Defending England’s Beavers

   Posted by heidi08 On October - 24 - 2014ADD COMMENTS


FoE launches legal action to stop capture of beavers in Devon

The environmental charity Friends of the Earth has launched legal action to try to stop the government from ordering the capture of a family of beavers living in the wild in Devon.

 FoE lawyers have submitted legal papers seeking to challenge licences that allow the capture the animals, believed to be the first beavers to live in the wild in England for centuries.

 The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) plans to trap the colony and transfer the creatures to a zoo or wildlife park. It argues they are a non-native, invasive species and could carry a disease.

 FoE argues that because Britain was part of the beavers’ natural range before they were hunted to extinction, they are protected under European law.

Friends of the Earth has picked up the gauntlet and will challenge DEFRA under EU law. Unlike their English overlords, they think 500 years of extinction is enough, and want beavers back on the landscape. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me for those lucky beavers and for all of us who get to read quotes like this over and over in international media.

“We know that beavers can bring many benefits, such as boosting fish stocks, improving biodiversity and helping to prevent flooding – as well as injecting a little more joy into our landscape.

The story was picked up by the BBC this morning, and will be everywhere by tomorrow. The first step was to write a protocol letter to ‘Natural England’ who very unnaturally issued the license for the beavers to be trapped in the first place. This forces them to release more information and is the first step in a judicial review. If you would like to help you can donate to the campaign or sign up for alerts here:

CaptureLet’s hope the next step is “Liberty and Justice for all beavers”

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Defending your Beavers

   Posted by heidi08 On October - 23 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

 Beaver habitat topic of concern

Now after yesterday’s horrors, any sane person reading this headline from The Cabinet in Milford, New Hampshire, would obviously suspect that the concerns were mosquitoes, flooding or giardiasis. But any sane person would be WRONG because this is actually the exceedingly rare and absolutely best kind of concern.

MILFORD – Residents were back before selectmen last week to complain about the breaching of a beaver dam at Heron Pond. It was the second time since the Department of Public Works breached the dam in August that residents, lead by local environmental activist Suzanne Fournier, went to a selectmen’s meeting.

Fournier said removing part of the dam, which was done by hand, resulted in mud flats and harmed many kinds of wildlife.

 Ahh Suzanne! We read about her  almost exactly a month ago – the last time they did this. Apparently they haven’t learned much although Suzanne has been doing her homework. The good news is that this time school is back in session and she brought friends.

Several other residents went to the microphone at the Oct. 13 Board of Selectmen’s meeting to say they were unhappy with the dam breaching, including Suzanne Schedin, a teacher at Heron Pond School, who said the town should reconsider the decisions made 14 years ago when the 270-acre Brox property was purchased to see if development is a good idea.

 Chairman Gary Daniels conceded that town officials should have involved the Conservation Commission in its decision about dam breaching, and Audrey Frazier, commission chairwoman asked the board if they could be informed the next time work is done to the pond.

 Have you noticed how development is always lurking in the wings? The article describes how the selectman responded with the usual weaseling, saying the pond had just been altered, not drained and they shouldn’t worry so much and “Work together for the town.” Grr.  But if I were one of these very select group of men I would pay attention to the fact the Blue Heron School is an elementary and if they’re not very, very careful they will wind up at the next meeting with a room full of these: (The original weasel deflectors).


beaver armythree

(That reminds me, I have to send an email to some teachers.)

In the mean time, if you haven’t seen the scathing editorial from the Contra Costa times about one of our own ‘select men’ you really should read it. And I know this website isn’t supposed to be political but the endorsed candidate Mark Thompson is a friend of our beavers and came to the recent Beaver Safari. Incumbent Lara Delaney who is also endorsed, faught for a chance to be on the beaver sub-committee. And Gay Gerlack who is running for mayor spoke up for the beavers at the original meeting in November 2007.


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Three scoops of stupid

   Posted by heidi08 On October - 22 - 20142 COMMENTS

Every now and then we pass through a news cycle that is so full of beaver benefits and so absent of stupidity I begin to feel like we’ve finally turned an important corner – that all across the country people are understanding more about the good beavers do and why they should solve problems without trapping.

Then there’s a day like today when I remember that people from one side of this country to the other (and everywhere in between) are still deeply committed to their stupidity about beavers. And it shows zero sign of evaporating.

