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Traps set for Niven Lake beavers

Simon Whitehouse
Northern News Services
Published Friday, May 25, 2012

Now that the ice has melted, Niven Lake's beavers have emerged once again to leave at least one grove of backyard trees looking like "Vietnam," according to one property owner. Residents, however, appear split on what to do about them.

NNSL photo/graphic

Signs have been erected by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in and around this beaver lodge on Niven Lake. Residents seem split on whether to remove the animals. One thing is for sure, the beavers have done a lot of damage to area trees. - Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

The rodents - and what to do about them - have been weighing on the minds of officials with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources since last fall when a resident stumbled upon a dead beaver in one of the department's quick-kill traps.

There are at least two of beavers in Niven Lake this spring, according to the department.

Ian Ellsworth, a renewable resources officer, oversees two wildlife officers who check suitcase-like live traps at the lake every day. He said the department is trying to relocate the beavers but people are interfering with the traps. Signs are now posted warning people to stay away from them.

"We check them in the morning and we are finding that someone throws a rock or stick into the traps to set them off," said Ellsworth. "That is the issue we are kind of dealing with right now."

Their efforts have their supporters - mainly property owners tired of the beavers chomping down their trees - but detractors as well. The department finds itself unable to please everybody, said Ellsworth.

Colleen Zorn, a resident on Ballantyne Court, is one resident who said she wants the beavers to stay. Her backyard backs onto the lake but she does not have a lot of poplar trees that attract the rodents.

"I have three young kids and we love to go for walks on the trail to see the beaver," she said. "My two-year-old comes home with beaver sticks on a regular basis. He walks on that trail every single day and goes to see the beaver."

She said the beavers should not be removed because they have been residing on the lake long before people arrived.

"The beavers were there first and we are in their yard," she said.

"They are only going to eat up the food source and move on. They will go to another little pond where there are poplars and stuff to eat. I also think (the beavers are) only going to improve the trail because now you can see the lake."

Zorn said she knows there have been some property owners who have suffered from having trees destroyed, including one that she said looks like a "Vietnam" war zone. But she said they should have been more proactive with better fencing to keep the clever animals out.

Others in the area aren't as enthusiastic. Two doors down from the Zorns, Mike Lang said his backyard is "the easiest one to get to" by the beavers. He said he has lost up to 100 trees over the last summer, ranging in size from one to four-and-a-half inches wide.

"As far as that beaver goes, I would just as soon not have it around because I have zero trees in my backyard right now," he said. "Over the course of last summer, they systematically weeded out every tree in my backyard. That is all the poplar. I have gone from a private backyard to one that backs onto the trail where everyone can see everything I do."

Lang said he hasn't called ENR this year because of a trap has already been established by the bridge. He also has surrounded the whole back end of his property with chicken wire, but it proved to be ineffective over the long term.

"You pretty much have to monitor it all day long because they feed during the day and everyone is gone to work," he said.

"The chicken wire held them out for a little while but they have gnawed through that and taken down a couple of trees that had the wire wrapped right around them."

He has also painted the bases of some of his trees up to about three-and-a-half feet high with rubber paint and sand, but the beavers chewed through that as well.

Mayor Gord Van Tighem said the city has received calls about the beavers, but typically the complaints are passed onto ENR. He agrees there are people who want the beavers there and people who want them removed, but the city merely tells ENR that it is "their call."

"(The beavers) are taking trees down like crazy," he said. "They will go up into people's yards so that the people put mesh at the bottom of their trees or are hurt because they are losing their trees."

Van Tighem said he used to trap beavers for the Government of Alberta, and said the animals can be dangerous.

"They can use their tails like a trampoline and will launch themselves at you. If they get a hold of you, they will snip your arm in one bite."

Ellsworth said interference with the traps has been an ongoing annoyance for the government. While to date no one has been caught interfering with the trap, he warns if a person is caught they will be charged to the fullest extent of the law.

"If we do find out who is doing it, we will definitely prosecute them," he said, adding signs in the area clearly point out the violation.

"Under the Wildlife Act, a violation is punishable up to a $10,000 fine."

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