A dozen local beavers were killed as a result of a trapping initiative sanctioned by the District of Squamish.
The initiative sent a ripple of anger through wildlife advocacy groups before being stopped for review Wednesday evening (Oct. 28).
The district hired Langley trapper Peter Alan to kill beavers that are posing a flood risk by damming culverts along Loggers Lane near the Adventure Centre.
Alan said the beavers cause flooding when dams block culverts, and they present risks to people and property by gnawing partway through trees and leaving them susceptible to falling.
"The beavers I remove are only the ones that are absolutely causing problems," he said.
According to Alan, the beavers are killed instantly by underwater Conibear traps, which act like "giant mouse traps."
But Big Wildlife's Brian Vincent said Conibear traps are not a humane alternative because the devices kill fewer than 15 per cent of animals instantly, he said.
"Many animals die slow, painful deaths as their abdomens, heads, or other body parts are crushed," he said in a letter to the editor in response to an article posted on The Chief's website on Monday (Oct. 26).
"It can take up to 10 minutes for a beaver to drown in a Conibear trap placed underwater."
Alan received $75 per beaver until his trapping methods were brought to the district's attention, said Mayor Greg Gardner. The culling project has now been suspended, he said.
When the district hired Alan to cull the local beaver population it did so with the understanding that the animals would be caught in live traps and taken away to be euthanized, said Gardner. The beaver population was not assessed so the potential scale of the cull was unknown.
"Our need on behalf of the community is to make sure the infrastructure remains viable. We've had serious flooding issues in the past and we're going into the season where that is a concern. Those issues are what trigger a response," said Gardner. "There was not a set number to be destroyed. We react in response to problems."
Alan said he has worked as a professional trapper for the last 45 years. When the Langley Township experienced flooding due to beavers in the 1990s, a relocation initiative moved them to an area near Squamish. Alan said he took part in that initiative, but relocation is no longer possible.
"Right now it's literally inhumane to try to relocate it because all you do is put it in some other beaver's territory, and they fight until one of them is dead."
Local conservationist John Buchanan, who informed the district of the controversial trapping methods last week, accused the district of failing to review less lethal solutions to beaver dams. He said certain beaver-control products are designed to prevent beavers from plugging culvert entrances without harming the beavers or preventing fish passage.
Killing beavers is not a permanent solution, he said.
"You can remove two beavers out of a culvert and three are going to take their place. This isn't going to solve anything," said Buchanan. "I just feel that they're going into this thing without really thinking about it."
Gardner said the district explored alternative solutions such as relocation and non-lethal methods of preventing culvert obstruction, but they were deemed unsuccessful.
Non-lethal solutions have been used during conflicts between the district and beavers as recently as last year. In 2008, the district and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans installed a beaver box in Valleycliffe's Little Stawamus Creek culvert after beavers started causing floods and obstructing fish passage.
The beaver box covers the culvert and acts as a diversion so if a beaver builds a dam on top it doesn't obstruct fish flow.