An animal advocacy organization’s offer to construct an exclusion fence around a culvert to remedy the beaver problem at a Whitehorse golf course has come too late.
Environment Yukon revealed late Wednesday afternoon the five beavers had already been killed.
Conservation officers dispatched the majority of the family on Friday, though a sixth remains on the loose.
In interviews with Department of Highways and Public Works spokeswoman Doris Wurfbaum and Environment Yukon spokeswoman Melissa Madden last Friday and Monday respectively, neither revealed the beavers had already been killed.
“We definitely weren’t keeping it a secret,” Madden told the Star when asked why this information wasn’t provided earlier. “We provided that information when asked.”
On Wednesday, the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals sent a letter to Highways and Public Works Minister Wade Istchenko, offering to construct a flow device around the culvert at no charge in order to save the beavers.
They were threatening to block a culvert along the Alaska Highway, across the street from the Meadow Lakes Golf and Country Club, with their dam.
Michael Howie, the association’s director of digital content and special projects, expressed his disappointment today at the decision to kill the beavers.
“It is very unfortunate that these beavers were killed in what was likely a cruel way, particularly when other solutions are available,” he said.
“That being said, our offer to come to the area and build an exclusion fence to protect any future beavers, because there will be more, still stands.”
Wurfbaum said this morning that staff previously tried a humane preventative measure at the site.
A few years ago, they installed cones designed to keep beavers away from the culvert while still allowing water to flow through the pipe.
“However, it didn’t work,” Wurfbaum said. “The beavers just built a bigger dam that covered both the cones and the culvert.”
The department had obtained a permit from Environment Yukon to trap the beavers. In 2013, it obtained eight permits for this purpose.
Staff set traps late last week, but after public outcry, removed them and left dealing with the problem in conservation officers’ hands.
Madden said that when beavers are dispatched in cases of human-wildlife conflict, the hides and flesh are salvaged and may be used for trapper education.
“It’s early in the year as far as beaver development goes so they wouldn’t be considered good-quality fur,” she said, adding that this makes the hides appropriate for these training
Environment Yukon offers courses throughout the year which teach trappers basics like how to properly skin an animal. The beaver flesh also can be used as bear bait for research purposes, when scientists have to get close to bears, Madden said.
Howie explained to the Star Wednesday how the installation of an exclusion fence, a trapezoid-shaped device, has proven effective in other Canadian cities when it comes to preventing culvert blockages and allowing beavers to continue to live in the area.
The association offered to install the fence, constructed from materials available at a hardware store for about $400 to $600, at no charge. It also volunteered to teach department staff how to build such a device.
Howie said they last up to 10 years, and require little maintenance.
In Mission, B.C., he said, the association built a couple of flow devices that have since formed the town’s entire beaver management program.
“If one beaver found the site desirable, another will as well,” he said.
“When you remove a dam or remove beavers, other beavers will come and build a new dam, which means more trees are taken down. It’s sort of a never-ending cycle of problems.
“But when you learn to co-exist with wildlife, everybody wins, including the people, including the beavers, including the landscape.”
Wurfbaum said Istchenko will reply to the association’s letter, but could not say whether the department would accept its offer of free training to build these devices in the future.
Beaver dams create valuable ecosystems, Howie said.
At one time, there were up to 60 million beavers in North America. That number has dwindled to three million.
“You often hear about the need for wetlands and biodiversity,” he said.
“One of the reasons we simply don’t see that anymore is because we’ve gotten rid of so many beavers.
A dam creates a habitat that’s ideal for juvenile salmon and wetlands are an important home for often-endangered critters like frogs, toads and salamanders, Howie said.
“I’d like to offer condolences to the people who have visited those beavers over the last few years. It’s always a sad time when any life that we’ve come to recognize as an individual is lost.”