Because the beaver isn't just an animal; it's an ecosystem!

The Martinez Beavers

Stittsville Beavers Chose their Champion!

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Remember Anita Utas of the Stittsville beavers in Ottawa, Canada? The city was determined to kill some beavers in a “drainage pond” until she and her friends got them to spare their lives – at least temporarily. A young girl in the community named the beavers Lucky and Lily and Anita kindly agreed to guest blog the story. Here it is:

Lily and Lucky – a beaver update from Ottawa, Canada

The Paul Lindsay Park pond is now frozen, and Lily and Lucky are den and water bound for the next few months. Many of us are anxiously waiting for spring so we can see how they fared over their first winter here. Due to many trees being wrapped with wire fencing, I worry they might not have stored enough for this long, cold season. Some of us brought them some piles of birch and poplar branches during the unseasonably mild November we had, and they took them all.

It has been about two months since the City of Ottawa suspended the trapping and killing of Lily and Lucky, the two beaver who took up residence last summer at the Paul Lindsay Park pond in Stittsville, a suburb of Ottawa. At the protest in front of City Hall, Mayor Jim Watson also assured the public that the Wildlife Strategy (that was languishing on the back burner since being accepted back in February, 2010) would be fast-tracked. As of today, there has been no news from the City about the status of this Wildlife Strategy. I’ll be writing to our area Councilor and the Mayor for an update, and I’ll let you know what I find out. Suspending the trapping of Lily and Lucky was a smart move on the City’s part because it stopped the letters, emails, phone calls, media coverage and petition, and many people mistakenly believed that the problem was solved. The truth is that all of the beaver in our city continue to be trapped and killed while we wait and wait for the implementation of the Wildlife Strategy.

Many urban storm water ponds are attracting wildlife, and that means beaver. Due to the drastic loss of wetlands around Ottawa, wildlife is being displaced at an alarming rate. The water in storm water ponds is not sanitary, as it includes toxic run-off from winter road salts (sodium chloride, calcium chloride, potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, and ferrocyanide salts), and even overspill from sewers when the rain is plentiful. The City of Ottawa, as a matter of course, should be installing water flow devices in storm water ponds, and wrapping trees to deter beaver from moving in. But then what? Without wetlands and without city waterways, where are the beaver supposed to live?

Come the spring, these two beaver may have kits which would mean they would require more food. And if the water levels in the pond recede, they may try to dam the culverts. This would mean that their trapping will resume. However, with the lack of trees now available, the beaver may be forced to move on. Moving on means dangerous crossing of roads, or following Poole Creek further upstream or down where they are still not welcome and will be trapped and killed as soon as their presence is detected. The only way this can end well for Lily and Lucky is if they are relocated. But due to our Ministry of Natural Resources’ rules and regulations, we can’t relocate beaver. We can’t relocate wildlife unless it’s within 15 km of where it was trapped or caught. The MNR argues that animals will only return to their place of origin if they are relocated. How convenient is that? Let’s not go to the trouble of relocating, let’s create a regulation that makes it almost impossible. Instead, let’s keep trapping and killing our city wildlife. This is hardly surprising, given that over 70% of our Ministry of Natural Resources’ revenue comes from hunting, trapping and fishing licenses.

Our City dwells in the dark ages when it comes to coexisting with wildlife. City staff still ‘shoot, shovel, and shut up’- groundhogs have been gassed in their dens, rats poisoned in Confederation Park, stray moose shot, and some beaver were once bludgeoned to death with shovels when they were found near a culvert along a suburban street. It’s brutally barbaric here for any animal that dares enter the city. But the rural areas are even worse, with last year’s Coyote Killing Contests as just one example, but don’t get me started.

With the beaver as our nation icon, you’d think that it would be afforded some respect and protection. Not so. CBC News reported that in March 2011 “the provincial government of Canada had pledged $500,000 to help remove beavers and dams from areas where water-loving animals are causing damage. The money was matched by rural municipalities.” This means a cool million to slaughter beaver. And if that isn’t enough to make your heart sink, the Globe and Mail reported that, “Canada’s Department of National Defense has placed an initial order of 1,000 beaver fur-trimmed caps at a cost of $65,000. The hats are for use by guards of honor and Canadian Forces for winter protection.”

It seems to me that Canada has declared an all out war on our beaver. And then I see articles about Sherri Tippie, the wonderful, compassionate woman in Colorado who traps and relocates beaver. And I faithfully read Heidi Perryman’s postings on her amazing Martinez Beaver website, centering around the success story of how she rallied to protect a family of beaver who had moved into Alhambra Creek in Martinez, CA. Then I feel a little better, knowing that somewhere out there, beaver are not being prosecuted but protected.

When spring arrives, if the Wildlife Strategy is not in place, and humane methods for dealing with our wildlife have not been implemented, you can bet that our protests will start up again with renewed vigor because this will mean that the City made promises that they did not keep, and that Lily and Lucky will be on death row again. Our petition reached over 1,700 signatures in just two weeks, and we can reactivate it. For many reasons it is in the City’s best interests to adopt progressive, humane solutions for coexisting with wildlife and to protect our valuable wetlands.

If you want to keep up on Lily and Lucky’s story, Anita maintains the Stittsville beaver lodge website here. Thanks Anita, and we wish your beavers and their champion all the luck!