Beaver Dam Removal

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You have selected this document because your project involves Beaver Dam Removal in or about a stream. Complete beaver dam removal should be avoided and only considered after all other beaver management tools have been exhausted, an emergency situation has arisen or where measures can be taken to ensure no harmful alteration of fish habitat. When planning your project develop designs and select locations to minimize potential impacts to fish and fish habitat. If your works are outside the scope of this Guidebook then a MOE Approval application must be completed and DFO contacted to determine if a review and/or Authorization under the Fisheries Act is appropriate.

How to proceed with your Beaver Dam Removal Project

The following steps will help guide you through the provincial and federal Notification, Approval and/or Authorization process for Beaver Dam Removal works:

Does your project involve Beaver Dam Removal in and about a stream?
Proceed to Introduction to reselect project appropriate activity
Contact your local MOE and/or DFO representative for assistance.
Have you considered all applicable Legislation, Regulations and Policies?
Proceed to Introduction for further details on Legislation, Regulations, Policies, Avoidance of HADD under the Fisheries Act and applicable Region Operational Statement(s)
Proceed to BMP Section of this document and apply relevant BMPs and Conditions to help your project adhere to the required Standards and Conditions.
See MOE Approval and DFO Authorization Section and submit a Wildlife Act General Permit or Return to Introduction
Submit MOE Notification 45 days prior to beginning work

Best Management Practices

The following Best Management Practices (BMPs) are methods, that if followed, will help ensure your project minimizes potential impacts to fish and fish habitat and will provide a standard level of protection to the aquatic and terrestrial environment potentially affected by your project.

It is the responsibility of the proponent/developer to ensure that they are in compliance with all applicable legislation. There are three (3) types of BMPs you should consider:

  1. General BMPs and Standard Project Considerations applicable to any project;
  2. Beaver Dam removal BMPs (below); and,
  3. Supportive information applicable to project design, implementation and Beaver Dam removal techniques.

General Project BMPs and Standard Project Considerations

Please proceed to the General BMPs and Standard Project Considerations section to review considerations applicable to your project.

Beaver Dam Removal Specific BMPs

To achieve the required Standards and objectives that your activity must meet, apply the following BMPs as applicable to your works. To reduce impacts on fish and wildlife habitats and populations, your Beaver Dam Removal activities must consider:

Beaver Dam Removal


BDR01 ensure General BMPs and Standard Project Considerations have been consulted and appropriately applied prior to commencement of work;
BDR02 consult Regional Timing Windows prior to beaver dam removal;
BDR03 dam removal is generally ineffective when not used with other management techniques, as beavers will usually repair the breach immediately. Consider complete beaver dam removal only in the following circumstances (see Beaver Dam Management BMPs for further information):
  • after all other management tools have been exhausted;
  • where an emergency situation arises; and,
  • where measures can be taken to ensure that no harmful alteration to fish or fish habitat will occur.
BDR04 prior to dam removal obtain authority for ingress/egress through and over private land from all property owners. Authority should be in writing and signed by the land owners (See Water Act Part 7, Section 43);
BDR05 notify all downstream licensed water users, prior to dam removal;
BDR06 it is your responsibility to ensure that a proper fish presence/absence assessment has been conducted. Where fish are present in any of the watercourse, conduct a fish salvage prior to the removal of the dam. A qualified professional(s) must complete the salvage and acquire necessary collection permits prior to works from MOE (157.39KB PDF) (for freshwater fish species) and DFO (for marine fish species) and comply with applicable regulations and legislation (See General BMPs and Standard Project Considerations: Salvage of Fish and/or Wildlife section for further information);


BDR07 immediately notify MOE and DFO if significant damage to a stream channel or fish habitat or significant quantities of deleterious substances occur to a stream as a result of beaver dam removal works (MOE Environmental Emergency Management Plan incident reporting hotline 1-800-663-3456; DFO Observe, Record and Report hotline 1-800-465-4336);
BDR08 exercise all reasonable care to avoid damaging any land, works, trees, stream-banks or other property during the course of beaver dam modification or removal. Full compensation to the owners must be made for any such damage or losses;
BDR09 remove/side cast all dam debris from the site to prevent the beaver from reusing it to repair the dam and damaging riparian vegetation, where feasible;
BDR10 remove only one dam at a time. If a series of dams are to be involved, begin with the most downstream dam and progress upstream;
BDR11 do not use explosives as a dam removal technique unless MOE and DFO provide authorization;
BDR12 complete dam(s) removal in a controlled manner and undertake in incremental reductions in dam height (20 cm at a time). After each drop in dam height, allow subsequent water level and sediment plume to stabilize prior to the next level drop, this will enable flow control downstream;
BDR13 remove dam debris by hand or light machinery (wherever possible);
BDR14 remove debris with mechanical equipment or by hand once the water level behind the dam is low enough to ensure that no undue scour of the stream channel will occur;
BDR15 if you must use machinery, position it in a manner that will cause as little ground and vegetation disturbance to the stream bank as possible and incorporate measures such as swamp or bush matting, where appropriate;
BDR16 machinery must work from the stream bank or naturally dry channel rather than within the wetted perimeter of a stream. Only the digging bucket from machinery should enter a stream;

Post works migration

BDR17 maintain effective erosion and sediment control measures until complete re-vegetation of disturbed areas is achieved;

Beaver Dam Management

BDR18 consider different design strategies to address project specific circumstances and provide effective alternatives to repeated removal of these barriers;
BDR19 if you choose to use fencing to restrict beaver access to upland vegetation you should adhere to the following guidelines:
  • fence mesh openings should be small enough to prevent entry by beaver kits (<15 cm); and,
  • fencing should be placed above the winter high water mark (HWM) of the watercourse.
BDR20 beavers prefer to construct their dams in low gradient locations where there are natural constrictions in the stream flow and a ready source of food and building materials. This often means that road crossing culverts become prime targets for dam building activities. Where fish habitat and adjacent land values require free flowing stream conditions, it is recommended that road culvert crossings be prioritized for eventual replacement with clear span bridges (wherever feasible). Replacement of a culvert with a free span bridge requires submission of a Notification, compliance with BC Reg 204/88 Part 7 of the Water Act and DFO approval (see Culvert and/or Bridge section(s) for further information);
BDR21 consider culvert design conversions on small, low gradient systems where protection of fish access is desirable and frequent maintenance can be undertaken. Commercial products exist that can be fastened to the upstream end of a culvert (see Culvert and/or Bridge section(s) for further information); and,
BDR22 use of both short-term and long-term planning for beaver dam management to ensure that activities undertaken are effective. Effective plans and monitoring of beaver dam management techniques can reduce operational and liability costs. A beaver management plan should consider and include all of the following:
  • dam modification and debris management options;
  • population management strategies; and,
  • dam removal only where absolutely necessary.
Where to start?

If you are unfamiliar with Instream Works, please use the interactive Introductory flowchart to help guide you through the process.


Important words, denoted by blue underlined text are defined in the glossary.

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More information...

See the Supportive Information section at the end of this document for links to other websites and documents.