Animal advocacy group grieves dead beaver family

A family of five beavers that for several years called Meadow Lakes Golf Resort home have been killed. One beaver remains on the loose and Environment Yukon has removed the traps that were used to catch the other family members.

A family of five beavers that for several years called Meadow Lakes Golf Resort home have been killed.

One beaver remains on the loose and Environment Yukon has removed the traps that were used to catch the other family members.

After becoming a fixture on the golf course, the beavers moved across the road earlier this season, causing the Department of Highways and Public Works to worry that a dam under the culvert could damage the Alaska Highway.

A national animal advocacy group, the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals, wrote a letter earlier this week to local media, government officials, and the golf course.

They urged for protection of the family, and offered to travel to Whitehorse to install flow device fences on their own dime. The offer came too late.

Spokesman Michael Howie was upset to learn about the death of the family.

“We’re expressing sadness and condolences to those who had come to love those beavers,” he said. “We also know that beavers will return to that spot. If one beaver family found it desirable another surely will – our offer remains on the table.”

The group would like to install beaver-exclusion fencing, which is lowered into the water in front of a culvert and prevents the beavers from damming too close to infrastructure.

According to Howie, Jeff Luehmann, who owns Meadow Lakes, has expressed interest.

“I know the owner of that golf club had spent some of his own money trying to make it a safe home for the beavers as well as his golfers. Everyone enjoyed it. You got to see some beavers while you golfed and the beavers got a good place to live. He’s done a fantastic job on his own of managing and mitigating any problems.”

Their letter, which was sent on Wednesday and addressed to Highways Minister Wade Istchenko, has yet to garner an official response.

Doris Wurfbaum, a Highways and Public Works spokesperson, described the dispatching of the beaver family as an unfortunate but necessary measure to protect the highway from expensive repairs.

“In the past we did install expensive cones to keep the beavers from building a dam in the culvert, however, this method didn’t work and the beavers built a bigger dam that covered the cone and the culvert,” she said.

The options were either to relocate or destroy the beavers.

After consulting with Environment Yukon, the decision was made to dispatch of the family. “Wildlife experts have advised there are a number of issues with relocating beavers and sometimes its more humane to destroy them,” said Wurfbaum.

Among those issues: beavers don’t relocate very well, and could end up in direct competition with other beavers at a new location.

The department is aware of the technology proposed by the group, said Wurfbaum.

“We’re not relying on the assistance of this organization. We are aware of these devices.”

She said the department will offer a response but isn’t sure what the exact details of that response will be.

“We never want to poo-poo anyone’s help.”

Howie stands by the track-record of the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals, he said.

The group has installed their fences in municipalities across Canada, at their own cost, and in each instance the cities have included their designs in future wildlife plans.

The fences are strong enough to handle a Canadian winter, require minimal maintenance and can last up to 10 years.

“It’s a great sustainable solution, instead of trapping or removing a dam you get to keep the beaver with all its ecological benefits and you prevent flooding and other infrastructure concerns,” said Howie.

The group has roots that date back to the 1930s and operates on private donations.

“These are people who believe in this cause and believe there is a better way to live with wildlife in our country,” he said.

Wurfbaum said destroying the beavers was a last resort.

“We don’t want to have to do it but we are in charge of expensive infrastructure and when we see conflict we rely on the experts over at Environment to see how best to proceed.”

Contact Sam Riches at sam@yukon-news.com

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