Awarded to the BC Conservation Foundation to restore and enrich beaver habitat in the remnant lower Duncan valley bottom to address habitat loss and the need for climate resiliency.

PROPONENT: BC Conservation Foundation (BCCF)

DESCRIPTION: Beavers are known throughout North America to be ‘wetland engineers’ and a keystone species that creates and maintains critical habitat for many other species. They are increasingly being hailed as one of the most cost effective and sustainable solutions for restoring biological diversity, mitigating climate change and inspiring ecological resilience.

Where beaver were once abundant in other parts of western North America but are now absent or rare, actions that have been taken to restore populations include building beaver dam analogues (BDAs) to ‘kickstart’ the use of areas by beaver. These actions include: re-introducing beaver pairs, food planting, provision of material for larger dam-building and provision of low-cost technology/ advice to facilitate human and beaver coexistence. The information available indicates success rates are high for well-planned kick-start and population augmentation projects, and the ‘works’ quickly become self-sustaining as beavers establish and wetland habitats expand.

This project aims to apply some of these techniques and others to help restore the beaver population along the lower Duncan River following a habitat assessment and population inventory in 2020 that observed a marked decrease in the number of beaver colonies along the lower Duncan floodplain compared to 2010. Beavers once were, and hopefully will return to be, an important ecological force in this beautiful valley bottom.

OBJECTIVE: The overarching goal of this project is to encourage a healthy population of beavers along the lower Duncan River along with successful, durable beaver wetland-creation “works” such as damming, inundation, dredging and canalling.

To achieve this goal given the current low beaver numbers along the lower Duncan River, the specific objectives of this project are to: 1) Carry out small-scale, low-tech actions at project sites to mitigate the stressors and engineering challenges posed by the river for beavers, in locations where the food supply and sediment texture are suitable; 2) Obtain comprehensive pre-work baseline information with which to measure the effectiveness of the projects and develop an ongoing monitoring plan that is efficient and sustainable; and, 3) Explore the possibility of augmenting the beaver population, if needed, by bringing in pairs or families of beavers from nuisance mortality situations in other areas (preferably the West Kootenay).

PHOTOS: Brenda Herbison

This short video provides an excellent overview of the project.

Brenda Herbison with the BC Conservation Foundation presented on this project as part of the 2020 KCP Virtual Spring Tour held on June 22, 2020 featuring five projects that receive funding from the Kootenays’ two Local Conservation Funds.