Beavers in Fish Creek Provincial Park
Beavers are an important member of the wildlife community in Fish Creek Provincial Park, and the lack of natural predators in this 3,300-acre park surrounded by urban development makes it attractive to these furry, semi-aquatic mammals.
You may have seen signs of beavers in Fish Creek Provincial Park including felling of poplar and aspen trees and flooding of pathways, but did you know that beavers bring many important benefits to the ecosystem?
- Decrease the risk and costs of regional flooding and erosion.
- Pool water, allowing sediment to settle out before water continues downstream.
- Create unique habitat for a diversity of plants, insects, amphibians, fish, songbirds, waterfowl and mammals.
- Retain water in times of high flow to slowly release in times of low flow.
- Can mitigate the effects of moderate flooding and drought.
- Improve water quality downstream.
- Recharge groundwater reserves. This groundwater is then released back into the stream during times of low flow, such as late summer.
The Friends of Fish Creek value the beavers’ many contributions to the local ecology and are working to educate the public and change negative views about beavers. We also recognize the need to balance beaver activity with protection of sensitive infrastructure, such as culverts and engineered storm ponds, as well as benches and trails that are easier and safer to use when they’re not flooded.
For years, the Friends of Fish Creek have been wrapping the base of poplar and aspen trees to deter beavers from moving into attractive areas with sensitive infrastructure. More recently, and thanks to our partners at Alberta Environment and Parks, and with the support of Kinsmen, the RBC Foundation and the Land Stewardship Centre, we have been using an app to digitally record the location and status of beaver activity and wire-wrapped trees in the park. The data collected helps us to prioritize our Tree Wrapping fieldwork, focusing on unwrapping of trees at risk of girdling or death from the wire. To learn more about volunteering in these or any other Friends of Fish Creek programs, visit our Volunteering Basics webpage.
Fish Creek Beaver Coexistence Project
Thanks to financial support from Alberta Environment and Parks’ Watershed Resiliency and Restoration Program, the Friends of Fish Creek are spearheading the Fish Creek Beaver Coexistence Project, aimed at balancing beaver and human needs in the Marshall Springs area of the park, and challenging negative perceptions about beavers.
Collaborating with many partners, such as Alberta Parks, Humane Solutions, You Betula Environmental, Cows & Fish (also knows as the Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society), Miistakis Institute, the City of Calgary and our dedicated Volunteers, we will be installing ‘coexistence devices’ such as pond levelers and culvert exclusion fencing in this area, where current beaver activity is creating problems for visitors and also for land managers responsible for pathways and stormwater ponds. We acknowledge that the park visitor experience is being affected, and believe that coexistence is not only critical, but possible in Fish Creek Provincial Park.
The Fish Creek Beaver Coexistence Project not only has the potential to foster the peaceful co-existence of beavers and humans, and for nature to benefit, but also has the potential to act as an effective demonstration site for the large numbers of visitors who visit the park each year, estimated at 4,000,000 annually!
Tips for observing beaver in the park:
- Visit an area with beaver activity on a calm evening in late summer or early fall, then find somewhere quiet to listen and look for beavers.
- Listen for their tails slapping the water or their tree felling activity, most commonly undertaken at dusk.
Photo at right courtesy of Stephen Shikaze