Beavers – Natural Habitat Planners

Beaver (photo: Michael Patrikeev)
Beaver (photo: Michael Patrikeev)

Every day I try to get in a walk to a natural habitat in my area. Sometimes it is just a stroll in my own backyard forest, but often I head over to Halton Regional Forest, or the St Helena Road
area. The big draws of these two sites for me are the ponds, and the ponds would not be there were it not for the industrious activities of our local beavers.

Beaver Lodge photo by Fiona Reid
(photo: Fiona Reid)

About four years ago, I was very disappointed to find one of my favorite beaver ponds off Sixth Line was empty. The grass was starting to fill in. I worried about the frogs, the dragonflies, and all the other animals that rely on that body of water. The two water snakes that shelter in the rocks and come out to sunbathe were nowhere to be seen. A passerby told me that Conservation Halton had removed the beavers and their dams in order to get more water into Hilton Falls, as the waterfall had dried up. They had placed very solid metal grilles projecting out in front of the flowing water so the beavers could not dam the stream at this narrow point where it passed under the track.

Beaver Dam photo by Fiona Reid
(photo: Fiona Reid)

Returning to the same area a few months later, I was happy to see that a pond had reformed. It took me a while to figure out what had happened, but when I crawled under the bridge, I saw what the beavers had done. Our industrious engineers had gone around the back of the culvert and stuffed it full of branches, positioning each branch parallel to the water flow, not perpendicular, as is their custom. The effect was the same, the water flow had almost ceased and the pond had refilled!

Pretty soon, the beavers added to their habitat restoration work by constructing a second dam upstream from the culvert, and order was restored. The branches in the culvert were swept away by storms, but the beaver pond lives on, the water snakes bask, the frogs croak and all is good!

by Fiona Reid
President, Halton/North Peel Naturalist Club