Beaver Management Program

Our City offers plenty of trees and few natural predators for beavers, which makes it an enticing environment for them.

The Program

Why do we require a beaver management program?

Like most municipalities that are adjacent to waterways and water bodies, we face challenges in integrating the natural elements of a semi-aquatic ecosystem with urban uses. We recognize the great value that beavers provide to the ecosystem and work to ensure that beaver populations and the supporting ecology are cooperatively able to support each other.

One of the particular challenges faced by municipalities is effectively managing beaver activity and beaver populations. These mammals are incredible builders, constructing dams and lodges throughout the parks and waterway systems. In a completely natural setting, beavers are managed through natural selection, predators and harsh environmental conditions. In an urban setting, predators no longer become a major factor, environmental conditions are enhanced (food sources and water flow increase) and as a result, over-population can and has become prevalent.

Beavers do present challenges to municipalities in that they can remove large numbers of trees, create safety hazards (from partially chewed through trees), can flood infrastructure and damage surrounding ecology through the damming of wetlands, rivers and creeks.

What do we do to manage beavers?

We have a beaver management program that includes: monitoring waterways, developing innovative approaches to work with the existing beaver population, and managing the beaver over-population.

  • Monitoring Waterways - Parks and Ecological Services staff regularly monitor the park system and check for damaging beaver activity. Where populations of beavers are not significantly impacting the flow of water, removing formal landscape trees, or creating dangerous conditions; the sites and beavers are identified but not disturbed. Where waterways are prevented from flowing, and flooding conditions arise; which significantly impact downstream conditions, damage infrastructure, cause private property damage or significantly impact the surrounding ecology; Environmental Services and/or Parks Section staff take steps to mitigate the damage. Historically, the dams have been physically removed but recently new initiatives undertaken by the Parks Planning and Ecological Services staff have been focused on maintaining water flow and maintaining dam structures through the addition of piping through the existing dam.
  • Developing innovative approaches – the Parks Section has an advanced Ecological Services area that includes a Biologist, an Urban Forester, a Conservation Biologist and a crew of staff focused on managing the natural eco-system that is key to our community. This group works with engineers and staff from Environmental Services to implement many beaver management strategies that include closing off culverts to beavers that reduce breading opportunities, adding beaver dam flow devices that reduce the amount of water held back by dams, and to wire wrap trees to prevent beavers from removing mature vegetation and landscaping.
  • Managing over population - Although a last resort, we do contract a certified trapper to remove beavers from areas as part of a population management strategy. The numbers of beavers removed annually varies based on environmental conditions and annual population estimates.
Where are beavers typically found within our community?

Beavers are very prominent in Piper Creek, Waskasoo Creek, many standing water bodies, and in slow moving sections of the Red Deer River. The best places to see active beaver populations within the city are along the trails adjacent to the Piper Creek, Barrett Park and the Devonian Trails (between Rotary Park and the Bower Subdivision).

Are beavers a protected species?

Beavers are not endangered; however, they were nearly hunted to extinction in the mid nineteenth century for their pelts. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) provides a “red list” annually which identifies that the populations of the North American Beaver are stable.

Do we live trap beavers?

No, the contracted trapper that we hire does not use live traps. All trapping is conducted by a certified trapper using methods that meet or exceed the standards established under the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and included in the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards.

Why not live trap and relocate beavers?

Relocating beavers is a challenge primarily because beaver populations have increased across North America. Because beavers do change the landscape, private landowner and farmers do not want increased beaver populations on their properties. In addition, beavers are territorial creatures and will kill other beavers that encroach on their territory. Research from Alberta Agriculture has shown that relocation of beavers rarely results in survival of the animal. These factors combined with the high cost of a live relocation program have resulted in the current program being in place.

What processes are in place to make the traps as safe as possible for the public?

In order to reduce the safety risks associated with traps, our contractor takes proactive measures to reduce the risks to the public. These measures include: working through the night (when park use is at a minimum), notifying Parks and RCMP members to the location of trapping activities, not using signs (which have historically drawn public interest), and the contractor remains in close proximity to accessible traps when active trapping is taking place.

What do other municipalities do to manage beavers?

The beaver is a common species in municipalities across Alberta. Communities like Edmonton, Calgary and St. Albert participate in beaver control programs to mitigate beaver issues. All three municipalities participate in beaver trapping in the same manner as we do when required.

What is the future of beavers in our community?

We are a strong proponent of preserving a balanced ecological environment while recognizing that we live in an urban setting. The Parks Section and Environmental Services will continue to work collaboratively to ensure that beaver populations in our community are managed appropriately while also ensuring that parks, preservation areas, infrastructure, and private property are adequately protected from damage resulting from beaver activity. 

For more information on living with urban wildlife please visit the Alberta Environment and Parks - Fish and Wildlife website as well as the Canadian Wildlife Federation website or contact the Parks Section at 403-342-8234.