ALGONQA PROVINCIAL PARK, Ontario – The beaver may be one of Canada’s official national symbols, as iconic as the maple leaf, but Canadians have a love-hate relationship with this creature, with an emphasis on the second emotion.
Several communities in Alberta offer beaver tails awards. The Mayor of Quebec called on them to “eradicate”. Fingers of guilt often point the way, rightly or wrongly, to road washes, including fatal ones. Farmers watch desperately as their land disappears under a beaver pond.
For the second time in 15 years, Colleen Watson watched this summer as beavers flooded a 100-acre forest site in the Atlantic province of New Brunswick, which her grandfather, a blacksmith, took as payment from a client during the Great Depression.
“I love looking at nature, right? You can watch it do its job, ”Mrs. Watson said in a tone more annoyed than anger at an animal. “Hate is what happens to my property.”
The large rodent has played a huge role in Canadian history.
The European quest for control of what would become Canada, among its indigenous people, was driven in large part by a mania for beaver-felt hats, a fad that wiped out the population of Europe. For 200 years, one-third of what is now Canada has been the exclusive trap of the Hudson’s Bay Company.
After beavers were nearly extinct by the mid-19th century, fashion changed and fertile beavers in Canada recovered. They can now be found more or less in all forested areas of the country, and in 1975 the beaver was declared the official symbol of Canada.
Beaver dams are the source of the most frequent complaints about damage to beavers. When first built, the ponds flood the previously dry land. When a dam collapses – which usually only happens after the beavers, who are excellent builders, leave their pond – the flow of water can destroy rural roads and railways.
But some of the problems caused by beavers are more unusual, and they make headlines in local newspapers.
This year, there have been a number of notable episodes: Beavers took a bite of fiber optic cable, shutting off Internet access to Tumblr Ridge, British Columbia, and also stopped a subway station in Toronto after a missing beaver made the trip.
Many likely beaver-related offenses are blamed by the authorities on “weather events,” such as when the beaver pond is flooded with rain, but sometimes the police catch them red-handed (the beaver’s legs are webbed, but the front legs are not.). In May, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested a beaver in a case of stolen wooden fence posts. (The crime scene was a reminder that beavers are not Canada’s only lovable, but not lovable wild animal: Porcupine Plain, Saskatchewan.)
According to Glynnis Hood, a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Alberta and an unabashed beaver advocate, it is difficult to determine how much harm beavers do each year. She was involved in a research project that found that beavers cost cities in Alberta at least C $ 3 million a year, but she called this “a very, very low estimate” because many municipalities simply did not know how much they were spending on a beaver. -repair related.
Professor Hood herself is no stranger to unwanted beaver behavior. This year, the beaver family has pulled out several trees in front of their home.
“But, you know, the trees are growing again,” she said. “These are the consequences of living in a very natural area.”
Although the professor said she had no grudge against these famous hardworking animals, she really had sympathy for people who believe that “any beaver, whether it causes a flood or chops down trees, is too much for one beaver.”
When beavers appear in your life, it will be difficult to supplant them.
“I talked to different people and they said that once they are on your land it is very, very difficult to get them out,” said Ms. Watson, who is now trying to find a solution to remove them from her forest site in New Brunswick. …
Catchers are one option.
Darcy Alkerton was a licensed hunter in Spencerville, Ontario, 45 of the 61 years of his life. The experience, he says, taught him the importance of acting immediately after spotting beavers approaching.
“It’s like ants: if you feed them and don’t control them, they will become overpopulated,” he said.
Prior to 1987, Mr. Alkerton’s method of dealing with beavers included damming.
One of the reasons he stopped was: “You will never see an old dynamite man,” he told him, as another hunter told him.
Now, Alkerton and 21 employees use picks and shovels to dismantle parts of the dams to lower the water level.
By law, in Ontario, beavers can move no more than one kilometer after catching a live trap. But Mr. Alkerton said that any beaver, having walked such a relatively short distance, is unlikely to take the hint and will return soon.
This means that Mr. Alkerton sometimes has to be very reluctant to kill beavers.
“Some people say that the only good beaver is a dead beaver, and I don’t believe that,” he said.
Beavers do have their ardent defenders, including those who decry the default push to destroy any beaver dam, even one that poses no real risk. And some evidence suggests that intact beaver dams can actually mitigate river flooding.
The dams – the longest in the world, in Alberta, are 2,788 feet long according to Guinness – create ponds that provide both protection and food. The houses where they live can only be accessed from under the water, frightening off most of the predators. In the fall, they gnaw trees to create a warehouse under the ice with winter food.
On a remote gravel road used by both kayakers and lumberjacks in Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Michael Runz, author of Dam Builders: A Natural History of Beavers and Their Ponds, disapproved of the partially collapsed dam. He said that logging companies walk down the road every spring and demolish any nearby dams.
“In most cases, it does not threaten the road,” he said. “But they have fears that he will wash it and they will have to spend money to repair it.”
Stopping to admire a large birch tree felled by beavers, Mr. Runz confirmed their work ethic. But he hesitated when asked about their intelligence.
“They have a great instinct,” he said. “But they’re easily trapped and easily caught by wolves, so no, they’re not the smartest animal on the street.”
In addition, despite millions of years of experience, beavers, to their peril, still have not figured out how to direct them to where the trees are falling. “There were records of beavers being killed by fallen trees,” Mr. Runz said. “I still hope to find a skeleton someday.”
The beaver’s reliance on instinct rather than intellect has helped humans develop methods that allow them to at least confront two species, if not the absolute world.
The Great Pond in Park Gatineau, a federal wildlife in Quebec, is just off the road that serves as a cross-country ski trail in winter. But he doesn’t flood, thanks to something known as the Beaver Deceiver.
If the dam is destroyed or damaged, the sound of spilling water quickly puts the beaver colonies into repair mode. The Beaver Deceiver – an underwater pipeline that can control the flow of water – lowers and maintains the depth of the pond without obvious leakage.
The deception helped the park avoid damaging roads and buildings without killing any of the approximately 1,400 beavers, said Catherine Verro, the park’s acting director.
According to Ms Verro, Canadians tend to underestimate beavers and their exotic appeal to non-Canadians.
While visiting the park by wildlife from all over the world, the unexpected event was the discovery of a beaver, as a result of which the guests got off the tourist bus to take pictures.
“These were people who have really impressive animals: tigers, lions and elephants,” she said. “But they were so excited when a beaver appeared and slapped its tail. It was just wonderful. “