Winnipeg should stop killing problem beavers, St. James resident says

After sending a city-hired trapper off his property, a St. James homeowner is demanding Winnipeg change its kill policy on problem beavers.

Lethal traps were set in neighbourhood after city received complaints about damage caused by beavers

A St. James resident wants the city to reconsider trapping and killing beavers along Winnipeg's rivers. (AP Photo/The Messenger-Inquirer, Gary Emord-Netzley) (The Associated Press)

After sending a city-hired trapper off his property, a St. James homeowner is demanding Winnipeg change its policy on killing problem beavers.

Chad Hepp came home on June 1 to find a contractor setting up a lethal trap on the small beaver lodge abutting his backyard. The hunter and fisherman believes two beavers live in the lodge — a mother and kit.

Hepp, who lives on the river side of Assiniboine Avenue, said no one from the city asked for his permission before setting up the traps.

"I'm concerned some general contractor that works part time for the city can come onto somebody's property and make a call like that," he said. "I had to ask him to leave, politely."

Complaints about beavers in the area started in 2012, said City of Winnipeg spokesperson Ken Allen in an email. The city responded by wrapping trees with wire mesh, to keep beavers from chewing on the trees, on both sides of the Assiniboine River every year since.

This is the first time since the complaints were made that the city set kill traps in the area to prevent further damage, Allen said.

Chad Hepp, who owns a home on the banks of the Assiniboine River in St. James, asked a city-hired trapper to leave his property last week after he saw him setting up traps to kill beavers. (Travis Golby/CBC)

"The homeowner who requested assistance with trapping also wrapped all of the larger trees in their backyard; however, the beavers started taking down trees in their front yard," Allen said.

"A single beaver is able to damage hundreds of trees each year. Beavers are only removed when there are no other options available to mitigate the damage they are causing."

Winnipeg opts to kill beavers because the rodents can spread diseases if they are moved. Beavers are also territorial and if they are moved, will come into conflict with any beavers already living in the new location.

"Removal of beavers, when necessary, is conducted by a licensed trapper under approved provincial regulations utilizing humane trapping techniques," said Allen.

Beavers are 'cost of living on the river'

The trapper Hepp saw last Friday was setting up a Conibear, or body-gripping, trap when he intervened. The lethal metal clamp snaps an animal's neck. If it deploys as designed, it can kill a beaver instantly.

For Hepp, who lives closest to the lodge, the beavers have never posed a problem aside from an esthetic one — the  jumble of sticks and tree limbs isn't exactly pretty to look at.

"I get that they've probably chewed down the odd sapling, somebody was trying to grow an apple tree a few years ago or whatever but hey, that's the cost of living on the river," Hepp said.

The beaver dam that abuts Chad Hepp's property is home to a mother beaver and her kit, he said. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Hepp argues the city should consider relocating beavers, like they do with black bears.

The beaver dams help prevent perennial erosion when water is high on the Assiniboine River, he said.

"We wouldn't have any beavers along this river if every time someone complained, a beaver was shot or trapped," said Hepp.

"We've got falcons here, we've got beavers, there's muskrats, I mean, you name it. That's what makes this place so charming. It would be a shame to destroy every animal that nibbled on somebody's piece of lettuce."

The provincial policy on managing beavers is similar to Winnipeg's.

The province's Wildlife Branch allows landowners to kill beavers that cause damage. 

If beavers are kept alive and moved to other areas, a provincial guide on living with beavers says, they may spread disease, get killed by resident beavers or create new problems for other landowners.

Hepp said if the trappers return, he will remove any gear left that could hurt beavers near his property.


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