Beavers and municipalities don’t seem to go hand-in-hand, especially when they bring the potential of a flood.
After recent letters to the editor, Ponoka News asked both the Town of Ponoka and Ponoka County to clarify how they deal with beavers and the issues they face because of the rodents’ behaviour.
Mike Lewis, director of operations and property services for the town, said there is no formal policy on dealing with beavers but his focus is whether a beaver damn has potential to flood a resident’s home. In the last six to eight weeks he has removed at least four beaver dams along the Battle River south of the historic dam site. His worry is how a 100-year storm could affect residents along the river. “I don’t want to create an artificial flood.”
Lewis refers to a map produced by Alberta Environment, which shows potential flood boundaries along the river as a guide in making his decision.
He feels he has an obligation to taxpayers and if the river can be lowered two feet by removing the dams that gives him two feet of storage for the next storm event.
“I just want to keep the water levels down and the river moving,” he said.
He feels the beavers have as much of a right to be by the river as people do. “The only solution I would see there is live trapping and transplanting.”
Justin Babcock, assistant to Ponoka County manager of agriculture services, said they hire two trappers almost full-time from spring until winter. He feels relocation does not help as the beavers settle in a different location and the issue of damming culverts persists.
When the beavers dam up culverts water goes up and around a road, which can cause damage. Ponoka County trapped 144 beavers in 2011 and quick action is what stops roads from getting damaged. “If you don’t get it fast enough, it will wash the road right out.”
Babcock has worked with the county the last five years and has seen the damage to farmland from beavers dams causing floods and trees been taken down for those dams.
“For agriculture that’s not a good thing to have,” he stated.
The challenge he sees is managing beavers in a cost-effective way; one of those ways considered was a protective grate on the outside of a culvert. Two things stood in the way of purchasing the grates: one was cost and the other was the effectiveness of the grates. The cost starts at about $2,000 plus installation.
He feels beavers have ways of getting into the grates and in that case staff would have to pull the grate off completely to be able to remove a dam.
Ponoka County is given a damage control permit from Alberta Fish and Game for the purpose of protecting roads and properties.