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

The Martinez Beavers

Share the beaver gospel!

Our friends at Trout Unlimited have some great things to say about beavers. Sometimes. If they’re in Washington anyway. TU in Wisconsin is still ripping out dams to help trout, but hey, baby steps right?

On February 13th, Cody Gillin and Robes Parrish will present  about the exciting beginnings of the Beaver Restoration Project in the Wenatchee River basin. Cody will explain the history and benefits of beavers in our watershed, the relocation efforts of nuisance beavers, and how to volunteer for this new project. 

The meeting will explain how beavers are ecosystem engineers whose activities trigger a cascade of ecological enhancements. Water storage, sediment retention, trout and salmon rearing habitat, flood mitigation, and increased biodiversity are just a few of the many beaver benefits. 

Following the success of other relocation efforts, Trout Unlimited-Washington Water Project is initiating a beaver program in the Wenatchee Basin. Nuisance beaver will be relocated to suitable locations away from areas where they may come into conflict with human land uses. Outreach with landowners will offer tools and techniques for preventing beaver-related problems. 

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018 – 6:30pm to Tuesday, February 13th, 2018 – 8:00pm

Robes Parrish is a fish biologist with FWS, and Cody Gillin is is a project manager at TU. Because Washington has expert beaver defenders to spare apparently. I’m ho-hum about the idea of relocating “nuisance” beavers, but that sentence in blue is REALLY exciting.

Do you think a branch of the federal government really teaching actual techniques for prevent beaver problems?   Be still my heart! What a wonderful way to spend valentine’s eve! Although will Robes will still be there if there’s no federal government?

Everyone has been shaken up by that threat of a lawsuit on APHIS for trapping beavers in Oregon. Now folks want to make sure you know that beavers are still band and cause plenty of problems, just in case you’ve been disoriented by the news. This letter from a goodol’ boy has lots to say about why beavers need killin’.

The beaver is the state animal, but it causes a host of problems

So the folks at the Center for Biological Diversity think that placing a culvert in a beaver dam will solve the problem? Aside from the great expense of putting in a culvert, old Bucky and his buddies would have it totally plugged in one night. And I am certain our good valley farmers would be thrilled to spend the money needed to put tens of thousands of guards around trees when taking out a problem beaver or two is all that is needed.

Being a beaver trapper for over 30 years, I know the average individual doesn’t have a clue as to the number of beavers in the Willamette Valley. To make it easy to understand: A whole bunch.

Beavers helpful for fish? Perhaps in some locations, but ut certainly not in Oregon’s Trout Creek Mountains.The Trout Creeks are home to North America’s rarest trout. This cutthroat trout is only found in two creeks. Beavers cause these trout grave problems by chewing down vegetation. That causes water temperatures to rise during hot summer months, and reduces insects that the trout feed on. I think I am correct in saying that a few years back, a large-scale trapping effort for beaver was carried out to aid the trout.

Worth Mathewson, Perrydale

Do you believe in Dopplegangers? I don’t know if I do but isn’t it kinda’ odd we BOTH have the same first name and he lives in a place called “Perrydale”. Never mind all that fancy scientific research or the involvement of the experts at Trout Unlimited. He knows what he knows and beavers are BAD for trout! They need killing and he needs paying for it, because obviously what else is he going to do. Teach gym?

The funny thing is, I think Mr Mathewson is an avid duck hunter whose several published  books on the topic. I can only assume he’s a member of Ducks Unlimited too, which as you know has written a considerable amount about the value of beaver. If I could find his address I’d send him the Trout Unlimited article.

But clearly despite the similarities in name, Mr. Mathewson is not, in fact, worth a dam.

Share the beaver gospel!

It’s that time of year when I am madly begging for donations to the silent auction. Sometimes people respond in heart-warmingly generous ways that affirm the essential goodness of mankind, and sometimes they do the other thing, which is never fun. But not un-useful, as the woman who was offering this print wouldn’t donate OR tell me where it was from, but WOW I love this image, and now I have my own mystery!

She said did say it was from the 40’s, but it doesn’t look American to me. Since the English haven’t had beavers for 500 years I’m thinking maybe its from a Canadian children’s book? I know what you’re thinking, those beavers are kind of zombie like, but still its SO cute with the little girl helping them mud, don’t you think?

