While Lac Ste. Anne County has its fair share of beavers, nothing compares to the dam located in Wood Buffalo National Park. Existing throughout Canada for the last 10 million years, beavers are prolific in the County. Living with beavers can certainly be challenging to landowners due to flooding, increased erosion from fallen trees along stream banks, water quality issues, and wildlife/ domestic interactions. There are also advantages to living with beavers. These creatures provide a multitude of benefits to the landscape, such as water storage and filtration which helps reduce flooding during extreme events. The activities of beavers also provide wildlife habitat, reduce sedimentation and restore wetlands.
The County strives to have many “tools in the toolbox” when managing beavers, including a tail bounty program; a full-time problem wildlife officer; and equipment dedicated to removing dams. The County also works with landowners who wish to keep beavers on their property.
Pond levelers are one solution the County recommends to mitigate harmful beaver activities. A pond leveler is an overflow device that manages water depth while not interfering with beavers. A 40-foot pipe is caged and sunk on one end, while the other end is notched into the dam. Because beavers are triggered by the sound of rushing water, double walled pipes are utilized to reduce noise. Depending on where the high end of the pipe is, water levels can be sustained or even reduced. This allows for the dam and beaver to stay in place, without the adverse effects of flooding.
Ecosystems are complex and require adaptive management strategies to address competing land use decisions and a wide variety of opinions from the public. The County is committed to further exploring options for living alongside beavers for millennia to come.
Pond levelers are not a catch-all solution, and their placement is specifically chosen for areas with defined deep channels, very active beavers, and ease of maintenance for the future. Due to the extensive wetlands across the County (more than a hundred thousand acres), only sites that directly affect infrastructure are eligible for pond levelers. To date, seven pond levelers have been installed since 2017, and are considered a success.