Score one for Whistler's beaver population. A willow tree at Alpha Lake Park is now on its side, chewed over by one or more beavers living in the area.
The tree near the lake edge had a sign on it informing park visitors the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) decided to let the beavers do with the tree as they see fit, as it was beyond repair. Sometime next year another tree will be planted in the area to replace the felled willow.
According to biologist Bob Brett with the Whistler Naturalists, beavers are a native species to the region. He considers them 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.
Before humans came to the area and started logging and farming beavers ruled Whistler's waterways. Accounts from the 1960s indicate Alpha Lake had as many as six beaver lodges around it at any given time, said Brett.
"We've reduced the beaver population," added Brett.
Beavers primarily eat the live parts of deciduous trees. They also use tree parts to create dens, which back up streams and create excellent habitat for other creatures like frogs and salamanders.
Due to the handiwork 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 also said "beaver deceivers" — defined as anything that prevents beavers from blocking culverts — 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 down other trees.
The Conservation Officer Service is aware of the beaver issue in Whistler. Conservation officer Tim Schumacher said his office refers anyone impacted by beavers to professional trappers who are licensed to deal with the rodents if they cause property damage.
"If a landowner has an issue with a beaver they can hire them to go and trap their animal," said Schumacher.
Meanwhile, regular visitors to Alpha Lake Park are being entertained by the slow logging operation taking place at the beach in the park.