Tourist attractions: Vancouver suburbs dammed up by gophers

A Vancouver suburb has done some elk poaching, but its beavers still eat and pee where nature intended.

Back in February, beavers became residents of Dove Falls (the name means “globe” in the local language). “I just looked out and went ‘God, that’s not right,’” Owen Peery, principal of the North Ridge School District where the beavers live, told the Maple Ridge, B.C., Times-Leader. “Look how much water it collects … and they look up at it.”

Home to more than 30,000 people and situated in the Fraser Valley, Dove Falls is located in Richmond, B.C., a mill town about two-and-a-half hours northwest of Vancouver. The beavers’ pond – one of dozens of waterways in and around the community – fills with water from melting snow on the forested hillsides around. But in the spring, the pond damns up in a big, thawing puddle of murky water.

Peery says the beavers like to drink from the puddle, which filters out other water pollutants. “They would come and find a lot of junk,” he told the Times-Leader, such as dirty clothes. “It’s like they’re going through a laundry room.”

A biologist agrees that the beavers pose little threat to the area and instead want nothing to do with public relations in Richmond.

“They’re just locals. I would guess that they’re not fond of all the attention,” said Stephanie Tufts, spokeswoman for Metrolinx, the regional transportation agency based in Ontario that runs the transit system in Metro Vancouver.

Metrolinx officials want to alleviate the phosphorus pollution. Officials say that bacteria in the polluted water causes algae blooms and white-colored algae; soon, residents in the area will see large brown pools that look like black paint.

In March, Metrolinx was granted permission to drain the beaver dam, and in April, crews set about construction, clearing the water of vegetation in preparation for the dewatering.

They spent several days draining the pond, clearing out food and building dams for fish. And then they turned their sights on pond ecology.

“They’re just trying to get to the bottom of it,” Tufts said.

Around 10:30 p.m. Friday, the beavers reached a landmark they’d been working toward: They released five small fish, which have a notable three-to-four-inch jaws, into the water.

Some responded to the moment with cheers. “This sounds like tribal times,” one person, described by the Times-Leader as a man, said through a megaphone.

But Metrolinx also received nasty Twitter messages. “Bureaucrats buying up wild animals as trophies just as climate change makes vast areas of wilderness impossible to study and return,” said one.

In some sense, Metrolinx had hoped that they’d received angry calls and upset texts. A beaver website showed pictures of beavers who had been harassed by the city’s power plant.

Beavers for a middle school! Next up the Pipes Slide & the Anchorage! So cute! 😂😂 — Mike MacDonald (@flurlockpoint) May 23, 2016

Some of the beavers are actually friendly, according to Metrolinx. “They’re kind of beloved; they have been seen defecating in front of the media,” the Times-Leader reported. And one resident who is worried about what will happen after the pond is drained told the paper that the beavers didn’t mean any harm, that they were just “experiments.”

But an official statement on Metrolinx’s website attributes the population boom to “extremes of precipitation and temperature.”

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