We can start with the tail bounty they’re increasing in Winnebago County in Iowa. From now on, every person who brings in a cut tail will get 50.00$ instead of 25.00. Don’t worry, they have to prove it was from that county. I don’t know how. Maybe the beavers in Iowa have license plates?

Dorchester Struggles With Beaver Troubles

Then we can march 1000 miles across the state to Salem, Maryland where they’re tossing around ecological phrases to justify killing beavers by aiming the USDA at them. These are my favorite quotes.

“They’re damaging the ecological forests, as well as the timber value, because no one is going to be able to go in there and harvest that timber now,” said Libby Nagel of Salem.

“It’s killing the trees and the branches that absorb the nutrients. It’s killing a lot of habitat, mainly causing flooding in fields,” said Eberspacher.

Ecological forests? Absorbing nutrients? Did someone drop out of college after ecology 101?  We should all be reminded of Alexander Pope’s Essay on criticism.

“A little learning is a dangerous thing.
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring;
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
and drinking largely sobers us again.”

Apparently someone stopped reading before they sobered up.

Capture1Click on the photo if you want to see the newscast. The only good news from Dorchester is that when I first saw the story last night they were running it with my very favorite  KIT PHOTO by CHERYL!  I summoned all my doctoral indignation and wrote the station manager that if they were going to rifle through our website and STEAL anything they wanted they might at least have read the information while they were there.

This morning it’s magically swapped for an NPS photo. I thought it might be, so I took this screen shot last night.

changedAnd just when you thought the world couldn’t be any more ridiculous about beavers, there’s this.

Ravens, beaver cause power outages in Willow

According to MEA spokeswoman Julie Estey, the main outage — first reported on the MEA Facebook page just after 11 a.m. — cut power to roughly 3,700 customers. Estey estimates the second incident temporarily left fewer than a dozen people in the dark.

 “It was actually caused by two ravens,” Estey said. “They were actually in a substation, and they took out one of the breakers.”

 The Douglas substation where the breaker was located covers much of Willow all the way north to Talkeetna. Estey says the outage was first detected at 10:56 a.m., with power restored by 12:18 p.m.

 A second, smaller outage reported between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. affected fewer than a dozen people on Willow Fishhook Road. While crews were quickly able to repair the line, the area was within the substation’s coverage area — which meant customers there lost power twice.

 “A beaver cut down a tree and it actually fell onto the line,” Estey said. “So they got their power restored, and then they got hit by the ravens.


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“Made beavers” vs. “Beavers that have Got it Made”.

   Posted by heidi08 On October - 21 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

I came across this video the other day and thought you might find interesting too. It’s a fairly concise description of the fur trade – well, one PART of the fur trade. Calling HBC the fur trade is like calling Shell the oil industry. Remember that there were many other companies all doing the same thing at once.

It’s amazing any survived at all. Lets not think any more about ‘Made Beavers”. Let’s think about “beavers that have got it made”.




Wonderments of the East Bay Celebrating 80 years of EBRP

 The East Bay Regional Parks abound in wonderments: animals, plants, sounds, geological formations, histories, and languages that stimulate our curiosity and expand our capacity for awe. In exquisite, lyrical essays, Sylvia Linsteadt and Malcolm Margolin—with help from their friends—revel in these wonderments.

Our complimentary copy arrived yesterday with 4 pages of the Martinez Beaver story. They declined to use Cheryl’s excellent photos (or my accurate writing, ahem) but gave a gallant tale of civic response and public interest. The story  puts Martinez in a community-building light and says we had people from all over coming just to see our beavers. I remain fairly picky about the details. (If you’ll remember the original chapter had said Martinez brought in a “Team of engineers” to fix the flooding problem and I was terrified everyone would think it was expensively hard work  saving beavers.) I managed to get that wording fixed, but sadly the chapter still said mom had three babies and we discovered the first ever tulle perch in Alhambra Creek, which makes me mortified that my name was dropped in the passage without a corresponding footnote saying, “Heidi never said this and didn’t write it.”

A reasonable woman would be content that it makes it clear that the beavers had a positive effect on our creek and grateful that they sent me a copy. I strive to be such a woman. I’m not worried about the idea of giving EBRP credit for our beavers, (since they’re on city land), because I crisply remember a lively conversation I had with park wizard Hulet Hornbeck before he died, where he told me that they had been working for 50 years to clean up the Marina so that the arrival of the beavers would even be possible. And since he was wise enough to see the beaver family as a compliment,  I heartily believed him.

