Province OK with first Saskatchewan beaver-hunting derby

The organizer of the first Saskatchewan beaver derby says the over-population of beavers in the southeast is the reason for the cull, despite complaints from one animal rights group.

589 beavers weighing in at more than 23,000 pounds were killed

This 83.4 pound beaver was turned in during the beaver derby and netted one hunter $500. (2016 Beaver Derby/Facebook)

Nearly 600 beavers were killed in the province's first beaver derby in recent years.

The inaugural derby ran April 1 to May 10. It brought in 589 beavers, weighing more than 23,000 pounds from about 25 participants. The winner received $1,000. The person that brought in the biggest beaver, a whopping 83.4 pounds, took home $500.

Ryan Demchynski created the derby after noticing several issues with beaver over-population in the southeast. He's been hunting and trapping beavers for 40 years. 

"What I see with the beaver control program is lots of guys are just killing the beaver and cutting the tail off and leaving the beaver to rot. And I don't like to see the waste and that's why I decided to start up the derby," Demchynski said.

Beaver Control in Saskatchewan

The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities administers the beaver control program with funding from the provincial and federal government. "The Province reimburses $15.00 per adult problem beaver for the RM or First Nations Band who provides a $30.00 or more per removal of each problem beaver." -SARM website

He points to two problems with beavers: First, there are too many in the southeast causing farmland damage. Second, the province's beaver control program does not require hunters and trappers to salvage the beaver.

Province OK with derby

Last month, Vancouver-based Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals said the event was inhumane and ecologically harmful.

The Ministry of Environment says the derby was legal because beavers are an unprotected species in most of the area where the derby took place.

However, the province says it will review the derby.

"We understand that this isn't universally accepted so we are going to re-visit the issue over the winter," said Brad Tokaruk, regulation specialist with the Ministry of Environment. 

The only paperwork Demchynski needed was a fur dealers licence so he could sell the beaver pelts.

"This individual derby worked with the existing government sponsored beaver control program. It actually enabled a number of those animals to be salvaged," Tokaruk said. 

The province is okay with the beaver-hunting derby but will review its merit for 2017. (CBC)

Busy beavers can keep farmers busy

Beavers are hard-working animals, known for their dam building but that can sometimes cause problems.

"In farmland, when they build dams on streams and water courses, they can flood pastureland and cropland," said Tokaruk. "They often plug culverts and that can be a very expensive issue for the RM."

Demchynski agreed, pointing out that no hunters want to wipe out beavers, they just want to control the population and reduce potential damage to land.

"They're very important, they must be around. Right now with the high waters we have, the habitat is there, we do not have natural predators. And we've got way too many of them, so we've got to do the control work," Demchynski said.

Beaver market dry

"The prices being paid for beaver pelts is at an all-time low," Tokaruk said.

The lack of a market for beaver fur has added to the population increase.

"There's no money in beavers. Nobody wants to take the time for the $0.50 to $10 per hide that you're going to get. $10 hides are very, very good hides. They're not very common. Most of them are around $4 to $5 hides."

Derby back in 2017

Demchynski has already found buyers for the glands and carcasses brought in from the derby, but he said the hides will take him a while to get rid of. He said he will be spending most of the summer dealing with them.

As of now, Demchynski said he expects to hold another derby in 2017.