They might be a beloved Canadian symbol, but beavers are being anything but patriotic in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge, Que.
There are roughly 800 beavers and 200 dams in the small western Quebec municipality, located about 100 kilometres east of downtown Ottawa, according to Mayor Tom Arnold.
And all those dams, Arnold says, are causing major damage.
“We’re talking about approximately 35 square kilometres of our municipality, right now, that’s under water because of the beaver,” Arnold said.
“The damages are extensive.
The problem has been growing over several decades, Arnold said, and fixing washed-out roads can cost upwards of half a million dollars. As an example: one two-kilometre stretch of a local road was torn up last year, he said, and will have to be repaved at a cost of $500,000 to $700,000.
It’s also causing property values to drop, particularly if sections of land are deemed unusable due to flooding, Arnold said.
While the municipality already allocates an annual budget of $10,000 for both trapping and installing water level control devices, Arnold wants more flexibility from the province to manage the animals.
“It’s a problem that we have to get rid of,” he said. “The beavers have to be eradicated.”
Problems for farmers, too
A spokesperson for Quebec’s Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks told Radio-Canada that there is no data on current beaver populations in the province.
A 2014-2015 report from the ministry, however, said that the species even then was considered to be abundant and likely undertrapped — something the province believed could lead to increased conflict.
The ministry declined an interview with Radio-Canada.
The flooding is also posing problems for farmers like John McCart, who grows corn, soybeans and wheat and spends about $3,000 a year to manage the beaver situation.
“You want to plant seed in the best conditions possible, to have the best crop at the end of the year, and [planting seeds] in water doesn’t work,” said McCart, who sits on the board of The Union of Agricultural Producers for the Outaouais-Laurentian region.
If the land is too wet, there can also be problems at harvest time, McCart added.
Fur industry decline to blame
In order to get rid of dams, property owners have to first go through the municipality, which can take time, McCart said.
That’s led to some farmers taking matters into their own hands, he said, either by destroying the dams or killing the animals.
McCart said the rodents are a growing problem across Quebec, and the decline of the fur industry isn’t helping.
“A few years ago, we established a committee to twin farmers and trappers together,” he said.
“Unfortunately, there is nobody new coming into the trapping industry. There’s no money in it … [what’s] ideal is if the government could help trappers and help farmers control the beavers on their property.”