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Group offers to build fence to save beavers but Yukon animals already killed

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WHITEHORSE - A group's offer to build a fence around a culvert threatened by a family of beavers has come too late because the Yukon government has already ordered the animals killed.

The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals sent a letter this week to Highways and Public Works Minister Wade Istchenko, saying it would construct an enclosure to save the six beavers.

But Environment Yukon said five beavers were destroyed last Friday, and a sixth beaver remains on the loose.

Michael Howie, a spokesman for the animal-advocacy group, said he's disappointed at the government's decision.

“It is very unfortunate that these beavers were killed in what was likely a cruel way, particularly when other solutions are available,” he said.

“That being said, our offer to come to the area and build an exclusion fence to protect any future beavers, because there will be more, still stands.”

Doris Wurfbaum of the Department of Highways and Public Works and Melissa Madden of Environment Yukon were interviewed about the beavers last Friday and Monday respectively, but neither revealed that the animals had already been "dispatched."

“We definitely weren’t keeping it a secret,” Madden said.

The highways department received a permit from Environment Yukon to get rid of the beavers by shooting or snaring them because they were building dams that could block the culvert.

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

The dams are across the street from the Meadow Lakes Golf and Country Club, where families were known to show up to see the animals.

Wurfbaum said that a few years ago, highways staff installed cones designed to keep beavers away from the culvert while still allowing water to flow through the pipe.

“However, it didn’t work,” she said. “The beavers just built a bigger dam that covered both the cones and the culvert.”

Staff set traps late last week, but removed them after public outcry, leaving conservation officers to deal with the problem.

Wurfbaum said the highways minister will reply to the association’s letter, but could not say whether the department would accept an offer of free training for its staff to build the fences in the future.

Howie said installing a fence, a trapezoid-shaped device, has proven effective in other Canadian cities when it comes to preventing culvert blockages and allowing beavers to continue to live in the area.

He said the group built two of them in Mission, B.C., as part of the town’s beaver management program.

“When you remove a dam or remove beavers, other beavers will come and build a new dam, which means more trees are taken down. It’s sort of a never-ending cycle of problems," Howie said.

“I’d like to offer condolences to the people who have visited those beavers over the last few years." (Whitehorse Star)

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