Ted Lightfoot was walking his beagle, Homer, along the trails near 56 Avenue and 272 Street in Gloucester on Jan. 7, when Homer caught wind of something near West Creek.
The dog darted off the perimeter path toward the water, leading his owner to the scene of a large beaver, lying motionless inside a hunting trap, with a second unsprung trap close by, just inches below the water.
“I was just appalled to see this beautiful animal with its broken neck in a trap,” said Lightfoot’s wife, Lynda, who came out to see the beaver shortly after it was found.
“I mean this is — on top of everything else — this is the start of Canada’s 150th birthday, and what are we doing but killing these beavers? In my way of thinking, they are not a nuisance issue here. They’re not flooding a farmer’s field or a house or anything.
“It’s disheartening on so many levels to see this being done in this manner.”
The property where this occurred is a wetland area in the Gloucester Industrial Park, and currently serves as a drainage detention pond for stormwater management. A portion of the salmon-bearing West Creek runs through the property beside the pond.
The land is owned by Beedie Development Group and the detention pond is overseen by the Township. But the trails around the pond are frequently used by residents in the area and truck drivers, who take their dogs for walks while visiting the industrial park, Lynda said.
Although the sight of the beaver was disturbing, Lynda said she is most upset that there was no notification given, or signage posted to warn people that traps are being set. Instead of a beaver being caught, it could easily have been someone’s pet.
“If this is the only thing that can be done, I certainly feel there should be notification up … the consequences of this could have been very severe,” Lynda said.
“It just doesn’t have a good optic about it.”
Pictured above: A beaver trap that was found just inches below the water in West Creek. Photo submitted.
According to the Township, a professional trapper was called in after multiple beaver dams were discovered at the detention pond in December.
The dams were backing up the storm water system on 272 Street, and following “typical beaver management practices,” the Township first attempted to remove some of the dams by hand, said Aaron Ruhl, Township manager of engineering and construction services.
“We’ll monitor the site and then if things are being rebuilt fairly quickly, then we’ll look at maybe putting in pond levelers, which at this detention pond site isn’t feasible because of the size, the (number) of beaver dams in there and the importance to the storm water system,” he said.
“Because if the outlet to this pond is blocked and we get a big storm, the pond is going to overflow, and then it’s going to head down into West Creek.”
The Township is undertaking beaver management at a couple of sites in the area, Ruhl said, and notification has not been given as it is on private property.
“It’s our contractor that goes in, and I mean, it’s private property, so the Township has a statutory right-of-way over that property — it’s not a park land. We hire a contractor that comes in with a licensed trapper from the province (and) we follow all of the regulations set up by the BC Wildlife Act.”
Under Section 9 of the BC Wildlife Act it is an offence to “disturb, molest, or destroy” a beaver den, house, or dam unless the individual is a trapper licensed under the Act.
Alteration or removal of a dam is permitted “to provide irrigation or drainage under lawful authority for the protection of property.”
At one point, activity from the beavers also caused a tree to come down across 56 Avenue, added Jason Tonin, director of land development for Beedie Development Group.
“We are aware that there is beaver activity. We are aware of some of the issues it has caused. My understanding is that the Township has gone in to make sure that the trees (are no longer) falling onto 56th and that (detention pond) infrastructure is maintained,” he said.
“I believe they (the Township) were looking to protect public health and safety and also protect their infrastructure.
“If a storm comes and it’s not doing it’s job, the water flows down and it actually affects salmon and fish habitat downstream.”
West Creek is one of 15 streams in B.C. designated as sensitive under the Water Sustainability Act (WSA). And while most streams have headwaters starting in hills or mountains, according to the West Creek Awareness group, this stream is much different. The headwaters are in relatively flat lands and flow downstream through a steep banked gully into the Fraser River.
These flatlands also happen to be where the Gloucester Industrial Park is located, which according to the awareness group, covers 20 per cent of the West Creek watershed.
Councillor ‘Extremely Unhappy’
Councillor Petrina Arnason, who also witnessed the dead beaver, said she is very upset that the rodents are being trapped.
“I’m extremely unhappy. I think that on a number of levels that this is not something that the Township should be doing,” she said.
In particular, Arnason said she is upset because council recently passed her motion to have an integrated storm water management plan created for Gloucester.
