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Beavers calling Vancouver home, numbers up across the country: biologist

A beavers home in a restored marshland near the city's Olympic Village, along the picturesque False Creek is shown in this Tuesday Feb. 2, 2015 photo. City life seems to be appealing to a pair of beavers who have taken up residence in the heart of Vancouver.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geordon Omand
February 03, 2016 - 6:00 AM

VANCOUVER - A pair of buck-toothed homemakers is having more luck than most getting a toehold in Vancouver's red-hot real-estate market after snagging an enviable piece of waterfront property.

A beaver couple has bid adieu to the bucolic marshes of British Columbia's hinterland and taken up residence in the heart of the city's bustling downtown.

The iconic Canadian duo built a lodge late last year along the city's picturesque False Creek in a restored marshland abutting the city's Olympic Village — a residential neighbourhood of gleaming metal and glass apartment complexes built for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

Now the pair may find themselves welcoming new neighbours across the city following a resolution passed by the Vancouver Park Board.

The board has voted in favour of restoring or enhancing 12 hectares of natural land throughout Vancouver by 2020, in addition to the 13 hectares already restored, in order to allow for novel habitats for fish, birds, plants and mammals.

The plan is part of the board's new biodiversity strategy.

"It's amazing when you have the opportunity to hear songbirds in the city, to go fishing for crabs at Jericho Park, catch a glimpse of a river otter at Lost Lagoon or see a beaver right here behind me at Hinge Creek," said Park Board Chair Sarah Kirby-Yung during a news conference Tuesday at Olympic Village.

"These sightings provide an increasingly rare opportunity to see nature in a very rapidly urbanizing environment."

Several dozen beavers are believed to be living in Vancouver.

Elsewhere in Canada's big cities, Calgary's verdant Elbow and Bow rivers offer prime habitat to approximately 200 beavers.

Tanya Hope, a parks ecologist with the City of Calgary, said that while the animals can sometimes prove a nuisance, they also serve a useful role by mitigating flood damage with their dams and removing invasive tree species.

"We're trying to coexist with them," she said.

"We know that they're there and we know that they're working so we're going to hopefully have them work for us instead of working at cross purposes with each other."

During Alberta's devastating flooding of 2013, a beaver dam on Prince's Island Park saved a storm-water pond that otherwise would have been swept away, Hope said.

Winnipeg has about 100 beavers within its city limits and, like most other jurisdictions, manages the loss of vegetation by wrapping trunks with protective wire.

The City of Toronto doesn't keep track of its urban beaver population, but a city guide to its mammals says the aquatic animal is commonly seen along the shoreline of Lake Ontario and throughout the city's streams and corridors.

The animal is North America's largest rodent and a lone beaver can fell more than 200 trees a year, making them a formidable influence on waterfront flora.

Vancouver's city biologist Nick Page said an increase in beaver numbers is being felt across the country and that a decline in trapping is to blame.

"It's less about habitat and more about trapping," Page said. "Historically, beavers were what drove the fur trade."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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