The organizer of the province’s first beaver derby says the event was a huge success, bringing in more than 24,000 lbs of beaver meat and pelts that could have otherwise gone to waste.
Ryan Demchynski says he collected 601 beaver carcasses from hunters and trappers across the province over the course of the 40-day contest, which ended May 10.
The contest cost $25 to enter and awarded cash prizes for the largest beaver and biggest combined weight. The largest beaver brought in weighed 83.4 lbs, while the average was 40 lbs.
The nation’s largest rodent causes problems for rural residents, particularly in eastern Saskatchewan, because they block culverts and flood fields with their dams. The provincial government and several rural municipalities offer a bounty for any tails brought in. Demchynski said more than 38,000 Saskatchewan beavers are killed annually, but many carcasses are left to rot in fields.
“The derby was created to make use of those animals,” he said. “Six hundred is quite a small number, but that’s 600 more that are getting a home, being used and not just being left to waste.”
Demchynski said he wants the derby to be an annual event, despite criticisms from animal rights groups like the Vancouver-based Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals who called the event inappropriate, inhumane and ecologically harmful.
The group suggested those affected by beavers should use special flow devices, something Demchynski argues doesn’t work on silt, sand and clay-based flat lands like Saskatchewan.
Even without the derby, Demchynski argues the cull would continue and many animals would go to waste.
Moose Mountain Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre expressed concern about killing parents, but Demchynski said the derby was held before beavers give birth to avoid orphaned animals. He also said he is donating $250 each to the centre and the Saskatchewan Trappers Association education program.