Over the course of the last few weeks regular visitors to Alpha Lake Park have been watching the progress of a small logging operation. A willow tree near the edge of the lake now lies on its side, felled by a beaver (or beavers) patiently working away at the tree.
A sign posted on the tree by the Resort Municipality of Whistler parks department informs park users that the RMOW has conceded defeat. The beaver chewing away at the tree will be allowed to continue working on it. According to the information on the sign, the tree couldn’t be saved. Another tree is going to be planted in the same spot next year.
While the Conservation Officer Service (COS) considers the rodents a nuisance animal, biologist Bob Brett thinks of them as the symbol of Whistler’s valley bottom.
“I think beavers are fantastic,” said Brett after learning about the slow destruction of the lakeside willow at Alpha Lake Park.
Before humans came to the area and started logging and farming beavers ruled Whistler’s waterways.
“We’ve reduced the beaver population,” Brett said.
He knows of accounts from the 1960s indicating Alpha Lake had as many as six beaver lodges around it at any given time.
Due to the handy work of the animals, a number of trees in Alpha Lake Park now have wire wraps at their bases to prevent the trees from being chewed by the rodents. The RMOW communications department confirmed that the work was done by municipal workers. “Beaver deceivers” were also installed in culverts at Hillcrest Drive and in Alta Vista to prevent beavers from damming the culverts.
“If a beaver dam is causing problems or could cause flooding of homes or infrastructure, the RMOW Roads Department will remove the dam following Ministry of Environment guidelines,” the communications department said in response to questions about the beaver activity in Whistler.
Beavers in a few locations around Whistler have reportedly chewed trees down.
The COS is aware of the beaver issue in Whistler but conservation officer Tim Schumacher said beavers aren’t considered dangerous wildlife so his office doesn’t deal with them.
Licensed trappers can be hired to catch beavers damaging private property, Schumacher said. He noted there are no licensed beaver trappers in Whistler on the COS list of trappers approved to catch nuisance beavers outside of trapping season.
“If a landowner has an issue with a beaver they can hire them to go and trap their animal,” said Schumacher.
Brett said the beaver diet mainly consists of the live part of deciduous trees. So back at Alpha Lake Park the lakeside willow tree now sitting on the beach will be an open buffet for beavers in the area through the winter season.