Saskatoon

Beavers browsing arboreal buffet along Saskatoon riverbank

Winter is coming and that means beavers on the Saskatoon riverbank are fattening up for the cold season. How does the city decide what trees to protect?

City trying to strike balance between protecting trees and letting beavers be beavers

Beavers, not unlike this one photographed in Nove Scotia, are making meals of trees near Saskatoon's riverbank. (Hazel Caldwell)

Beavers are starting to move inland from the Saskatoon riverbank as they fatten up for the winter months.

This is no more evident than in a stand of trees along Spadina Crescent near River Heights. The beavers are managing to cross the busy roadway, chew on trees at the base of a bluff and then drag the branches and limbs back across the road, under a guardrail and into the water.

There are now close to 20 whitened stumps and piles of woodchips marking where they've been feeding.

Jeff Boone, an entomologist with the city, is familiar with beavers and the city's attitude toward the husky rodents.

He said the city doesn't have a formal beaver policy, but does have best beaver practices. They are guided by a belief that we share the river valley with beavers and they should be allowed to feed and build homes.

Beavers crossed a major thoroughfare to start working on trees near River Heights. (Dan Zakreski/CBC)

Boone said the city is aware of what's happening on Spadina.

"Beavers are free to take those trees," he said.

"But there's trees around it that are higher value that we like to protect and direct the beavers more toward the natural stands."

The city does this by wrapping the trunks of trees it wants protected with heavy wire.

The city doesn't formally track the number of beavers, or lodges, in the city, but it does keep track of "beaver hotspots" based on reports of damaged trees.

There are lodges at Gabriel Dumont Park, near Archibald arena, on the riverbank near the University of Saskatchewan and near the Remai Modern Art Museum.

The Meewasin Valley Authority (MVA) also monitors beaver activity extending out of the city limits south to Beaver Creek Conservation Area.

Kenton Lysak, a senior interpreter with the MVA, said the loss of trees is part of living in a river valley with an active wildlife population.

"Living with nature, and alongside nature, means there's some sacrifices we sometimes have to make," he said.

"The fact that we have a city that is teeming with wildlife, whether it be deer, whether it be hawk species or whether it be beavers, shows that our city of Saskatoon is inviting to wildlife species."

Lysak was excited to hear about the Spadina beavers.

"It brings a big smile to face to think how cool is it that the city of Saskatoon welcomes animal species from all different walks of life into our city."

About the Author

Dan Zakreski is a reporter for CBC Saskatoon.

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