Eager beaver latest to check out benefits of urban living

This beaver has been drawing curious stares after moving into Lake Chipican a few weeks ago. Ronny D’Haene, Special to The Journal

Troy Shantz

Officials are keeping a close eye on Lake Chipican’s newest resident.

A beaver arrived a few weeks ago, and though the city has no immediate plans to relocate the giant rodent, staff is watching for tree damage in Sarnia’s most popular park, said Parks and Recreation director Rob Harwood.

The newcomer adds to a growing incursion by beavers, which have joined coyotes, eagles, opossums, turkeys and other once exotic wildlife now earning a decent living inside city limits.

Nature educator Kim Gledhill said beavers are a “keystone” species whose presence indicates a healthy ecosystem.

She suspects the Canatara beaver arrived on high water levels and will likely move off on its own. Hopefully, the city won’t need to take action because beavers often struggle when relocated to unfamiliar environments, she said.

“Unless I start seeing trees coming down I’m not worried about it,” said the former St. Clair Region Conservation Authority worker.

Beavers set up shop in Logan Pond on the Howard Watson Nature trail several years ago and did cause considerable damage, said Brenda Lorenz, a member of Sarnia’s environmental advisory committee.

“There was some really nice oak trees that had been planted and they were maybe two or three inches in diameter and they chopped them down,” she said.

Beavers also gnawed through most of the poplars on Sarnia’s waterfront The Point Lands a few years ago before moving on.

In 2016, beavers were discovered in Twin Lakes during a routine staff inspection by city staff. The pair was captured in humane traps by a provincially licensed trapper and relocated to the county before they could block up the ponds’ discharge outlet and cause flooding, a city official said.

And last summer a beaver dam near a Suncor tank farm at Aamjiwnaang caused localized flooding.

A species-at-risk technician with the band suggested building dam bypasses, and corrugated pipe made of heavy plastic was installed beneath the dams, allowing some water to flow through the area without disturbing the beavers.