Wildlife conservation students give people something to chew on – beaver (well, not literally)

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Wildlife conservation student Isaac Fortune holds a beaver skull to show how the teeth work. March 7. Steve Clarke photo

By Steve Clarke

Mar. 9, 2017

Isaac Fortune was canoeing with his father when he was younger, when he looked at the water and saw something swimming around. It was coming towards them.

It got closer and closer.

Suddenly, it started splashing. Fortune and his father were startled. Then Fortune looked over the edge of the canoe.

He saw the animal swinging its tail in the water. It was a beaver.

“Wow, that is cool,” he thought.

Now, Fortune is a wildlife conservation student at Holland College and on March. 7. he was in the Holland College library at noon doing a presentation on the adaptations of beavers.

Other group presentations looked at the snowy owl and Madagascar lemur.

Beavers are fascinating because they are the only other animals, besides humans, to alter their natural environment to construct a habitat, he said.

They have unique features, such as their chisel-shaped teeth, capable of chewing through dense wood. They can stay underwater for up to 15 minutes, he said.

Their fur is insulated and waterproof, and their tail serves as a rudder and defence mechanism.

When he was canoeing with his dad, the beaver must have thought they were predators, he said.

Years after that trip, Fortune took his trapper education course. Instructor Carl Balsor showed him the various traps and the process for trapping beavers.

Balsor told stories of beavers avoiding his traps by using sticks to sabotage them, or sometimes by whacking them with their tail.

One day, Balsor took the group to a site near Vernon Bridge, close to a beaver lodge.

He showed them how to set up the trap and how it worked.

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Isaac Fortune and Shauna Sands next to their wildlife conservation project on the adaptations of the beavers March 7. Steve Clarke photo

Shauna Sands is familiar with the process. She is also a wildlife conservation student, and Fortune’s partner for the presentation.

You put the trap close to the dam, and when the beaver gets trapped, it drowns, said Sands.

“And then we get these nice pelts.”

Fortune thinks trapping is a great way to manage the growing population, since beavers can cause problems, such as flooding on roadways.

The beaver is the hardest animal to trap because it is so smart, said Fortune.

But it wasn’t a challenge for Balsor. The group came back to inspect the trap they set. Balsor opened it up and lifted out the beaver.

“Wow. We got the beaver,” Fortune thought.

He got to take the carcass home, where he butchered it and turned it into a roast.

His friends thought nothing of it, and neither did he, said Fortune.

“It tastes just like roast beef.”