strategy, with a detailed evaluation of its beaver-management practices. We already know that it will continue the regressive and inhumane practice of killing beavers because, it seems, that’s what City staff prefer to do.