Humane Solutions' Fish Lyft

Mitigating the Salmon/Beaver Ecological Conflict in Port Moody

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 fish species … yet issues arise when salmon and beavers come into conflict. Just as these streams are home to fish, so too are they home to beavers. Traditional wildlife control methodology prioritizes the fish species at the expense of the beaver population.

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. 

Salmon Bearing Streams

The Salmon-Beaver Conflict

Beavers live in freshwater ecosystems – and Port Moody’s fish bearing streams are an ideal habitat. 

When beavers build their dams, water flow is interrupted – and so is the natural migration of salmon. Because salmon are a keystone species, an interruption to their migration results in a damaged ecosystem. Animals like grizzly bears and killer whales that feed on salmon face a steep decline directly correlated with a severe lack of salmon in the environment.

The conflict between salmon migration and beaver habitat is a complex issue with two distinct dimensions. 

First, it’s important to protect the natural processes within the ecosystem. When there are streams, there are often beaver dams, and it is a part of nature.

Second – intervention is necessary to ensure the survival of both migrating salmon (whose populations are suffering in recent decades) and the species that depend on them for food. The result is a great challenge for the City of Port Moody.

Because of species that feed on salmon, traditional wildlife management companies would approach this issue by defining the beavers as the problem, and prescribing their industry standard of beaver trapping to prevent dams from being built. This approach neglects the fact that beavers, just like salmon, are keystone species that are vital for their ecosystems.

There are many problems with trapping. First, it is a blind approach which cannot distinguish between a beaver, a coyote, a fox, a dog, or a cat.

Second, it is ineffective – because when one beaver is gone from an area – more will undoubtedly come. Beavers are also very intelligent creatures who can evade trapping for years. 

And third, it is inhumane. Traps are designed to hold or kill a wild animal, which often dies through dehydration, blood loss or hypothermia. Trapped animals are often so desperate to escape that they chew off limbs, breaking their teeth and bones in the struggle to free themselves. 

The City of Port Moody recognized that the traditional way of handling the salmon/beaver conflict is ineffective and inhumane, and decided to work with Humane Solutions to create a custom built, alternative solution. 

Humane Solutions' Fish LyftHumane Solutions’ Fish Lyft System

Innovating New Solutions

We saw the quandary of Port Moody’s beaver/salmon conflict and were energized at the opportunity to create an out of the box solution that would allow peaceful coexistence of 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 solve the ecological conflict between beneficial beaver habitats and the salmon that encounter the dams when migrating to spawn.


Humane Solutions' Fish Lyft System
Humane Solutions’ Fish Lyft System

The system is made up of a series of boxes, through which an outflow passes, and a large pipe that connects the system to the pool of water. As the system’s boxes are filled with the leveler’s outflow, the fish move through it into the outflow pipe and then pass into pools by way of the outflowing water. The Fish Lyft is a sustainable solution, able to be used over and over again and scaled up or down depending on the type of cold water habitats – without harm to any animals.

The Fish Lyft is a solution that allows 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. 

We’re so proud to have brought the Fish Lyft – the first-ever project of its kind – to the Canadian Pacific North West in partnership with the City of Port Moody.

This project was an extraordinary success for all parties involved. 

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. 

Thanks to the City of Port Moody’s commitment to sustainability, the salmon population is protected while beavers remain in their habitats. 

We have since conducted multiple presentations, training, and articles on beaver management. For, 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.

We look forward to executing the landmark Fish Lyft project in more cold water habitats for municipalities ready to step away from the ineffective and inhumane past and into the conscientious and innovative future.

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