(Beaver family members that make the Goulbourn Wetlands their home. Photo Sylvia Sabourin)
On October 4, the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre (O-CWC) President, Donna DuBreuil, and Executive Director, Kate MacNeil, sent a letter to Mayor Jim Watson and all Ottawa Councillors expressing their discontent with recent comments made to residents regarding the beaver situation in the City of Ottawa. The O-CWC has reached out over several years to work with the City on beaver issues.
Dear Mayor Watson and Councillors:
We are writing to express the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre’s extreme frustration in our attempt to work with the City of Ottawa on Beaver issues.
We strongly challenge the recent comments made to residents that our Centre is unwilling to work with the City on these matters.
Our Centre has been working on beaver issues in Ottawa for well over a decade. Our latest attempt, which started in 2018, to work with the City on these concerns has dragged on for 3 years without any progress. At the start, we asked the City to:
- Establish a Beaver Protocol, as was done in the City of London.
- Identify sites for flow devices.
- Sites must be beaver conflict sites, where beaver have regularly been trapped in the last 2 years due to the risk to City infrastructure.
- Identify the frequency that City staff have had to do maintenance related to beaver conflict at these sites.
These criteria are critical. For flow devices to be warranted there must be actual beaver conflict and an evaluation of the staff time (manpower and equipment) being spent currently so that the cost-savings of flow devices can be demonstrated.
After 3 years, none of these criteria have been met. The City indicated that it did not keep records with respect to where staff had to regularly go to clear blockages caused by beaver nor would they provide any information on where beavers were regularly trapped. It is hard to believe that City staff are not expected to account for their time or that records of where trapping occurs are not kept, given that the City must issue a payment to the trapper.
After numerous emails, meetings and much prompting, the City provided a number of sites for a pilot project. However, after spending a great deal of time at each of these sites, it was clear to us that none represented true beaver conflict sites.
We have devoted countless hours to this project in the hope of a positive outcome. Unfortunately, at the end of August, we heard from concerned residents about 2 separate situations where beaver trapping was planned to protect a possible threat to City infrastructure. Why were these sites not mentioned for possible assessment for flow devices? At this point, after 3 years, and no progress, our non-profit organization felt it could simply no longer justify the waste of time and money in trying to work with the City.
The City’s reluctance to adopt progressive measures in dealing with Beavers is not new.
More than a decade ago, in 2010, City Council directed staff to develop a Wildlife Strategy that “would facilitate and foster a more harmonious relationship with all wildlife. Council’s direction was motivated not only by general concerns for biodiversity and harmony with nature but by specific issues and complaints arising from the City’s policies and procedures for dealing humanely with individual animals or populations of animals.”
Yet, with respect to beavers, City staff continue to completely ignore that Council direction. For example, in 2011 invoices paid by the City of Ottawa to trappers amounted to $31,823. By 2017 invoices had increased to $45,019 and, by 2018, the trapper billed the City of Ottawa a whopping $156,710.
What’s Happening Elsewhere?
Municipalities across North America are utilizing flow devices because they recognize the cost savings and the environmental value of keeping beavers on the landscape.
• The Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society, in response to agricultural interest, are implementing flow devices on farmlands, recognizing beavers as an important management tool for watershed resiliency and restoration.
• The City of London has been successfully using flow devices, including in stormwater ponds, since 2015 to prevent flooding.
• In Ottawa, the Federal Government, working with our Centre and the community, has developed wildlife-sensitive planning practices on the Carling Campus that include installing flow devices in its stormwater ponds.
Modern flow devices do not represent ground-breaking or new technology. We are not asking the City of Ottawa to be the first, or even the second, third or fourth, just please don’t be last!
We have learned that the City is planning 2 pilot projects in natural areas, and are concerned that again it will be more about optics in reacting to recent public pressure. This was the case with the pilot project the City implemented in 2012, one that our Centre correctly identified was designed to fail.
Even if there is an environmental benefit at these 2 proposed sites, this should not be confused with the original intent of the project involving the Centre. It was intended as a jumping off point to more progressive and cost-effective practices. Flow devices need to be installed at true beaver conflict sites, such as stormwater ponds, where a threat to significant infrastructure is involved and where beavers are continually being trapped. It is also in these areas where City residents are most vocal in opposing the trapping of beaver.
Over the years, our Centre has worked successfully with Public Services and Procurement Canada, Nation Capital Commission, other NGOs, other municipalities as well as with community stakeholders. We welcome the day we can include the City of Ottawa in this list. When the City of Ottawa is willing to embrace the criteria we outlined above, including the installation of flow devices in true conflict sites, such as stormwater ponds and adjacent creeks, we would be pleased to work with the City.
Donna DuBreuil, President
Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre
Kate MacNeil, Executive Director
Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre
To discover more about the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre visit their website at www.wildlifeinfo.ca or contact the Centre by telephone at (613) 726-8178.