Anyway I tried to hunt around for it and the only other image I came across of children with beavers was this one, which made me smile and think of Skip Lisle. The mystery continues. Ask your moms and grandmas if they ever saw the image before, will you?

I’m happy to say I received a wonderful note from author Judith K. Berg (and her husband) after I wrote her thanking her for that fantastic letter to the editor. They were both pleased and impressed with our story and the website and had so many good things to say about beavers, I was very chuffed. I think she is going to donate signed copies of her books to the auction so you will get to read all about it!

Yesterday this article caught my eye, and I heard from a group that is talking to the lawyers involved to do the same thing in California. I’m wondering how all this is going to play out. Although if the government shut down continues it won’t make much of a difference!

How to Successfully Threaten Legal Action Against the Government

In a move that has left beaver, salmon, and wildlife advocates pleased, the federal government and state have agreed to stop killing beavers in the state of Oregon in response to a threat of litigation by wildlife groups.

If you’re wondering how wildlife groups can get what they want by simply threatening litigation, then you should probably take a look at their Notice of Intent to Sue. The notice letter goes to painstaking detail to explain exactly why beavers need to stop being killed, and how animals like beavers serve important roles in helping the threatened salmon population. Given that the letter worked, it seems worthwhile to examine a few of the things it did right.

Deterrence in the Details

In the letter, there is no shortage of details about how beavers modify the habitat of salmon, and other animals, to all the species’ benefits. By helping the salmon thrive, the wildlife groups claim that the beavers should be protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Basically, by creating dams, beavers help salmon by creating bigger pools for them to rest and feed, as they make their way up or down stream. Also, proposed alternatives to killing the beavers are included, since beavers do cause quite a bit of trouble for landowners, public utilities, and sometimes, even roadways (that are near rivers or streams, or connect to bridges).

In addition to all that, the very important detail about there being no environmental impact analysis seems to have played a big part in prompting the government to take action. In addition to the immediate cessation of the killing of Oregon’s beavers, an environmental impact analysis will be completed.

Make Compliance Easy

In addition to listing out all the reasons why the government should agree to their demand, it made compliance rather simple. All the government needed to do was simply stop killing beavers until after it conducted an assessment on the effects of doing so. There was no astronomical damages demand, and attorney fees were not even sought for putting together the required demand. When you want a demand (or any request for that matter) to be accepted, making sure it’s a simple ask can go a long long way.

I love how this article lays out what they did RIGHT. It’s practically a recipe for doing this again in other states.I can’t imagine Washington and California will be far behind, I showed it to our retired attorney friend who argued the land-breaking case in Riverside on the grounds that removing beaver required a CEQA analysis, and he was very pleased as well.

There’s more to this than meets the eye, and maybe it will make more of an impact that I guessed. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a mystery to solve.

Share the beaver gospel!

You could go to college, sit thru boring classes, study for exams,  earn a degree and owe millions of dollars afterwards OR you could just read this website for free every day and be a genius! Since I already did the first one, I’m committed now to the second. This arrived yesterday from USFS hydrologist Dr. Suzanne Fouty who let me know she will actually be retiring in March.  (The forest service will be lost without her, but I’m selfishly hoping that all that free time means she will come to the beaver festival!)

Anyway, she sent a presentation that was given at a conference last year in Washington that I know will interest you folks. The author is Konrad Halen of Utah State. Click here for full text of the paper or here for a link to his slides.

“To What Extent Might Beaver Dam Building Buffer Water Storage Losses Associated with a Declining Snowpack?”

Konrad worked with Joe Wheaton to study this issue. .The question addressed was whether an increase in beaver dams could make up for the effects of climate change on the receeding snow pack. The author looked at the number of dams and calculated the volume of water behind each. Then he did the same with the volume of the snow pack in a prior year.

The results are kind of depressing in that they indicate that climate change is going to kick the snot out of our water supply and beavers can only help a little bit.

What he found is that beaver dam amount for a small fraction of overall snowpack water, but that they do indeed contribute. I guess the moral of the story is “Don’t screw up your climate!” And if it so happens that you are so stupid you do mess up your climate, then the moral is “You better have a LOT of beavers around to do what they can.”

Beavers can’t hit the undo button for us, but they CAN HELP if we let them. That should be foremost on our minds when we think about what to do when they block a culvert or flood a basement.

