Posted by: Vicki Burns | February 20, 2011

Beavers, Wetlands and Lake Winnipeg – Pesky Rodent or Eco-Hero?

I was delighted to open my Globe and Mail today to find this article, Our Rodent Saviour by Erin Anderssen with charming illustrations by Dushan Milic. Its all about the ecological benefits provided by beavers related to their dam building and the positives associated with that. As a person who got my start in environmental awareness because of my interest in animals and their welfare, I’ve often been dismayed at the bad rap given to beavers. In Manitoba I have been aware of several municipalities that actually put a bounty on beavers because of their dams creating flooding. I understand why we don’t want roads flooded and culverts blocked but instead of an all-out annihilation of the species, why not look at how to find a balance with beavers to allow them to contribute all of the positives they can.
The environmental benefits offered by beavers include raising the water table, increasing biodiversity, decreasing pollutants amongst others. In the Red River Valley where we’re consumed these days with fears of flooding, beaver dams can assist with slowing down the flow from tributaries, helping to reconstruct wetlands and clean some of the pollutants as they flow through the dams. Apparently one study of a river in Russia looked at the pollutants emanating from a cheese factory and what happened after the water had passed through nearby beaver dams. The water was almost as clean as it had been before the factory. Lake Winnipeg could certainly benefit from any pollutant cleansing natural action.

image of beaver swimming

Beaver swimming through stream, photo credit We For Animals

The subject of beavers and our reactions to them, reminds me of the folly of humans thinking that we can “control nature” rather than having the utmost respect for nature. Isn’t it becoming clearer to us that our very existence is reliant upon being able to live harmoniously with nature? I hope so.


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