It’s a very nice looking book and a trove of local treasures. I know you want to pick up your own copy  here, or wait for the silent auction!


Now you’ve done your history homework you deserve a treat. R.E. from Napa sent this yesterday and it’s very lovely. I won’t even bother telling you to enjoy it, because I know you will.

lorna and curtAnd finally a HUGE thanks to our friends at Safari West. My niece just got married in the Redwoods and since my wedding present to her had been an overnight stay at our favorite wilderness adventure in the wine country, they made sure she and her new hubby had an awesome time. The highlight came  last night when Kimberly Robertson met the couple after their tour and dinner to take them for a tower feeding that left my well-spoken niece speechless.  Thanks so much Safari West for making so many people so happy, and don’t forget to remember them if you’re looking for the PERFECT special day for someone in your family!


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Time Travel and Beavers

   Posted by heidi08 On October - 20 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

Believe it or not, this program aired this very Saturday on the Children’s BBC program “Wild”. It was obviously filmed before DEFRA had made up its mind to ruin everything so there is no mention of beavers being illegally released or carrying parasites. It’s just an irresistible story of beaver adventure. I’m guessing someone at the BBC got a memo Monday morning and scrubbed it because if you search for the program online you get this.

CaptureFortunately for us, stalwart beaver protector Peter Smith had already uploaded it to Youtube and we get to watch it first hand. I think I have a crush on host Naomi Wilkinson, because her enthusiasm for beavers is entirely infectious. Meanwhile pay attention to the language. This is alarmingly accurate for beaver-TV! If I were you I’d watch it today because tomorrow British government television might  come lumbering along and swallow the youtube version next.

Wasn’t that amazing? The other amazing thing that came across my desk this weekend (besides a memory card problem, did you know your computer can actually send telegraphic messages and beep to tell you why it broken? Me neither!) was the Moorhen Marsh Study done in 1998 on the beavers at Mt. View Sanitation. For years we’ve been running into the odd person at displays who has mentioned that they were on the volunteer beaver study group between the Lindsay Museum and Mt. View Sanitation. I was fascinated by this and stunned that no information or observations about this study existed or ever found its way to our beaver sub-committee. That is until Kelly Davidson was cleaning out her desk and sent us this.

CaptureThere’s a description of their methods and the some 15 volunteers who participated, as well as an excellent species list of 26  in all. It doesn’t say much that is startling about beavers and sadly there are no photos attached, but it did have a description of the behaviors they observed, all but one of which we see in Alhambra Creek. See if you can spot they outlier?

Beavers were observed swimming, chewing, diving, eating reeds, laying on their backs to eat, carrying stick or weeds in their mouth, patrolling or circling the ponds, shaking their heads, wiggling their ears, rubbing their faces with their paws and splashing.

Those beavers built a full lodge in the marsh and two kits were observed at the site. What I love best is thinking that one of those kits was probably one of our original parents. Bear with me here, but those beavers didn’t live in the bank and none of our 22 beavers have ever built a lodge but our original mom. In fact she built two in the span of three years and no one has done it since she died. This would make her 12 when she died, which is a nice life span for a wild beaver. So I’m going to assume it was mom that grew up in Moorhen Marsh. I’m reading this report as if I were looking at her baby pictures, which is a lot of fun. I will upload it to the website or you can read it here yourself.


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Carbon Dating Beavers in Northumberland

   Posted by heidi08 On October - 19 - 2014Comments Off

There is a passage in  J.B. Mackinnon’s “The Once and Future World” that I often remember. It’s the part about 17th century conviction that no species could be made extinct by the work of man because the number of species on earth was the prerogative of God alone. He wouldn’t allow it to happen and he was in charge. The part that impressed me most was the speed at which public opinion seamlessly transitioned from “It could never happen that human harvesting of any God’s work could make it extinct” to the defensive self-justification of “We don’t think that species ever existed here anyway,”

I swear, that’s what he wrote, and I was stunned and read it over and over. Even now it pops into my mind when I think about Beavers in California or Panthers in Florida or Climate Change.  Even during the recent bruhaha in England you read comments blithely insisting that beaver weren’t native and didn’t belong in the River Otter anyway.

Well the good guys just got some ammunition.

Northumberland beaver discovery sheds light on the missing link in river management


Beavers were living on the Tyne catchment 400 years later than had been previously believed, a new discovery has revealed.

A piece of birch wood which had been gnawed by a beaver was found sticking out of the eroding bankside of the Scaup burn at Kielder Forest in Northumberland.