“So the idea behind that is … prior to any further redevelopment in that area by Beedie — who’s the primary land holder there, which is why they are charged with doing this — they have to create a holistic approach to how it is that they are going to manage that area as a watershed,” she said.
That includes wildlife and the beavers, who are attracted to the wetland habitat of the area. Arnason believes trapping them now, prior to the storm water management plan being adopted, is premature.
“I’m just honestly incensed that in light of this, and in my expectation that this (storm water management plan) is being done in order that meets that commitment that council put forward, that we are now going out there and trapping beavers.
“They are what’s considered to be a keystone species, and there is lots of literature that indicates that they are very much a part of an integrated approach to how to manage wetlands, and that conflict resolution with beavers, a progressive approach, would not look at ‘let’s just exterminate them.’”
Arnason points to the SPCA best practices, which state that the organization “does not support killing beavers for nuisance reasons.”
Instead, the SPCA suggests methods such as relocation, putting up fences to deter them from building dams or running flexible corrugated pipe through existing dams to control water levels.
“In fact, if you have an area that is like the Gloucester area, where parts are developed, parts aren’t and there are wetlands, etc., what will happen if you just focus on one area and try to get rid of the beavers that are there, the rest of them will all come over because it’s now a vacant territory,” Arnason said.
“I don’t have any doubt whatsoever that you could carry on trapping and killing these beavers and what you’re just really doing then is just inviting more to come from other areas — because that’s the nature of the beast.”
Development activity listed on the Township’s website indicates that an application was submitted by Beedie on June 16, 2016 to re-designate a portion of property in the 5500 block of 268 Street through 276 street, from Golf Course to Service & General Industrial and Park/Buffer/Conservation. The application further proposes to rezone a section from Rural Golf Course Zone and Rural Zone to General Industrial Zone.
This property is also advertised on Beedie’s website as “build to suit,” with a preliminary context plan labelling the corner of 56 Avenue and 272 Street as “park land.”
Tonin confirmed that the company plans on maintaining that particular corner as an environmental area.
“That area, specifically, is actually going to be used for a wildlife enhancement area and storm water detention,” he said.
“So it will actually be enhancing natural habitat … At one point, there was supposed to be a golf course to go all the way through there — lots of greens, and fairways, and filling, and cutting down a bunch of trees, etc., over 90 acres. The idea here now is to actually preserve a bunch of it as habitat land and give it back to the (Township), and enhance wildlife and stormwater management facilities. I think a majority, so half the proposed development now, will be that, as opposed to golf course.”
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A beaver lodge located near the dam where Ted Lightfoot’s dog, Homer, found a dead beaver on Jan. 7. Photo by Miranda Gathercole/Langley Times.
Sourced from the SPCA
■ Beaver dams, created in moving water with trees and packed mud, are constructed so well, they cause water to back up and flood low-lying areas. In nature, this creates marsh habitats, where several species of animals flourish, such as ducks, moose, deer and mink. However, in populated areas, they can cause flooding of roads, parks and farmland.
■ The orange colour of beaver teeth is caused by iron — an element that makes their tooth enamel strong enough to cut down trees.
■ About 300 years ago when Europeans began settling North America, there were an estimated 400 million beavers covering two-thirds of the continent. In the 1600s, their fur became a popular fashion trend in Europe, causing most beavers to be wiped out.
■ Some scientists are now calling beavers “climate saviours” because of their impact in mitigating global warming. The dams they build help prevent water from rushing down streams and disappearing into the ocean, and they also store water, which can then soak back into the ground, helping to prevent droughts. Furthermore, the dams keep vast areas under water, which stops the leaves, sticks and other carbon-rich organic matter from decaying and releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
■ Beavers have one litter of three to four babies between March and June each year, and the babies remain with the family in the lodge until they are two years old.
■ If beavers become a problem, the SPCA recommends mitigation through: wrapping galvanized welded wire around trees that need protection; painting tree trunks with a mixture of coarse mason sand and exterior latex paint; putting fences around culvert pipes to discourage dam building; running flexible corrugated pipe (pond levelers) through existing dams to control water levels; using cage traps to relocate beavers in their home range; or taking beavers to a wildlife rehabilitation centre if injured or orphaned.
Click here for related story “Cute, hard-working and destructive: the beaver”