Take a walk around beautiful Vancouver and you’ll see beavers everywhere. Beaver backpacker pubs, beaver microbreweries, beaver landscaping companies, beaver pastry shops, beaver hardware stores and beaver cannabis dispensaries. Once upon a time, Vancouver was even home to a beaver minor league baseball team.
However, the real deal — that is, bucktoothed semi-aquatic rodents with a remarkable penchant for engineering — are a more elusive sight. The beaver may be iconic in British Columbia's largest city — it’s the national animal of Canada, after all — but it isn’t as prevalent as it once was … at least outside of Stanley Park.
So when not one but two beavers appear out of nowhere and pretty much commandeer a man-made pond located within a sustainable housing developing erected for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, of course it’s going to generate some excitement.
And these especially industrious beavers — believed to be a couple with babies on the way — have shown no signs that they’re simply moving through the area en route to somewhere a little more, well, beaver-friendly.
They’ve found a new home.
Co-opting Olympic Village’s Hinge Park like only a national animal can, the rodents have swiftly made their well-gnawed mark on the area. When not sleeping, the pair can be found swimming, damming, felling trees and constructing a lodge — and “quite a large one” as Vancouver Park Board biologist Nick Page explains to the CBC — in the middle of an artificial wetland environment designed and built to handle stormwater runoff.
Thus far, the beavers have proven themselves to be decent — if not a touch reticent — neighbors, attracting a large number of curious callers from across the area.
“We saw the beaver five minutes ago. He came out from the water," one local breathlessly relayed. "He was big and beautiful. We tried to feed him some bread ... we're waiting for him to come back.” (Note: It’s best not to ply wild beavers with baked goods, as they much prefer leaves, bark and assorted twigs.)
Other residents of Olympic Village might categorize the messy architectural handiwork of these plus-sized rodents — amongst largest in the world, second only to the perpetually blissed-out capybara — as an eyesore. As for the beavers, which naturally have their own Twitter account, they couldn’t give a dam(n).
While the very presence of these busy urbanite beavers is making headlines, the fact that they’ve decided to settle in a relatively new, man-made body of water in the middle of a major city and go about their business in the same way that they would in a natural riparian habitat is a testament to the adaptability of Mother Nature’s hardest-working critters. As Charles Mudede writes for Seattle alt-weekly The Stranger, the Olympic Village beavers have opted to settle in a “constructed niche in a constructed niche.”
The beaver couple do pose a concern to Vancouver wildlife officials, particularly with regard to tree damage and habitat loss of other animals, birds mostly, that now find themselves sharing their habitat with nonstop tree-felling machines.
"Five or 10 years ago, we would hire a licensed trapper to live-trap and relocate the beavers to another habitat. But those habitats are now full of beavers as well, so there's really no open habitat to relocate beavers to,” Page explains to the CBC.
"We could hire a licensed trapper and relocate farther afield like Kamloops or Vancouver Island, but with an expanding population, beavers are going to be back in these parks in a year, two years, five years, and we'll only be looking at the same process again.”
To prevent damage to vegetation in the long term, Page explains that park officials are considering altering its planting scheme to exclude willow trees, which beavers are particularly eager to sink their teeth into. In the short term, park officials plan to wrap larger and more vulnerable trees near the pond with metal mesh and fence certain areas off so that they’re inaccessible to the beavers. Rude.
A similar, tree-protecting tactic is used at Beaver Pond in Stanley Park, although the mesh barriers have been removed in the past by humans.
Whatever the case, unless things take a turn for the worse, officials have no immediate plans to give Olympic Village’s newest residents the boot.
“We're still learning as we're going in terms of beavers. They haven't been in many of these parks in decades, says Page. “Beavers are here to stay in the city, and we have to learn to live with them."
It’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time that beavers have been spotted in and around the artificial channels of Hinge Park and near False Creek, an inlet that separates downtown Vancouver from the rest of the city. But like the Wendigo or Ogopogo, beaver sightings at Olympic Village have taken on a mythical quality — the flat-tailed furballs seem to vanish as soon as they’re reported. The village’s newest resident rodents, however, appear more than eager to stick around.
Via [CBC], [The Stranger]