Beavers in Fish Creek Provincial Park
Friends of Fish Creek Awarded 2023 ECO Community Impact Award – Sikome Beaver Coexistence Project
The Beaver Coexistence Project is an impactful measure in place to protect Fish Creek Provincial Park and everything that comes with it. Trails, wildlife habitats, and of course the beavers are all conserved under this stewardship program. It’s been over two years since the Province of Alberta’s Watershed Restoration and Resiliency Program (WRRP) accepted our application to fund the first Beaver Coexistence Project in Fish Creek, and we’re continuing to foster coexistence with our furry friends across the Fish Creek Valley.
This new initiative aimed to both alleviate pathway flooding in an area where beaver activity was causing severe pathway flooding and damage, while protecting the animals and their habitat so they can thrive and be the ecosystem engineers, water filtration experts and landscape artists that they are.
Thanks to the WRRP, project partners and our dedicated and skilled Beaver Coexistence Volunteers, the project has included the installation of five flow control devices in the area between Bebo Grove and Marshall Springs.
On August 8, 2022, a dedicated team of Friends of Fish Creek volunteers, and passionate youth from WILD Outside (conservation-based, youth volunteer organization) installed a water flow control device, as part of the Beaver Coexistence Project.
Thank you to everyone who voted for the Friends to help us win this extraordinary award.
Video by Himanshu Sangale
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 urban park 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 building of dams, 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. In fact, dams slowly release water all the time, as they are not 100% water-tight, ensuring some downstream flow even during dry times of the year.
- 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.
About the 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 have installed four simple ‘coexistence devices’, also known 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 possible, but critical, 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 millions of visitors who visit the park each year!
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. The south side of the Marshall Springs stormwater ponds are a good spot!
- Listen for their tails slapping the water or their tree felling activity, most commonly undertaken at dusk.
For Creekfest Reimagined in 2020, our long-time friend and ally, Peter Puffin recorded a special edition of his song All Around Fish Creek Provincial Park featuring beavers. Watch below! And visit our Creekfest 2020 webpage to watch another special recording from Peter Puffin’s Whale Tales!
Photo in upper right courtesy of Stephen Shikaze.