News & Information

News & Updates from the park

10

Sep 2019

Chew on This!!

Posted by / in Information /

Kilcona Park Dog Club and the City of Winnipeg’s Naturalist are hoping that armoring the trunks of Kilcona’s trees with stucco wire will solve a gnawing problem – protecting the park’s trees from beavers and protecting the park’s beavers from themselves!

Beavers have long made Kilcona Park their home. But in recent years, Kilcona’s resident beavers may have become a little too eager and a little too obvious. The bucktoothed creatures have been gnawing healthy poplars and aspens around the south ponds into pencil-shaped stumps.

During the spring and summer, beavers feed on non-woody plants like cattail shoots that grow along the margins of Kilcona’s waterways. The menu switches to shrubs and trees in the autumn as the animals prepare for winter.

After the ponds freeze, beavers feed on the bark of branches and twigs they’ve cached underwater near their lodges.

Their preferred tree species are alder, aspen, birch, cottonwood, poplar and willow. If the supply of their preferred trees is low, they will harvest oaks and some maples. Conifers such as spruce, pines, and hemlocks are their least favorite food.

Until now, the City’s solution to problem beavers has been to trap or shoot them. But howls of protest from Kilcona animal lovers persuaded KPDC’s board to ask the City to consider other options.

This spring KPDC member Ed Skomro noticed a number of nibbled cottonwood stumps along the ponds and decided to do something about it. He took photos and contacted KPDC’s board.

Fresh teeth marks – Photo credit: Ed Skomro

The City Naturalist responded immediately. Ten of the most vulnerable trees with stucco wire.

In June, Kilcona Park Dog Club directors Donna Henry and Christina Montsion met with Naturalist, Kristin Tuchscherer and Kilcona Park Technician, Jessica Mutimer to explore solutions that would protect the trees without sealing their furry foes’ fate.

The solution – banding more trees with stucco wire. This summer, under a partnership between the City of Winnipeg and the Boys and Girls Club of Winnipeg – Clean Machine, students installed wire cages on over 200 trees around the ponds, burning through sixteen 50-foot rolls of wire.

 

 

The City provided funding to hire the four-member team.

Hats off to tree banding stewards – Brett, Josh, Spencer and Skylar

The City  also reviewed its beaver management practices. As an alternative to trapping or shooting animals that fell trees and/or cause overland flooding by damming water bodies, they will rely more on natural solutions that allow trees and beavers to coexist. A promising alternative is to encourage the growth of aspens along waterways. Aspens occur naturally along Kilcona’s South Canal and Forest Trail. The species has adapted to beaver damage by suckering and re-growing quickly.

As Winnipeg faces the imminent loss of much of its urban forest to Dutch elm disease and the emerald ash borer, KPDC’s board has also asked the City to do more to enhance and protect Kilcona’s canopy by planting more trees, especially in the off-leash play area and at the entrance to the on-leash area where the new drinking fountain is being installed. The board requested beaver-resistant conifers to break the wind in winter, and deciduous trees for shade on hot summer days. The request is being considered.

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