At first, the theft of wooden fence posts seemed like a crime of opportunity: amid rising lumber costs, piles of wood have disappeared from construction sites across North America.
But officials from the Canadian prairie community of Porcupine Plain, Saskatchewan, soon identified the culprit: local beavers had stolen the poles to build your dam.
Semi-aquatic rodents were also recently blamed for an internet outage in British Columbia, which left an entire city with access to the web after beavers chewed on a wire. To add insult to injury, the animals had also stolen the telecommunications company’s marking tape to coat their prey.
The beaver is often considered a symbol of Canada, but the two incidents, and a third episode in February when a beaver entered a Toronto subway station, expose the growing friction between the country’s humans and its growing animal population.
Once on the brink of extinction, beavers have made a surprising return in recent generations in both North America and Europe, with their population back in the millions in Canada.
“Beavers have a tremendous influence on everything around them,” said Glynnis Hood, a professor of environmental science at the University of Alberta who has long studied beavers and their effects on water systems.
Few animals can have as profound an impact on the natural world as beavers, who excavate thousands of cubic meters of earth each year to mud their huts, build dams and dig canals.
And for a species often blamed for its destructive tendencies, research continues to show its profound effect on ecosystems. Beaver dams not only help restore valuable wetlands and recharge groundwater, but also filter sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus from the water and create refuges for species like fish and frogs.
But with any animal that overlaps with humans, there are likely to be misunderstandings.
Last month, the Quebec city of Grenville-sur-la-Roug called for its entire beaver population of nearly 800 to be eradicated, after 200 dams on nearby waterways put more than 30 square kilometers of the city under water. , a recurring problem that requires hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to fix.
Collectively, communities across the country spend millions a year to offset the impacts of beavers.
While effective mitigation tools like pond graders are becoming more common, experts say it’s not always fair to blame beavers.
“Sometimes too much weight is put on beavers, but they’re really just reacting to how we change environments,” Hood said. “Where we place our development is important. And how we imagine nature interacting with our built structures also has to come into play when we design them ”.
With communities invading wetlands, Hood says it’s critical to understand that beavers have lived in these areas much longer than humans. As they are increasingly seen as a species valuable to the health of an ecosystem. Hood is optimistic, humans and beavers can coexist, even with the occasional mishap.
“I think beavers are just beavers,” Hood said, noting that they are, by their nature, burrowing creatures. “And if you have a cable that’s only 3 feet deep in the ground, there’s a chance things like this could happen.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism