Metrolinx is evicting the largest colony of beavers in North America from a protected patch of green space

Transport Authority insists the beavers ‘self-erected’ their homes in Glen Ercan – but residents are defiantly linking the beavers to the safety of the animals

Metrolinx is battling ‘beloved’ beavers by draining the pond where they live. Local residents side with the wildlife

Metrolinx (the Ontario provincial government’s transit agency) is evicting the largest colony of beavers in North America from a protected patch of green space, saying they were “self-erecting” their natural habitat.

The beavers “are doing this on their own”, Metrolinx spokesman Brad Ross told the Globe and Mail this week. “It’s not that we’re pushing them out. We’re saying ‘You’re responsible for what you choose to do’.”

Metrolinx launched the program earlier this year after the beavers constructed a grotto in the crevice of a well that extended to the shores of Lake Ontario.

“They’re basically leaving the pond unfilled,” Ross said. “And as they do that, it’s creating erosion on the pond. It’s closing it off.”

The company apparently followed rules of consultation established by its private contractor, an edict that protects the creatures and their habitats.

That’s not what residents of Glen Ercan, a 2,000-square-metre (22,000 sqft) ravine along Ottawa’s Ottawa River, had in mind. They were terrified by the plan to clear the area of the 300 large dams that are the beavers’ home.

A colony of beavers near Ottawa. Photograph: Donna Anselmi/Canmore Trails Council/Corbis

“They’re beloved of the community,” one resident told CTV Ottawa.

But on Friday, the protesters dug down a shovelful and began mucking out the pond with their hands.

“We’re trying to get Metrolinx to see that there are repercussions,” said Lois Hemminger, a spokesman for the locals’ “Save the Ponds” Facebook group. “The trick is, we need to set the government back on their heels a bit.”

Environmental groups have repeatedly rejected attempts to trap and relocate the beavers, which are protected by the federal government’s Species at Risk Act.

“With such a diverse and complex array of natural habitats, not all accessible opportunities for Canadians to participate in, experience, and enjoy nature are environmental threats,” the Council of Canadians wrote in a statement.

The council said its goal was “to ensure Metrolinx and federal government, along with the cities of Ottawa and Windsor, offer habitats that don’t require special intervention or relocation”.

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