Beaverspotting… How many Canadians have actually seen a beaver in the wild… in the middle of Metro Vancouver?

– photo Anne Cecile
We wanted to see that great Canadian icon, a beaver… in the wild.  So we rented canoes from Deer Lake at 5:30pm, put them on our cars, and launched them by 6:30 pm at the Burnaby Lake Rowing Pavilion – where a wedding reception was in place.  It was a beautiful warm late-spring day on May 19th, Victoria Day Weekend.  Our party of 10, included 6 members of the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team + 4 family members, one of which was a small child.  This picture features Xavier and his wife Val in the left canoe.  I am in the canoe on the right with KK and Sam.
It was my idea to take people to Burnaby Lake and look for beavers.  From 1993 to 1998, I had lived in a house beside Burnaby Lake, next to the Wildlife Refuge Centre on Glencarin Dr.  We used to have a canoe at the house, and I would drag or carry the canoe down to the lake by myself or with friends.  I would see many beavers, and one summer I counted up to 12 beaver lodges.  During those five years, I also saw the lake become increasingly silt-ified – to the point I could no longer launch the canoe down from our house.  I would have to put the canoe in my car and drive it to the Burnaby Lake Pavilion.   In 2003, one of my first dates with Deb was on a canoe on Burnaby Lake with my friend’s dog… which would gently tip the boat as it would lean from side to side.
– photo T.Wong
Where are we?  The magnificent urban wilderness of Burnaby Lake is in the center of Metropolitan Vancouver, and it is part of the biggest urban watershed known as Brunette River Watershed that drains from Renfrew Heights in Vancouver; Metrotown, Capitol Hill, Deer Lake and Burnaby Mountain in Burnaby; then empties via Brunette River into the Fraser River.  You can see Grouse Mountain and The Lions in the background of this picture- not far away at all.
– photo T. Wong
We found a beaver house, but no beaver…  Everybody marveled at how big the beaver house was.  Big smiles from Xavier, Debbie, Marlowe, Val, Anne, while Deb keeps paddling.  Xavier had canoed many times in Algonquin Park in Ontario, but never seen a beaver in the wild before.  Anne is from France, and wants to see as much of Canada as she can.  Debbie has lived in Vancouver and Hong Kong, and never knew such wilderness existed before in the middle of Burnaby.  Deb saw a beaver last year on Kalamalka Lake, while swimming near her parents’ lakeside home.  The first time I saw a beaver in the wild was in Lake Louise.  A beaver house is not to be confused with a “beaver dam” which is built across a waterway to create a flooded area for the beaver to easily swim and navigate through.  See this link:  how to create a beaver house.
photo T. Wong
In search of the mysterious beaver, we paddled up Still Creek, and had to pass under the pedestrian bridge which is part of the 10km trail that circum-navigates Burnaby Lake.  It was a tight squeeze, but we got underneath the bridge by ducking… it was fun!  Still Creek is very interesting as it enters Burnaby Lake.  You might think you are in the middle of nowhere, but it is right beside the rugby fields, the traintracks, and Government Road.  We paddled under Sperling Road until we came to a dock that blocked the way.  I have paddled past the dock up to Willingdon St., but we decided this was far enough for our evening adventure, and we really hadn’t seen any beavers yet.
Paddling back downstream, I suddenly heard loud shrieking noises.  “Beaver! Look! Look!”  This was quickly followed by a loud “Splash!” as the beaver splashed its tail, and disappeared under the water.  Beavers splash their tails as a warning, to let other beavers know there is possible danger.  We quickly told the the females in our expedition to keep their voices down if they see a beaver, or they will scare it away again.  The next somebody saw a beaver, we alerted each other by quietly pointing in the direction the beaver was swimming on top of the water.
– photo T. Wong
Can you see the beaver in this photo?  You can see its nose, eyes and ears, as it swims with its head above the water.  We quietly watched it swim in front of the beaver house, then climb onto the shore.  It seemed to sit there posing for us for a good ten minutes or more.
– photo T. Wong
You can see how close we were to the beaver, as we sat quietly in the canoes.  It is the little dark spot on the edge of the water.
– photo – Anne Cecile
Mission accomplished!  Anne got this great shot of the beaver!

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