Homeowners and industry struggling with beaver dam flooding

Beavers are causing serious flooding problems in northern Ontario. The Canadian icons are damaging everything from septic fields to railways.

'If it wasn't for people taking care of these beavers, these roads would be flooded constantly,' says trapper

Beaver dams are frustrating home owners and industries alike. The animals are causing major flooding with everything from septic fields to railways. (Phil Smith/Flickr)

Sticks and branches pierce the silence of a quiet summer day in rural Greater Sudbury. They crack and crunch under the weight of Paul Van Zutpen's shoes.

"With this dam here, they're raising it up at least three feet of water," Van Zutpen says.

"If it breaks accidentally, it could wash this whole culvert out."

Van Zutpen is the director of the Ontario Fur Managers Federation for the Sudbury area. He's examining a beaver dam that's recently been torn out of a residential culvert.

The dam has caused flooding in the area, and Van Zutpen says it looks like the beavers have started a second dam down the creek in case this first one gives way.

Rhonda Hall's family has been helping her deal with flooding caused by beaver dams since last fall. (Courtesy of Arielle Hall, Wild Northerner Magazine)

This is an all-too familiar situation for many in northern Ontario. Van Zutpen says this year, due to higher levels of rain, beaver dams are popping up in areas where they're not normally seen.

"Places like more residential culverts," he says.

"The water is high, and it creates a situation where the beavers move a lot.  They're looking for food, so they travel."

'They can cause real damage'

The situation is getting so bad, that even people who are used to dealing with nearby beavers are frustrated.

Rhonda Hall has lived on her property in Lively for 25 years. She says beaver dams have flooded her property to the point where her septic field and well water are at risk.

"People don't understand it. They think beavers are cute and whatever," she says.

"But they can cause real damage."

Paul Van Zutpen and Rolly Coulombe stand near a recently torn out beaver dam. The two trappers say the only way to get rid of nuisance beavers is to trap them. (Samantha Samson/CBC News)

Mines, railways hiring trappers

The City of Greater Sudbury has a contract with the Sudbury Area Trappers Council to remove the rodents from city property. The council says it's also been hired by mining, railway and logging companies to take of nuisance beavers.

Last week, Hydro One told CBC News that beaver dams flooded an area near a Sudbury transmission line, and they needed to lower the water levels to complete the work safely.

Rhonda Hall's son-in-law, Scott Haddow, tries to clear a beaver dam from her Greater Sudbury Property. Hall's family has been trying to keep her property dry since last fall. (Courtesy of Arielle Hall, Wild Northerner Magazine)

Rolly Coulombe, vice president of the council, says he's received 100 calls this year alone. As someone who's been trapping for 35 years, he's seen a lot of different dam scenarios.

 "They build up water to the point where it could go down the mine shaft," says Coulombe.

"Plus, these mining companies have large tracts of land and they have roads everywhere. There's culverts in the roads, so beavers plug those culverts and you have the same problems as you have at homes."

'Very important that beavers be controlled'

Coloumbe recently went to the Ramsey-Biscotasing area to unplug culverts near the towns. He says trapping beavers is a necessity in this part of the country.

"If the dams break and flood, it's going to isolate Bisco and Ramsey," he says.

"Up north, there are a lot of areas like that, not only the area I'm going to. It is very important that the beavers be controlled, for sure."

Without trappers, northern Ontario could flood 'constantly'

The Ministry of natural resources and forestry won't remove nuisance beavers, but has tips and tricks to keep them away.

The two trappers say the only way to really take care of the problem is to kill the beavers. Otherwise, you have to move the animals one kilometre from where they were found. And that only gives the problem to someone else, Van Zutpen says.

"If it wasn't for people taking care of these beavers, these roads would be flooded constantly," he says.

"You're not looking at side roads, you're looking at highways."