(The beavers are busy building their damns, but this Stittsville beaver Mom takes the time to feed her baby kit at the Goulbourn Wetlands along the Trans Canada Trail. Photo: Sylvie Sabourin)
Not your typical student, Damian Piper is a former professional Stone Mason, with experience in community radio, who switched careers to enroll in TV Broadcast Journalism at Algonquin College. While on assignment for The Fulcrum, the University of Ottawa’s English language newspaper, Damian was intrigued by a story about the City of Ottawa’s practice of killing beavers.
What started out as Damian’s interview with an Ottawa South resident, upset about beaver killed in a neighbourhood creek, turned out to be so much more. ‘Lester’, the beaver had gained fans among families and their children who enjoyed watching him on their daily walks. When killed by the City, for no justifiable reason, it prompted residents to start a petition that quickly garnered close to 20,000 signatures, demanding more progressive approaches to living with wildlife.
After interviewing Donna DuBreuil at the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre, Damian learned that the killing of beavers was a long-standing practice by the City that was not only inhumane but environmentally damaging and a significant waste of tax dollars, compared to modern solutions to coexist with wildlife.
It led Damian to contact Mike Callahan, a beaver expert in Massachusetts who has installed more flow devices than anyone else in North America. Modern flow devices are designed to prevent flooding while keeping beavers and their important ecological services on the landscape for a fraction of the cost the City of Ottawa is currently spending on beaver management.
Mike was astounded that Ottawa spends $150,000 a year on a trapper saying, “this is money being flushed down the drain when it could be used for the one-time cost to build more than 70 flow devices, a solution that would protect City infrastructure while saving taxpayers the annual cost of both the trapper and the extensive staff time needed for maintenance.”
Damian also met with residents in Stittsville (Stittsville Landkeepers: Ann Swanwick, Catherine Clysdale, and Lesley McKay) who are angry about beavers being trapped along the Trans Canada Trail and the destruction of a Provincially Significant Wetland turned into a Municipal Drain to support development.
Damian’s investigative reporting skills benefit from his disarming questions and manner. His thoroughness has led to a wider focus, including the little protection of trees and the current lack of
political will to protect the City’s natural assets.
It has resulted in three, one-hour Podcasts by Damian, interviewing residents, environmental advocates, city staff and a city councillor that expose contradictions and misinformation, shedding light on the real story behind these community concerns.
You can listen to these Podcasts at Unpublished Ottawa, search for ‘Fulcrum Radio Beaver’ (the three-part series). To become involved in and to learn more about community environment concerns, the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre provides a wealth of information and will appreciate receiving support for their projects.