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HCA’s beavers’ tails saved by pause on lethal trapping

Moratorium ‘a kneejerk reaction,’ trapper says

By Richard Leitner, News Staff

The beavers can rest their tails for now.

The Hamilton Conservation Authority won’t let trappers kill any more of Canada’s furry icon at Fifty Point’s trout pond or other parks and natural areas until it figures out the best way to deal with wildlife conflicts.

Directors last week approved a staff plan to only allow capture for live relocations until a new advisory committee develops protocols with input from outside organizations and the public.

Gord Costie, director of customer services, thanked Fifty Point neighbour Alice Willems for being “a huge catalyst” in raising awareness of the lethal trapping through the local media and ensuing outcry.

The new committee is expected to report by this fall and will also review other practices, like the relocation of geese away from the beaches at Valens, and live removal of skunks and raccoons at Confederation Park’s Wild Waterworks, he said.

“Everyone can benefit from this moment of reflection,” Costie said.

East Mountain councillor Tom Jackson welcomed the review, drawing parallels with the study of an overpopulation of deer at Iroquoia Heights that avoided a hunt by promoting non-lethal solutions, like discouraging neighbours from feeding deer.

He said although the decades-long practice of lethally trapping of beavers had been sanctioned by the Ministry of Natural Resources, people expect the authority to be a leader “for conserving, for preserving.”

“Norms and society change,”Jackson said. “I think it’s important to see what the best practices could be going forward.”

Chief administrative officer Chris Firth-Eagland said potential solutions to flooding and other hazards caused by beavers may include putting culverts in their dams to let water pass through and changing vegetation to keep them away from an area.

Moving beavers is another option, he said, but fraught with other problems, including that the relocated beaver may starve or be attacked by other beavers.

Willems said afterwards she’s grateful for the quick action on her concerns and sees the review as “an excellent first beginning.”

The former Parks Canada employee said there are instances where lethal trapping may be necessary to prevent flooding, but suggested the authority could use the beavers at the Fifty Point trout pond for outdoor education programs.

“We’ve got get back to this balance between people and our surroundings, the ever-diminishing green space,” she said, noting urban sprawl is leaving beavers fewer places to live. “We’re polluting, we’re paving over.”

But trapper Bill Davies, a vice-president of the Ontario Fur Managers Federation, called the moratorium on killing beavers “somewhat of a kneejerk reaction” given the problems live relocations pose.

He said putting culverts through dams could see beavers starve to death because they rely on the higher water level to feed below the ice during the winter.

“You take that away from them, you’ve taken away their survival method,” Davies said. “I don’t figure that’s a humane method.”

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