Leg-hold traps questioned after beaver rescued in southeast Calgary

Residents in a southeast Calgary neighbourhood are questioning the use of leg-hold traps after freeing a beaver caught in one that had malfunctioned.

Tracey Tilden, her husband Breckh and daughter Brook, found the beaver about six hours after it was caught in a leg-hold trap at a creek near their home in the community of Riverstone.

She says it was trying to free itself and looked exhausted. It was dark when they arrived with neighbour Richard Manns.

Breckh and Manns struggled to hold the beaver and free its leg on the muddy bank of the creek.

“This trap, the city told me that it malfunctioned, it was supposed to asphyxiate and drown the beaver humanely,” said Tilden. “There’s nothing humane in that.”

Manns says the beaver waddled away once it was freed.

“As soon as he got released he took a couple of steps and looked back and it was like kind of like a thank you,” said Manns. “That was a pretty awesome moment.”

Manns says he’s glad a person or pet didn’t come across the trap that he believes shouldn’t be used in a residential area.

“I’m just hoping that somebody looks at this and says maybe this isn’t appropriate,” he said. “Let’s change what we’re doing because we can’t just let (beavers) do whatever they want but at the same time we can’t just throw a trap in the ditch and say ‘don’t worry about it, it’s all good, bye.'”

Tilden says it was disturbing seeing the beaver struggling to live. Her daughter videoed the nighttime rescue and Tilden posted it on the community Facebook page.

“People were shocked and horrified,” she said. “The fact that it was in a residential area, such a barbaric trap, inhumane, it had a long cord attached with 40 pounds of weights that this poor beaver was trying to drag around.”

Lincoln Julie is the Integrated Pest Management lead for the City of Calgary parks department. He says the city always explores options for co-existence first when it comes to animal issues.

“The difficult part with Cranston, Riverstone is that it is an ideal beaver habitat,” said Julie. “Just the way that the channel comes off from the river and then runs down and then goes back into the river.”

He’s tasked with weighing the benefits of the beavers in the community with the damage they create on the landscape. Then he has to deal with a divided community about the topic.

“There’s one side that wants us to leave the beavers and one side that wants us to get rid of the beavers,” said Julie. “Our ideal situation would be somewhere in the middle.”

Julie says the city has hired a contractor with 35 years of experience dealing with beaver issues all over western Canada. The contractor recommends a smaller population of beavers on the landscape and is trapping some to do that.

“We have to work with them and trust their expertise,” said Julie. “But also, you know, consult with other industry experts on best ways to manage beavers and then there’s people throughout the industry that we discuss this with.”

The city has placed wire mesh around trees to protect them from hungry beavers. It’s also tried water levellers and opened up dams to reduce area flooding. Julie says this is the only community in the city where it’s dealing with a beaver issue and even a few can do a lot of damage.

“Just in that little channel, one family is probably the maximum that it can sustain,” he said. “One beaver can take down 200 trees a year so if you have a couple of beavers, that’s 400 trees and then add some kits that come along with that, that can very quickly just deforest the whole area.”

Julie says better communication in the area could help educate residents on what the city is trying to achieve with a healthy landscape and beaver population.

“We want again, to co-exist with all wildlife,” said Julie. “Whether it’s beavers, it’s coyotes, bobcats whatever, that’s what’s great about Calgary is that this wildlife exists in Calgary and we do coexist peacefully for the most part.”

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