Municipal staff in the Langleys are sometimes forced to trap and relocate these stubborn dam-builders.

Municipal staff in the Langleys are sometimes forced to trap and relocate these stubborn dam-builders.

Cute, hard-working and destructive: the beaver

How the Langleys deal with Canada’s national symbol when it becomes a problem

The bite marks on the trees were a clue.

That, and the fact the Park-and-Ride lot at the Scott Road SkyTrain Station was close to a pond, pointed to beavers as the culprits when TransLink discovered three trees had been vandalized last fall.

A spokesperson made a joke about the issue “gnawing” at staff and said steps would be taken to make the trees less attractive to the industrious flat-tailed rodents.

If the experience of municipal staff in both the Township and City of Langley is any indication, the TransLink maintenance people are in for a struggle.

Both municipalities regularly have to battle stubborn beavers, waging escalating campaigns that begin by trying to discourage the industrious rodents from taking down trees in public parks, flooding backed-up streams with their dams, clogging culverts, burrowing into river banks and munching shrubbery.

Beavers can cause hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to crops, property and grazing lands.

In the Langleys, beaver-proofing can include installing metal mesh wraps around tree trunks, and modifying their dams to reduce flooding.

When the beavers can’t be discouraged, sometimes they have to be relocated.

And that’s when licensed trappers are called in.

“Trapping is our last resort.” said Aaron Ruhl, the Township’s manager of engineering and construction services.

“We prefer not to.”

Ruhl says at any given time, the Township is monitoring multiple beaver dams with the potential to cause problems.

“We’ve got sites we visit weekly,” Ruhl told the Times.

Before a trapper is  called in, Township policy calls for trying alternative beaver management methods that can include installing fences and or barriers around culverts, drains, structures, and trees to keep beavers away as well as wrapping heavy gauge wire mesh around trees.

Kyle Simpson, Langley City manager of engineering operations, said a colony of beavers recently had to be rousted from the Baldi Creek area after alternative beaver-proofing methods failed.

“They (the beavers that get relocated) are treated very delicately,” Simpson says.

“They will not be harmed at all.”

He said the beavers were captured by a “contractor with specific expertise” who moved them to an area where there aren’t many beavers around, an important consideration because the rodents can be quite territorial.

In the five years he’s been with the City, Simpson says there have been four sites where Beavers had to be relocated

“It’s quite a common thing.”

At Critter Care, the Langley agency that rehabilitates orphaned wild animals, founder Gail Martin said measures to discourage beavers from dam building are preferable to their removal.

“We should not be relocating anything unless we desperately have to,” Martin said.

Aside from the obviously sensitive aspects of dealing with a national symbol, there are also legal requirements that make managing beavers more complicated than, say rats or raccoons.

Current estimates place the number of beavers in B.C. at between 400,000 and 600,000.

Click here for related story “Resident ‘appalled’ by beaver trapping in Gloucester wetland”