Because the beaver isn't just an animal; it's an ecosystem!

The Martinez Beavers

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There was a fascinating article this week out of the horticulture school at Lullier Switzerland that doesn’t appear to be about beavers at all. Young scientist Beat Oertli is earning his degree by studying something we all take for granted. His thoughtful work is entirely based on data collection and other scientific things that make your eyes tired.

The funny thing for us, of course, is that it is ENTIRELY about beavers. We know better.

Why small ponds have enormous value

Ponds may not seem as glamorous as rushing rivers or majestic lakes, but they’re indispensable when it comes to biodiversity and ecosystem health. In Switzerland natural ponds have all but vanished with the rise of agricultural intensification.

It turns out that water purification and filtration is just one item on a very long list of services that ponds provide, both for humans and the environment. These services range from flood and erosion prevention, to habitat for endangered species – even absorption of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

“We’ve estimated that one pond can trap as much carbon as one car produces in a year,” Oertli says.

But he explains that these services are in danger of disappearing: over the last 200 years, 90% of ponds and small pools in Switzerland have dried up or been destroyed, largely as a direct result of human activities and agricultural intensification.

It’s easy to underestimate the environmental contribution of ponds, given their small size compared to larger freshwater resources like lakes and rivers. But as Oertli explains, their greatest ecological benefits are realised on a collective level, as each small body of water plays a key role in a larger network.

“In a region, if you put all the biodiversity of small ponds together, it’s many more species than lakes and rivers. That’s because ponds are all very different – they are like humans: you cannot find two that are the same.”

And it’s not just frogs that love to call Swiss ponds home: they are also crucial habitat for a variety of plants and fish, as well as beavers, shrews, voles, bats, leeches, dragonflies, and pollinators like bees and syrphid fliesexternal link.

Hurray for the small ponds!  These little saucers of nature scattered across our landscape should be added together to count their contributions, Oertli, you’re onto something! But did you just say that ponds are crucial to beavers?  I admit I don’t know anything about the Swiss language but I think you got your sentence structure reversed,

Beavers are crucial to ponds.

But individual ponds are valuable as well, especially in an urban setting, which is the focus of Oertli’s research in Lullier. Even an artificial pond in the middle of a city can host natural biodiversity, as well as provide key services for humans. 

“Urbanisation is increasing, and ponds are a good example of systems that provide a lot of services for landscaping, flood protection, education for students and children, for trapping pollutants and purifying waters that flow through the city,” Oertli explains. He adds that urban ponds can even provide a crucial reservoir for irrigating parks and gardens, and even for fighting fires.

You don’t say. Ponds are important in cities? They provide a place for trapping pollutants and purifying water and even make a reservoir for fighting fires? Allow me to repeat that paragraph by adding an overlooked word to your sentence for clarification.

BEAVER ponds are a good example of systems that provide a lot of services for landscaping, flood protection, education for students and children, trapping pollutants and purifying the waters that flow through the city.

Well said, Oertli, I literally could not agree more.

You know I saw something recently that reminds me of this, you would think everyone would be lining up to get beaver ponds in their city, wouldn’t you?

Researchers find urban development dramatically increases stream flow

Urban development dramatically increases the flow of water in streams and rivers, creating an uptick in flood events, according to a study by Georgia State University researchers.

This is one of the first studies to successfully minimize the influence of precipitation when analyzing the effects of urbanization on streams.

Urban development affects more than just stream volume, said Richard Milligan, co-author of the study and assistant professor of geosciences. “The increase in impervious surfaces—or surfaces that water can’t penetrate—also affects water quality, as the liquid runs over asphalt, picking up pollutants.”
The study points out that of the developed areas they researched water flow increased in all of them, except for in an area where the water was leaking back into the soil through a cracked pipe,
I would  say through a BEAVER DAM.
Why on earth wouldn’t any  engineer or mayor of any city want beavers to make a pond in their treacherous fast flowing stream to reduce pollution and improve biodiversity? Everyone should be signing up for one. There should be one of those horrible long lines like you see at christmas in walmart for the very last toy that everyone’s child must have.
And your mayor should be at the front of the line!

