In my daily walks around Brewer Pond, I’ve noticed old signs of beaver activity from the beaver that used to live there in 2014. I figured it was only a matter of time before they returned, and happily, they are back.
This pond is a perfect environment for beaver, and they do us a great service by being there. Let’s hope that they are left to their own beaver business and that the City does not interfere. Ottawa has so far been woefully out of sync with the growing awareness about the value of beaver. Here are some compelling reasons for welcoming the return of beaver to the pond.
Beaver are a ‘keystone’ species, helping to maintain healthy aquatic habitat that supports a wide variety of animal and plant life. They help filter toxins and excess nutrients from the water and help to prevent erosion. Recent studies show that waterways without beavers are frequently less viable and healthy for all species. If there is an overabundance of water lilies and phytoplankton, it depletes oxygen levels in the water, called ‘hypoxia.’ Then the pond becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes. The good news is that the beaver’s favourite food is water lilies and then other pond vegetation, which the pond has in abundance. They eat the lily leaves and stems, and the roots in the winter. Having some water lilies in the pond, but not too many, will mean that more sunlight can reach the water, and thus more oxygen can be created.
When the beaver feed on the pond’s bank vegetation, such as willow saplings and dogwood, it grows back more lushly, allowing for more nesting birds and habitat for turtles, etc. Beaver do not normally venture far from the banks of a pond or stream as they are then very vulnerable to predators. However, wrapping significant trees and ornamental trees with wire fencing is an important, cost effective way to mitigate tree loss. As a city that presents itself as “green and environmentally-sensitive”, Ottawa needs to develop a biodiversity strategy and implement policies that support this objective.
Assuring public safety
Local residents consider the Brewer Park and pond areas as part of their recreational landscape. These areas are part of a leash free dog park. The use of traps in a highly used public area represents a significant safety concern for people and their pets. In this regard, the City of Guelph has a by-law prohibiting trapping, whether conibear, leg-hold or snare, within the City. It followed considerable public controversy after a dog was killed in a trap.
Coexistence and education
The beaver in this pond provide a wonderful educational opportunity for children and adults alike. It is important that our children grow up seeing the wonders of nature and we are lucky to have such a pond in our neighbourhood. If we protect and respect the health of the pond, and the wildlife there, this sends a message to our children that we can coexist with nature.
As development encroaches on natural areas, not only are wildlife displaced but there are an increasing number of human-wildlife conflicts. It is important that we commit to progressive practices in responding to these concerns.
Saving tax dollars
The City of Ottawa continues to hire trappers to unnecessarily trap and kill many beavers instead of using progressive, cost-effective solutions like tree wrapping protection and water flow devices to prevent flooding. These science-based solutions are increasingly used in other cities in the province. Lethal and inhumane control practices are not only ineffective, but reactive and repetitive, prompting significant public controversy, taking up time, and wasting tax dollars. It is much more cost-effective to use prevention strategies.
I hope you’ll have a chance to see the delightful but shy pair of beaver at the pond. The best viewing times are at the crack of dawn and late dusk.
Anita Utas is a landscape and wildlife painter, and an appreciator of all living things. She works and resides in OOS.
Originally published in the November 2019 OSCAR.