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Downtown beavers left without food

A family of beavers living behind the White Pass Building may starve after their home and feed pile were destroyed by Community Services in November.

A family of beavers living behind the White Pass Building may starve after their home and feed pile were destroyed by Community Services in November.

“There was a whole colony of beavers there - young ones, old ones,” said local grizzly bear expert Phil Timpani.

Walking along the waterfront in the summer, Timpani watched the beavers busily building up a feed pile before the onset of winter.

Then, in November, he noticed heavy machinery tracks near the bank where the beavers lived.

“They’d taken a loader and a backhoe and destroyed the beaver’s feed pile,” he said.

An ice-covered river sealed the beavers’ fate.

“They were left to starve,” said Timpani.

Community Services asked “our conservation officers to deal with the beavers at a site near White Pass,” said Environment spokesperson Nancy Campbell.

The officers decided the ice and swift water made it unsafe to live-trap the beavers, she said.

“And it was unsafe to trap them even to kill them.”

So, Environment issued Community Services a dam-removal permit.

But it wasn’t a dam that was removed, said Timpani.

It was the beaver’s feed pile.

“Calling it a beaver dam is just terminology,” said Campbell, who was not sure what exactly was destroyed under the permit.

The beaver’s lodge was in the bank, she added.

“And I think they dug that up too.”

Community Services is building a wharf in the area.

But construction doesn’t start until spring, said Timpani.

“So why would they destroy the feed pile now, when there’s ice on the river and the beavers can’t get more food?

“They could have let the beavers live through the winter, then relocated them in the spring before work began on the dock.”

“If beavers pose a problem for a project, we take a look at that,” said Campbell.

It’s not clear why the “dam” was destroyed in the winter, instead of waiting until spring, she added.

“You’d have to talk to Community Services,” she said.

Planning for the wharf as been underway for a number of years, said Community Services infrastructure and development director Pat Molloy.

In October, brush was cleared from the site in preparation for the concrete pilings and underwater wharf supports.

“Our permit from Fisheries and Oceans requires the in-water work be done in March and April,” said Molloy.

During these fall preparations, the beavers were discovered.

At first, Environment suggested fencing off the area, so they beavers could be trapped, said Molloy.

But after Environment assessed the situation, a decision was made to remove the lodge.

“The intent was to relocate the beavers,” he said.

By removing the pile of sticks surrounding the entrance in the bank where the beavers lived, Community Services hoped to force the beavers to relocate, he said.

Why the beavers’ food and lodging were destroyed during the winter rather than waiting until spring remains a mystery.

“Would removing it in March be any different that November?” said Molloy.

“I don’t know, I’m not a beaver expert.

“But the intent was for the beavers not to be there in the spring.”

Initially, there was some suggestion the beavers might relocate to a big lodge upriver.

But beavers are territorial, said Campbell.

Hungry, homeless beavers would not be welcomed at another lodge.

On Thursday, Molloy walked around the area and saw some markings that suggested the beavers could still be around, he said.

Lots of people knew these beavers, said Timpani.

People walking their dogs, or hanging out with their kids saw the beavers all summer.

“And now they’re sitting there with no food.”

It’s a very sad story about wildlife in the city, he said.

“It’s not like we’ve done a terrible thing to the beaver population,” said Campbell.

“These were not the only beavers in Whitehorse.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at