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Oh no! A small Richmond neighborhood in Staten Island New York has just discovered it has those rare re-building beavers! How unfortunate, who knew that aberant strain was so very common?

Oh, dam! Busy beavers close dam overnight in Richmond

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Residents of a low-lying section of Richmond are concerned about their new neighbors — a group of beavers.

The animals, possibly numbering four, have built a lodge near Richmond Creek, and a dam over the water. The blockage has caused flooding to an area that already had drainage problems.

“It was never a lake before,” said resident Joe Palladino, who noted that Oct. 29 was the first time he saw the area “flood out extensively.”He’s counted at least 100 trees that have been felled by the animals as well. “Neighbors and I are all concerned about the number of beavers and the damage they are creating,” Palladino explained. 

Never mind that those little trees could be easily wrapped with wire or painted with sand by a bunch of boyscouts…and never mind that the little dam can easily be managed with a flow device….and never mind that living where you do at the edge of Richmond near the water you’re going to get more beavers for the foreseeable future even if they trap out these ones – Mr Palladno is worried, and he’s talked to his neighbors!

Residents say they’ve reported their concerns to the city Department of Environmental Protection and employees have come to clear the dams. On a recent weekday, the DEP cleared a 2-foot hole. By 6:30 a.m. the next morning, the opening was completely closed with not a trickle of water flowing.

“These beavers are really good architects,” said Dr. Franklin Caldera, who lives on nearby St. Andrews Road and walks the trails in the woods frequently.

You mean to tell me you ripped out a section of the dam and the beavers repaired it that night? That almost never always happens! Whatever can you do?

Thank goodness you have answers at your doorstep. Beavers: Wetlands and Wildlife is about 4 hours upstate from you. Beaver Solutions in Massachusetts is about 3 hours to your east. And the Unexpected Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey is an hour and a half south. All of these folks can tell you exactly how to protect your trees, your streets and your community. And they will also tell you why beavers are the best neighbors you could ever hope to have.

You’re lucky. We had to bring an expert 3000 miles to help us. You just have to go nextdoor.

Plus if you take steps to let the beavers stay, they will use their naturally territorial behaviors to keep others away and turn your little neighborhood wood into a wildlife park, with new species of otter, mink and woodduck.

Count yourself lucky that you already got a great beaver habitat photo shoot from Staten Island Advance photographer Jan Somma-Hammel. I don’t know if she even realizes how lucky she was to capture this:

Rare glimpse of actual top teeth:Jan Somma-Hammel

As you know, we almost never see top teeth in a live beaver. Look close and you will see her displaying his or her pearly whites – er- tangerine oranges doing what they do best.

I will see if I can reach anyone at Richmond beaver central and try get good answers their way. Some of those tree wrapping jobs are ridiculous. Today is a great day for Richmond to learn about beavers.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to end the post with Billie. It’s irresistible.

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More lovely reporting on the big beaver decision out of the UK this month, this time for all too see in the Guardian!

UK to bring back beavers in first government flood reduction scheme of its kind

A valley in the Forest of Dean will echo to the sound of herbivorous munching next spring when a family of beavers are released into a fenced enclosure to stop a village from flooding, in the first ever such scheme funded by the government.

Chris McFarling, a cabinet member of Forest of Dean district council, said: “Beavers are the most natural water engineers we could ask for. They’re inexpensive, environmentally friendly and contribute to sustainable water and flood management.

“They slow the release of storm water with their semi-porous dams, decreasing the flooding potential downstream. Water quality is improved as a result of their activities. They also allow water to flow during drought conditions. Financially they are so much more cost-effective than traditional flood defence works so it makes sense to use this great value-for-money opportunity.”

The plan for the village of Lydbrook, Gloucestershire, may soon be joined by other schemes. The environment secretary, Michael Gove, has indicated that the government may support other schemes to restore the beaver four centuries after it was driven to extinction in England and Wales.

