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Beavers prompt landowner to offer property to Athabasca County

Constant flooding near Tawatinaw River leads to frustration
The cute Canadian mascot has turned into a menace for one area farmer who has thrown his hands up in frustration and wants to turn over a parcel of land to Athabasca County since, he claims, beavers have made it unusable for him.

ATHABASCA — Arnold Gerlach has 60 fewer usable acres and $15,000 less in his bank account due to beavers. 

Gerlach sent a letter to Athabasca County council late last year saying he was tired of dealing with the dam-building aquatic mammals which were constantly flooding a portion of his land, so he was absolving all responsibility and at the Dec. 13 council meeting, councillors asked for more information on the property, pest control, and both municipal and provincial regulations which was provided at the Jan. 10 meeting. 

“Mr. Gerlach has sent us a letter and it would make sense to have a letter reminding him that he acquired the land with the pre-existing condition,” said reeve Brian Hall, based on the report from administration. 

Because the Tawatinaw River flows through the land Gerlach owns it floods yearly and while beavers are the first culprits named, a government study shows the land is situated in the flood fringe of the river. 

“(If) we open this up we’ll have people wanting to sell us land all over the place,” said Coun. Rob Minns. “There’s already, I know of one … landowner doesn’t want to have the authority on that chunk of land. It’s a wetland and he doesn’t want to have the obligation if somebody comes in there and rips the heck out of it. Does he have to fix it? So, he wants to get rid of it.” 

Minns said the only option would be to subdivide it and convert it to Crown land. 

“Or the Alberta Conservation Association, or someone like that,” said Hall. 

Assistant agricultural fieldman Ryan Hrywkiw noted the property in question is on the county’s beaver dam removal radar. 

“We get asks in the spring to remove debris as beavers build it up in the spring and we either do hand removal on that specific location or, as equipment allows, we bring in an excavator,” he said. “So, once we have enough projects to make a day's worth of work for an excavator, we can go around and do a milk run and remove beaver dams, because that one's either removed by hand or with an excavator quite regularly.” 

Under provincial and federal regulations, property owners or renters can trap or hunt beavers on their private property and while Athabasca County doesn’t have a eradication program, they do supply problem wildlife specialists to help landowners. 

“On the adoption of a motion to send a letter to the ratepayer and to offer to accept the transfer if he really does want to do it; all those in favor,” said Hall. “That is carried 9-0.” 

Council also decided to review the Beaver Flood Control policy at a future Policy Review Committee meeting or a Committee of the Whole meeting. 

Heather Stocking

About the Author: Heather Stocking

Heather Stocking a reporter at the Athabasca Advocate, a weekly paper in Northern Alberta. Heather covers all aspects of the news in and around Athabasca and Boyle as well as other small communities.
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