Beaver Talk for Historic Calgary Week

“From Hats to Habitat Creators” – Thursday, July 29, 2021 at 2:00pm MST

I’m making a virtual trip back to my hometown to give an online talk for Historic Calgary Week presented by the Chinook Country Historical Society. Join me and the Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society’s Katie Bakken to learn about the changing roles of beavers in Calgary.

When Morris Shumiatcher launched Smithbilt Hats near the Calgary Stampede grounds in 1919, most people still thought beavers were good for one thing only: their pelts. Today, we recognize the importance of beavers as habitat creators, water stewards and climate change allies – and organizations like the Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society are working hard to figure out how to coexist with these ecosystem engineers. In many ways, our present-day conflicts with beavers are a legacy of the colonial fur trade. But the beaver benefits that we’re still learning about go back much further in time. This brief history of beavers will begin with their debut 37 million years ago, fast forward through the rise and fall of the dozens of early species, and then zero in on what has happened to North American beavers since Europeans showed up 500 years ago. As our relationship with beavers continues to evolve, a historical perspective can help inform the future.

To register for this event, please visit Historic Calgary Week’s program page.

Hat bodies and traditional wooden hat blocks at the Smithbilt Hats workshop in Calgary. (© Frances Backhouse)