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Airdrie city council approves plan to manage growing beaver population

The recommendations presented during the July 4 council meeting provided insights into managing the city’s beaver population and mitigating their impact on property and the community.
While they're difficult to spot, many beavers populate the shores of Nose Creek in Airdrie, in dens such as this one seen near Waterstone. File photo/Airdrie City View.

At last week’s meeting, Airdrie City council approved a comprehensive Beaver Assessment and Management Plan, aimed at addressing the increasing presence of beavers in the Nose Creek area.

The recommendations presented during the July 4 council meeting provided insights into managing the city’s beaver population and mitigating their impact on the community.

Council’s decision came after the City received some backlash last fall for its wildlife management strategy of lethally trapping beavers that were deemed to be causing property damage to trees in Waterstone. The reveal of that strategy led to some advocacy from wildlife advocacy groups as the Fur-Bearers in B.C., who implored the City to halt its practice of lethal trapping to quell the activities of beavers.

“While beavers and their damming activities can present many challenges to communities, beavers also bring many ecological and social benefits,” stated a letter from Lesley Fox, the executive director of the Fur-Bearers. “Beavers increase biodiversity (including fish populations) and their wetlands can help absorb carbon.”

Shortly after the issue arose last October, the City announced it would be temporarily halting its lethal trapping strategy to pursue other methods of beaver management, which is ultimately what led to last week's presentation to council.

Led by Phil McNeil, Team Leader of Parks Operations, last Tuesday’s presentation highlighted the challenges posed by beavers along the Nose Creek corridor, where some colonies have established their habitats in recent years. The management strategies discussed encompassed various approaches and associated costs.

One of the proposed solutions involved installing exclusion fencing, estimated at $85 per metre. Fully fencing the creek in the Waterstone community was projected to cost approximately $65,000.

Diversionary plantings were recommended as an additional mitigation strategy, amounting to an annual cost of $10,000.

Other measures included culvert fencing, flow conveyance devices, den removal, and tree wrapping, each with their respective costs outlined.

The primary recommendation put forth to the council was to accept the North American Beaver Assessment and Management Plan for information and direct the administration to incorporate its recommendations into the City's Integrated Pest Management Plan.

Furthermore, it was suggested that existing tree protection in the Waterstone and Summerhill communities be maintained.

However, during the presentation, concerns were raised by Coun. Ron Chapman regarding the promotion of beaver occupancy in Nose Creek and/or Sierra Springs, where thousands of trees are slated to be planted thanks to a grant the City of Airdrie recently received.

Chapman voiced apprehension about the staff recommendation, stating that once the beavers outgrow those areas, they may migrate to other locations.

Chapman also emphasized the need for public education on responsible behaviour around beavers.

“Please put something out there telling people ‘Don’t feed the beavers’,” he said. “I’ve got videos where beavers are coming out of the water to my feet eating these apples that people have placed for them. I think we need more public education out there.”

In response to Chapman's concerns, McNeil clarified the intention was not to actively promote more beavers to the area, but rather to create other areas that would be more appealing to them in the interim.

“It’s not necessarily to promote more beavers but to make other areas more desirable to them in the meantime,” said McNeil.

Following the discussion, a motion was put forward to accept the recommendations presented by McNeil's team. The motion was approved unanimously.

Council’s decision marked an important step towards managing the beaver population in a way that balances ecological considerations with the needs and concerns of the community.

As the recommendations are implemented, ongoing public education efforts will play a crucial role in fostering a harmonious relationship between residents and the beavers that call Airdrie home.

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