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Busy family of beavers popular with golfers and kids in Yukon may lose out

Posted: 07/29/2014 6:32 PM | Comments: 0

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WHITEHORSE - Four busy beavers may no longer be part of the fairway experience at a golf course in Whitehorse — now that the Yukon government has a permit to fatally shoot or snare them.

The Department of Highways and Public Works has received a permit from Environment Yukon to get rid of the sizable mom and dad beavers and their two offspring.

The beaver family is building dams that threaten to block a culvert near the Meadow Lakes Golf Course.

They've made the golf course their home for the past two winters and boast a prominent lodge on the pond nestled between the sixth and seventh holes.

The industrious rodents can often be seen, especially in the fall, transporting branches across the links and braving the golf balls that slice and hook through their backyard.

"They've recently crossed the road and begun building smaller dams under one of our culverts that runs under the Alaska Highway," said Highways spokeswoman Doris Wurfbaum.

She said the department can now hire a licensed trapper to humanely trap and "dispatch" the beaver family.

"And the term dispatch means destroy."

If the culvert became fully blocked, the section of highway above it could get washed out, Wurfbaum said.

"Our number one priority and responsibility is to make sure that our infrastructure is safe for the public," she said. "It's nothing that we'd like to do or want to do."

The beavers' labour has even made the final hole simpler for local golfers because they're gnawing a dogleg left into a more gradual curve by chopping down trees that act as obstacles to a direct line from fairway to green.

"That hole is aptly known in our group as the Kracken, because it continually kicks our ass," said local golfer Josh Wiebe, referring to a mythic Nordic sea monster and/or black spiced rum.

"So having the beavers there clearing the corner is helpful to our game."

Jeff Luehmann, who owns Meadow Lakes, has come to appreciate the semi-aquatic creatures that roam his turf and frowns at their impending "dispatch."

"Without a doubt, it would be a terrible loss, not just for me but for the public," he said.

"We've had a lot of calls: 'What's going on with the beavers?'"

Luehmann said the animals have unwittingly helped with course maintenance and the bottom line, bringing in families with young children who might not have come without the added attraction of a zoological novelty.

"These guys literally can take out all the willows so that it looks like a hedge. It would take me a month to do what they do in a week."

The beavers haven't always been so helpful.

Luehmann has had to build weirs, unplug culverts and put up electric fences to mitigate their operations.

"Originally, they were a nuisance," he said.

He even called conservation officers and requested sterilization to pre-empt further problems, but that didn't happen.

Luehmann noted the beavers usually "disappear down Fox Farm Road" for the summer, but this year have opted to set up shop right across the highway.

"I've seen the culvert. It's probably half blocked. Whether they'd continue to block it is anybody's guess," he said.

"Hopefully, the little buggers are smart enough ... to come back on the property."

A "minor intervention" such as a fence is one possibility to address the human-beaver conflict, said Environment Yukon spokeswoman Melissa Madden.

If that's not possible, the animals could be relocated or humanely destroyed, she said in an email.

While relocation often seems more appealing, beavers are loath to leave their homes and may have trouble surviving in a new location, where they may be in competition with other beavers, Madden said.

"First, they need to be located in an area free of other beavers (and) rebuild their houses, which uses up a significant amount of time and energy," she said.

"If the beavers are nurturing their young while rebuilding, they will use up even more energy. And even if the beavers successfully rebuild, when winter comes they may not have enough food stored to survive."

Trapping the animals is a high-risk endeavour, Madden said.

They may overheat when held in traps and it's difficult to capture an entire family of beavers, she said. (Whitehorse Star)

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