Beaver Management Plan
Beaver have become common residents of the Fish Creek valley. Management of beavers tries to strike a balance between a healthy population and protecting forest and facilities.
The Fish Creek Provincial Park management plan sets out that
Beaver activity will be monitored annually.
Wiring of trees as a protective measure will continue in areas around buildings, bridges, pathways and other facilities.
Beavers will be removed only when their dams or activities are endangering facilities and trees within facility zones. Removal may also be necessary to protect unique habitats.
Benefits of Beaver
- Beaver ponds provide habitat for other wildlife.
- Food, water and shelter is available in beaver ponds for many species of fish, birds, invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians and other mammals.
- Sometimes the connection is readily apparent. The merganser, for example, is a waterbird that eats small fish, minnows and aquatic invertebrates. Some organisms depend on the plants that grow around or in the water, not on the pond itself.
- Beaver dams retain water.
- This is particularly important for fish. The rest of Fish Creek is very shallow in the summer. Water temperatures rise above what many fish species can tolerate.
- The only muskrats in Fish Creek live in beaver ponds, sometimes abandoned ones. Muskrats need the deep water for winter survival. They feed on the plants that grow in a pond or marsh area.
- Beaver dams slow erosion of the creek banks.
- Erosion causes trails to collapse, trees to topple and soil to wash into the water. This creates a silt level that some aquatic organisms can not tolerate.
- Eroded banks are often not visible from the top. This makes them a potential safety hazard for park visitors.
- Felled trees open up the forest canopy.
- The increased amount of sunlight reaching the forest floor leads to a greater plant diversity.
- This, in turn, increases animal diversity. More species are able to find plants they need for food and shelter.
- Felled trees provide habitat.
- Both plants and small animals find food and shelter in the logs. These organisms then attract other species to the area.
- Decaying felled trees add nutrients to the soil.
- Valuable nutrients are added to the soil, enriching it for other plants to grow.
- New growth occurs on some tree stumps.
- Not all trees cut down by beavers die. New growth often comes out of the stump. This increases the life span of the tree. The old wood, which is most vulnerable to attack by diseases and insects, is culled away by the beaver.
- Buds on the new growth are a food source.
- Deer and snowshoe hares depend on the buds of poplars as an important winter source of food. Mature trees with branches high up have no food value for these two mammal species.
- Many people, especially children, enjoy watching wildlife. The beaver is one of the few species in the park that permit prolonged viewing by visitors. Visitors can watch beaver families go about grooming, feeding and interacting with each other.
- People often become aware of nature's complexities through observing wildlife. Increased knowledge supports development of values. Values lead people to make commitments to help protect and preserve the natural world.
Beaver Concerns & Responses
- Removal of shade trees and depletion of "aesthetic" views in facility zone areas
- We wrap tree trunks with stucco wire to prevent trees from being cut down beavers.
- Pond water flooding facility areas and trails
- When efforts to control the pond water level fail, beavers are removed from the area. The dam is then opened up to lower the water level.
Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society has been involved in continuous beaver monitoring since 1999.
- Volunteers monitor a section of Fish Creek or the Bow River. This is done each year from spring thaw through fall freeze-up.
- Volunteers record: the location of dams, food caches, areas being used to collect food, number of beavers observed and whether they are immature or adult.
- The monitors also make note of any problems being created. This could be trail flooding or large trees being chewed thus creating a potential danger to the public.
- All data collected is mapped to provide a long-term picture of changes in beaver movements.
Contact Friends of Fish Creek for more info.