Now the wood has been radiocarbon dated, showing that it was chewed in the 14th Century.

Experts say this is conclusive evidence of the presence of beavers in the upper Tyne catchment in the 14th Century and is the most recent radiocarbon date for the animals in Britain.

The previous most recent radiocarbon fix for beavers was on bones at Glastonbury, which dated from between 800AD and 1000.

I had to look at a map to remind myself that Northumberland is way at the tippy-tippy top of England, almost in Scotland. Which means this is good news for everyone in the United Kingdom from our friends in Cornwall to our friends on the river Tay. I love that this chew was found on a scouting trip and whisked away for carbon testing.

(And lets be completely honest here, I like to imagine that the idea of carbon testing this wood had something to do with the carbon testing Chuck James presented on at the State of the Beaver Conference in Oregon, and that we published two years ago.)

He believes it adds support to calls for beavers, which create wetland habitats for other wildlife, to be reintroduced in the future.

“They are eco-engineers, who would add interest to our wildlife and could be an economic benefit in terms of tourism,” says Angus.

 The later presence of beavers in Northumberland supports the idea of reintroduction, he believes.

“It would benefit the environment and help in issues like flood protection. Beavers are the missing link in river management.

Well said sir! I’m going to guess that Mr. Kielder is a friend of our friend Paul Ramsey the beaver believer whose clever wife was the keynote speaker at the State of the Beaver Conference – or at least that if they aren’t friends already, they will be soon.

Beavers change things. It’s what they do.

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The Un-abandoning

   Posted by heidi08 On October - 18 - 2014Comments Off


The previous photo reads: In this Sept. 12, 2014, photo, a tagged young beaver explores water hole near Ellensburg, Wash., after he and his family were relocated by a team from the Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group…

I worked very hard to track down Melissa Babik after I saw this photo. Sinceher email wasn’t listed online it meant looking up the group she worked with and using their format from the listed emails to speculate about hers.  After a few false starts I cracked the code and wrote her to ask about the possibility of a leftover beaver. In the mean time, I even quarreled with beaver champion Joe Wheaton who politely admonished me for complaining about one abandoned beaver when Yakima was generally doing such a good job promoting beaver benefits. I respect Joe very much, and don’t want him to see me as some beaver-eco-terrorist – but leaving behind family is the opposite of what I want for beavers. I worried and fussed about this for more days than I will confess, thinking about the difference between what it means to be a beaver advocate (which is quite rare actually) and a “beaver benefits” advocate (which is getting to be much more common).

Then yesterday Mel wrote me back. And guess what she said? She said this photo was taken in his new location AFTER the entire family was moved. And she added:

We work hard with the best possible techniques to capture entire family units. We moved 7 beavers total in this family that would have been lethally removed. We trap for a minimum of 5 consecutive nights with no fresh activity to ensure we have the entire colony (on average this means we trap for a minimum of 2 weeks at a site but generally longer). Often we’ll go back after the sites “cools” and try again. It is sad to leave members behind and with their strong social bonds we know this limits our success.

Isn’t that GREAT news? No beavers left behind and at least 5 days of no activity before the team moves on – which often takes two weeks! I can’t remember a time I’ve been happier to be wrong, and I asked Mel for permission to share it with you so you could be happy about my wrongness too! For some reason this sound track is playing in my head.

Thanks for reading so carefully.. another misinterpretation in this generally well written article is that ~50% of our relocated beavers get preyed on our go back to their colonies. When in fact what I said was they are unaccounted for: SOME may get preyed upon (we’ve never seen evidence of this but know it happens), one we know went back to his colony, and others we are slowly finding elsewhere in the headwaters doing great things!

Again thanks for asking these questions and clearing up misconceptions! We appreciate the work you do to educate folks about beavers!


 This is all fantastic news and I couldn’t be happier!  Careful of beavers and their delicate family systems! I sent it right away to Joe who I had already repaired things with. He was thrilled to have the data to back up his positive view. This morning I will send it to everyone I contaminated with my previous gloom because they deserve to have their reputation restored. They are spreading good beaver cheer all over the country, and even if it’s not QUITE as wonderful as keeping the beavers in town, they are doing it responsibly! (I just saw an article about them yesterday in the Idaho Statesman).

I have been such a big scrooge about the Yakima good news that I feel you might deserve this clip as well. Maybe its the looming season ahead, but I can’t resist.

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