Well, how about that for re-branding! Instead of whining that beavers can cause flooding get an entire country to broadcast that they actually can prevent flooding. And some great data to back up that claim. We are all thrilled to see the excitement accompanying this new release. The value of beavers is being shouted from the the rooftops and you know that always makes me happy.

The Forestry Commission will monitor the impact on wildlife – shown to be hugely beneficial – as well as recording the water flow in the brook. “The beaver has a special place in English heritage and the Forest of Dean proposal is a fantastic opportunity to help bring this iconic species back to the countryside,” said Gove. “The community of Lydbrook has shown tremendous support for this proposal and the beavers are widely believed to be a welcome addition to local wildlife.”

Ahhh that’s so wonderful. I’m almost jealous thinking what it would be like to start here, with the science behind you, the papers and public support, and almost everyone on your side. Can you imagine what a wonderful beaver festival they could pull off? Folks all over the country could come, there could be deals with the local B&B’s. With tours that teach proper beaver watching – maybe you could earn a badge that says your a qualified beaver observer – and everywhere wildlife education, music, beaver games. Maybe include local crafts, beer and sausage rolls? Jon would be in heaven.

Closer to home, our own beaver research has changed at least ONE mind in the Sierras. Thanks to Sherry Guzzi who sent this article yesterday that I somehow missed. The article mostly talks about how beavers make their way in the winter, but as you can see,it starts by covering the sierra nativity of everyone’s favorite topic.

Getting Ready for Winter

The beaver has long been thought to be non-native to the Sierra, but new evidence proves otherwise. As winter approaches, we will be working right alongside this “native” resident as it too gets ready for the cold, hard season.


First, let’s get the controversy out of the way. Despite the claim that the beaver is non-native to the Sierra, 2012 research proves otherwise.

“The beaver was trapped out a long, long time ago, which lead to early naturalists erroneously assuming that beavers weren’t native to the Sierra,” said Will Richardson, co-founder and executive director of Tahoe Institute for Natural Science. “This got passed down as dogma among agency personnel.”

However, in a California Fish and Game article authors Richard Lanman and Charles D. James debate the assumption that beavers are not native with evidence from 1988 when several beaver dams were re-exposed at Red Clover Creek, approximately 60 miles north of Truckee.

“Radiocarbon dates from the different portions of the remnant beaver dam were AD 580, first construction; AD 1730, dam was reused; and AD 1850, repair of a significant breach occurred,” Lanman and James reported. “After 1850, the dam was abandoned and buried beneath sediment. In 2011, another beaver dam was exposed in Red Clover Creek; its radiocarbon analysis dating at AD 182.”

Sherry Guzzi of the Sierra Wildlife Coalition summarizes the results of the study: “This is not to say that today’s Tahoe beaver is from the original Sierra Nevada population, but there were beavers in Nevada’s Humboldt River and other locations in Nevada from where they could have migrated. Some of today’s beavers are definitely descended from when beavers were re-introduced to Sierra Creeks by California Fish and Game in the ’30s and ’40s, specifically to restore watersheds.”

Hurray for beavers! Hurray for Rick and Chuck and hurray for Sherry! It’s so nice to see that our research actually stuck to some of those more stubborn minds like one of those burrs you get in your socks in the summertime. I love to think of these things falling into place over the years. It feels like a eons ago we were working on the Sierra paper, but I guess its very much still news to some.

Lanman et al. The historical range of beaver in the Sierra Nevada Calif Fish Game 2012 98(2)



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I must be getting easier to please because this whimsical article from National Geographic mostly satisfies me. Asde from the silly headline and a few wise cracks, its mostly accurate. I especially like the part when they say that beavers have a special grooming PAW on their back foot.. heh heh heh A Five footed beaver?

Beavers Have Vanilla-Scented Butts And More Odd Facts

“Beavers can change the landscape like almost no species other than humans,” says Glynnis Hood, wildlife ecologist at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus and author of The Beaver Manifesto.

