A waterfront city located around the Burrard Inlet, Port Moody is a growing community with plenty of nature to enjoy. The city is surrounded by forested mountains with many productive natural areas like salmonid and other fish-bearing streams. The progressive community is naturally interested in the conservation of wildlife and natural spaces and directs significant energy and resources toward sustainable development. From their policies regarding bears and garbage management to dedicated budgets for initiatives such as maintaining critical fish spawning habitats and beaver colonies.
Beavers have a bad reputation in wildlife management across the spectrum, with the ideal management response being immediate trapping of the beavers and removal of the dams. This reaction is especially prevalent in salmonid-bearing waterways or any stream or river critical to migrating fish species.
The overwhelming conception is that beaver dams inhibit fish migration and salmon spawning, so beavers and their habitats are usually immediately destroyed without question. This has been the standard practice for decades, even with mounting data proving otherwise. Historically, there were far more beaver dams on the landscape than there were now, and these habitats were supporting far greater fish stocks. Beaver habitats have shown to be extremely productive and safe salmonid/fish nurseries.
Tired of the industry standard and determined to find a solution that mitigates the risk to salmon migration while also protecting beavers, Port Moody contacted Humane Solutions Inc.
The City of Port Moody recognized the conventional method of handling salmon/beaver conflicts is not situated in modern data and methodology and decided to contact Humane Solutions Inc. for an alternative solution.
Humane Solutions’ Fish Lyft System
Salmon Traversing Beaver Dams Through Humane Solutions’ Fish Lyft
We saw the quandary of Port Moody’s beaver/salmon conflict and were energized at the opportunity to develop a solution that would allow for the coexistence of these two keystone species without inhumane practices.
Our answer to this ecological problem was the Fish Lyft – a system developed by our team at Humane Solutions with guidance from the Department of Fisheries.
The Fish Lyft is a fish ladder system specifically designed to aid in the ongoing ecological conflict between beneficial beaver habitats and the salmon that encounter the dams when migrating to spawn.
The system consists of a series of boxes in a staircase configuration. Water passes through the boxes and is slowed to create pools that drain into each other. The top box is fed by the large outlet of a pond leveler flow control device. During high water events, the boxes are filled with the leveler’s outflow. Being triggered by the high water, instead of leaping at the dam the fish are drawn to the discharge of the lowest box, entering the system and quickly traversing the dam. The system was a huge success in its trial run, with every salmon approaching the system successfully traversing the dam into the upstream spawning habitat – the water level of which was kept deep and stable due to the presence of the beaver dam.
The Fish Lyft is a solution that allows the coexistence of salmon and beavers. With this solution, salmon are able to migrate and spawn, beavers remain in their ecosystems, and animals like whales and bears that feed on salmon risk less population decline due to lack of food.
Leadership In Conservation
Together with the Department of Fisheries and the City of Port Moody, our team acted quickly to gather the necessary permits to install the Fish Lyft and have it installed within one day. This was done prior to the salmon migration window, so once the Fish Lyft was installed, the salmon arrived quickly after. The trial run was deemed a success after witnessing 100% of the salmon make it through the Fish Lyft and bread in the gravel upstream.
It was fantastic to work with the City of Port Moody whose forward-thinking perspective saw problems with the traditional wildlife management protocol and took initiative toward a more innovative, out-of-the-box solution.
We have since conducted multiple presentations, training, and articles on beaver management. For rewildingmag.com, we contributed to an article exploring the idea of how beavers can make our cities better. 4 years ago, in collaboration with ALUS Canada, Cows & Fish, Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society & Miistakis Institute – we conducted a beaver management training in Alberta.