• Stuart Benson

Solve your own dam problems

'Beaver whisperer' no longer available for advice

If you’re having beaver problems, Michel Leclair, president of Éco-Odyssée and David Suzuki-approved ‘beaver whisperer,’ said he understands the nuisance you have on your hands, but unfortunately, he has his own problems managing more than 500 acres of land near Wakefield, which includes hills, forests, agricultural fields, and a 70-acre marsh. In other words, the beaver in your backyard is your problem.


“I don't do that anymore,” Leclair said about giving advice about issues regarding beavers. “If you have beaver problems, call the conservation officer.”


Michel Leclair, president of Éco-Odyssée just outside of Wakefield, said he doesn’t want people calling him about their beaver problems any more. Stuart Benson photo
Michel Leclair, president of Éco-Odyssée just outside of Wakefield, said he doesn’t want people calling him about their beaver problems any more. Stuart Benson photo

However, for the sake of expediency, Leclair was willing to share a few of the insights he has learned from his experience with beavers, cultivating the trails and mazes within the wildlife habitat since purchasing the property in 1997 and with development of the eco-maze beginning in 2002.


When it comes to how humans interact with nature, he said there are basically three ways to do it: the first involves using nature’s resources solely for your own benefit, while the second involves creating a balance toward harmony with nature, so as to make as little disturbance as possible. The third, and the route Leclair took in creating Éco-Odyssée, is getting nature to work for you.


“You just have to know how to do it,” Leclair said.


Leclair points to the practice of mimesis, which in this context means studying and mimicking behaviours and environmental factors in order to better understand why beavers make their dams and how they choose to do so.


“In nature, beavers don't choose their place, it's just there. The beaver is just following sensory stimulus,” Leclair said, explaining that a beaver will make its dam in places that are already conducive for its construction, meaning things like fallen trees and branches over running water is prime waterfront real estate for beavers.


Leclair said the concept of the eco-maze came to him from the network of underwater canals that beavers dig once they have settled into a habitat allowing it to move around throughout the entire year in order to find food and wood to build dams.


When creating the eco-maze on the property, Leclair would dig 'steps' to create an artificial flow of water to attract the beavers to the spot he needed them to build a dam, and the beavers would do the rest. Anywhere Leclair couldn't create an actual water flow, he also used a recording of the sound of running water, which worked just as well, as the beavers would build their dams where the speakers were playing. Fortunately, for those readers looking to get a beaver to not make a dam, the reverse is also true.


“If you don't have that running water and the level is stable, [the beavers] won't make a dam,” Leclair explained. He advises people to make sure to clear any natural blockages to the water flow like fallen trees or branches, which will also help deter castoral construction.


“When you take care to manage the habitat, you won't have to manage the animal,” he added.


If all else fails, Leclair said conservation officers with the Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs are more than happy to help. You can reach their offices Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., at 1-844-LAFORET or 1-844-523-6738.