The famously busy mammals build elaborate homes, which are called lodges when they are in open water and very visible, says Jimmy Taylor, research wildlife biologist with USDA’s National Wildlife Research Centre and Oregon State University.

They’ll also literally dam rivers. The largest beaver dam ever found was a half-mile long in Alberta’s Wood Buffalo Park—quite a feat for 27-kilogram animals. Hood and colleagues have also found that open water increases ninefold in areas where beavers were present.

Beaver activity can be good for the environment—increasing open water can lessen drought and also widen wetlands—in some cases by nearly 600 percent.

No kidding! Beavers are actually good for the environment? Get out!

It may be surprising to some, but “not all beavers build dams,” says Taylor. Beavers can live wherever there is persistent water, but sometimes their native river is too big to dam.

But they’re fine as long as they have an area to build their lodge, like a riverbank, food, access to mates, and water that allows them to escape from predators—the reason they build dams in the first place.

These family-loving animals were thought to be monogamous, but a 2009 genetic study of two populations in Illinois suggests the species “may be opportunistically promiscuous.”

“The pair bond is still there, but that male is sharing his genes with other females as well,” Taylor says, so they’re “socially monogamous but sexually polygamous.”

Sounds like something you’d hear in “divorce court,” he quips. Family bonds are strong, though, and male and female beavers will fight unrelated beavers to the death over territory.

Beavers are tramps! Who knew? At least you took the time to go and talk to the experts like Glynnis and Jimmy. Next time call ME and I’ll tell you the truth about that ‘special paw’ beavers have. Bwahahaha,,,,

Their tails don’t need maintenance, but their fur is another story. In doing so, the mammals keep air spaces in their warm undercoat and distribute their outer fur with castoreum oil, which they produce to scent mark and waterproof themselves.

“They have a special grooming paw on their hind foot, like a little split toenail,” Hood says, and they “spend almost 20 percent of their time grooming” themselves and each other.

Ohhh I wish I was at the PC because I would deadly LOVE to make a graphic of a beaver with a special grooming PAW that comes out of his back foot….Maybe one of you with photo shop talents can fill in for me for now.

Still, we have to give Liz Langley a B- for an article that is mostly accurate. The video isn’t bad either. Enjoy!


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Just because it’s the Christmas season doesn’t mean there isn’t time for glorious beaver inacuracies. Bob Kobres of Georgia wrote yesterday pointing our that the article from Buzzfeed had a whopper.

North American beavers, which live in the dams themselves rather than holes in the riverbank, create dams in much bigger rivers.

Ha! We all know that beavers don’t live IN the dam. I guess maybe they want to allay worries about that record-breaking dam in the Canadian wilderness discovered a few years ago that you can see from space. Don’t worry about those American monstrosities! Our beavers will build dainty, flood-preventing kind of dams only. Not the other kind.

Now this morning on the annual published list of Christmas lights written by Rob Hedelt in the state of Virginia there is a description of a highly unusual display in Stafford County:

Rob Hedelt’s 2017 “Grand Holiday Displays” lights list

It was 28 years ago when a Spotsylvania County Christmas lover called to suggest I do a story on his “tacky lights.” That feature very quickly morphed into my annual list of holiday lights.

I suggest you waste no time. Grab Aunt Edna, some ice-cold Yoo–hoo and pile into your ride to cruise out and see some of these holiday lights and displays, all nominated by readers. Ho Ho Ho!

12 Falling Water Court (From White Oak, take Meadow to left on Falling Water.) New additions include a Santa plane taking off on a candy cane runway and a beaver fishing from a pond, with lights and neat figures on the house.

A beaver fishing from a pond? Aside from the fact that beavers don’t fish I don’t even know what that means? Why “from” and not “in”? Do you think they mean this particular beaver is using a fishing poll?

Now Worth A Dam has beaver friends that live in Virginia and I have begged all three to send us a photo of this creation. There’s none online. but I’m hopeful.

To be honest, I don’t know why Virginia even bothers really. Because Martinez all ready won Christmas beaver display and has been reigning champion for years.