Living and Working Alongside Beavers in the Biosphere

Learn more about Alberta Environment and Park’s innovative work in the biosphere with beaver monitoring and management - and how these efforts will help shift public focus on this keystone species.

Beavers, dubbed ‘ecosystem engineers’ because they can alter a landscape so drastically, provide many benefits to an ecosystem such as creating wetlands, fostering biodiversity and ensuring clean water.

Yet, when beaver habitat and activity overlaps with competing recreational and infrastructure use, it can be difficult to find harmonious ways to coexist with this iconic Canadian symbol. In an effort to mitigate beaver management concerns, Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) Central Region staff have been working collaboratively with several external partners and stakeholders to find innovative ways to support long term co-existence between recreational opportunities and beavers in parks.

Through the update of AEP Central Region’s strategic approach to dealing with beaver activities in protected areas, the province will improve operational efficiency and achieve cost savings while demonstrating excellence in co-existing with wildlife. Sharina Kennedy, Senior Parks Planner with AEP, and a key staff member involved in the work, explains.

“These efforts are innovative because it brings together existing tools, resources and expertise from a number of places in the field of beaver biology and beaver management, and applies it to the park setting, which has not been done before.”

The biosphere connection

AEP, a key partner of the Beaver Hills Biosphere, is conducting beaver management work within the Cooking Lake Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area, which is a core area within the biosphere.

The area is a popular recreation destination and houses healthy beaver populations alongside extensive wetland habitat. However, the area has an inventory of management concerns caused by beavers including damming of bridges and flooding of trails. Sharina and her team are assessing opportunities to address and mitigate these problems through the use of infrastructure or through potential trail re-routing. Their work will serve as an alternative to falling back on historical methods including lethal removal and trying to work against the activities of beavers, both of which have proven cost ineffective.

One part of the whole

When you are far within the reaches of the park, the surrounding natural beauty is immersive. While looking up at a canopy trees, listening to the chorus of hundreds of species of birds, the chirps of thousands of frogs, it doesn’t strike you immediately that this would be a very different park without beavers and the habitat they’ve built for biodiversity.

“Fundamentally, this connection with nature is why it’s so important to share the story of beavers as partners in landscape design and architecture,” adds Sharina.

Stay tuned for AEP’s updated strategic approach, which can assist other land managers with beaver management and is applicable to recreational areas and parks across Alberta.