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City committees pass updated wildlife strategy with some concessions for beavers

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The City of Ottawa's Agriculture and Rural Affairs and Environment and Climate Change committees have voted to approve a new wildlife strategy, with some changes to accommodate for coexistence with beavers.

A motion tabled by Coun. Clarke Kelly directed city staff to examine and identify specific areas where alternative beaver management practices, such as the use of flow devices, could be used in place of lethal trapping.

The city kills around 150 beavers every year as part of its wildlife management strategy. Wildlife advocates have been pushing for the use of flow devices, which allow the beavers to stay while preventing flooding.

The city is bound by provincial laws that regulate the flow of water and the handling of wildlife. For beavers, in particular, the city cannot relocate them too far away, which means that in nuisance cases, the beavers are killed.

The new policy does not eliminate that possibility, but the amendment to study flow devices allows for options where available, while being in compliance with the provincial Drainage Act.

"Current beaver management practices will remain legislatively necessary, both for municipal drains and engineered stormwater infrastructure, to ensure stormwater runoff is safely collected and managed to prevent flooding while protecting the environment," the City of Ottawa says. "Outside of these instances, the City will explore using alternative beaver management practices, including flow devices and pond levelers."

Kelly's motion calls on city staff to create an inventory of existing drains and watercourses with ranking of beaver conflicts and feasibility of alternatives for each, and costing for those alternatives, identify specific locations where flow devices can be used, complete a summary of the amount of times per week that staff inspect and clean culverts and break up beaver dams, and invite a flow device expert to provide recommendations on how to integrate flow devices into city practices.

Other municipalities, such as London, Ont., make use of flow devices in their beaver management strategies. These devices are intended to protect culverts or manage the water level of beaver ponds where dams exist. Beavers are attracted to the sound and feel of moving water and will instinctively attempt to stop it. Flow devices are built in such a way to protect the flow of water while hiding it from beavers in the area.

Other changes to the wildlife strategy include hiring a wildlife resource officer to support and lead the city's wildlife management policies and to adopt a municipal response strategy to reduce human-coyote encounters.

The strategy must still be approved by full city council. Councillors will vote on it June 25.

--With files from CTV News Ottawa's Katelyn Wilson and William Eltherington

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