The next educational moment of the day is from Eli Asarian of River Bend Sciences who let me know about an upcoming discussion of the surprise beavers in the artic that we might be able to attend for free.

It’s an upcoming Webinar entitled

Tundra Be Dammed! The Beaver Colonization of the Artic

The next Northern Region, Alaska Section, AWRA Monthly Brown Bag Presentation will be given by Dr. Ken Tape, University of Alaska Fairbanks – Water and Environmental Research Center, on “Tundra Be Dammed: Beaver Colonization of the Arctic”. We will also have this presentation available for Free over the web (using Webex). Please see the following URL for more information. The role of beavers on the hydrologic landscape has always been significant in North America. Ken’s presentation on changes in the Arctic has relevence to potential changes across North America. Please join us next week and enjoy an informative presentation on Alaska.

The American Water Resource Association does monthly brown bags in Fairbanks and allows for remote participation through its webinars. To participate contract them here. I’m pretty curious about what gets said about these permafrost-ruining beavers in the Tundra, so maybe I’ll see you there!

Share the beaver gospel!

My goodness! Yesterday was a whirl of activity with exciting development for the festival pouring in and making me feel like uh-oh it’s really happening! Today the joyful strain continues with two excellent beaver appreciation articles. It’s almost like someone’s been reading my mind. (Or my website)

Ecosystem Engineers in Rivers: How and Where Organisms Create Positive Biogeomorphic Feedbacks

Ecosystem engineering is by definition an interdisciplinary concept, tying together geomorphology (the study of physical processes and forms in rivers) and ecology. Two researchers at Umeå University in Sweden that bridge these disciplines, a fluvial geomorphologist, Dr. Lina Polvi, and a landscape ecologist, Dr. Judith Sarneel, examined the available literature and summarized the range of ecosystem engineers that are found in river environments in their review recently published in WIREs Water.

An important aspect of this work was to determine where various ecosystem engineers have the most impact, in terms of three geomorphic factors—channel width, sediment size and the relative stability of the channel. For example, rivers affected by beaver dams can become more complex and change from being single-thread meandering channels to more complex multi-thread systems. However, although the beaver can be found throughout a river system from very narrow to very wide channels, they will only engineer by building dams and truly alter the river’s form in narrow- to intermediate-sized channels.

This sounds basically like beavers always make a difference but in the right shape streams they make a bigger difference. Fair enough. The article goes on to talk about other kinds of ecosystem engineers and how one should be careful to only put in native ones. Really? Somebody is STILL researching this? They talk about macrophytes as engineers of streams  to which I say HRMMPH! When has anyone ever had a macrophyte festival?

Beavers are sooo much better,

I like this letter to the editor in the Register-Guard much better for obvious reasons,

Beavers important to ecosystems

I appreciated the Jan. 11 article bringing attention to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services’ illicit killing of Oregon’s beavers. During the 1990s, I conducted a research project on the then-state-endangered river otter population in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Because beavers occupied many of the same sites as otters in my 40-mile stretch of watershed, I documented their behaviors as well.

Through my research — and that of many others throughout the country — good river otter habitat is often equated to be a consequence of beaver activity. In fact, through complex science, these ecosystem engineers provide habitat for many other species as well: plants, invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, and fish — including Oregon’s beloved salmon. Results from research conducted in Oregon, Alaska and British Columbia show that juvenile salmon have higher survival rates in streams with beaver ponds.

Beavers should be revered for their contribution to sustainable ecosystems, not killed to justify an agency’s existence. Two long-time beaver researchers, Bruce Schulte and Dietland Müller-Schwarze, expressed it well: “Given the flexibility of beaver behavior, perhaps we would be better to manage human activity, to use preventive measures to avoid problems with beavers, and to reap the benefits of living with beavers.”

Judith K. Berg. EUGENE OR

HOW much do we LOVE Judith? What a wonderful letter!  Of course ideal otter habitat is the result of beaver work. And ideal salmon habitat and blue heron habitat too. Judith is the author of the very successful book  “The Otter Spirit” which has won several awards, I’m thinking she deserves an award for her letters to the editor too, because “Beavers should be revered, not killed” is a mighty fine sentence.

She is definitely a member of Worth A Dam in spirit! Thanks, Judith.

Share the beaver gospel!

Maybe it’s just me. But if I lived in a very low-lying area that required extensive levees to even make living there even possible, and I had to make the levees out of soil because it was what I had the most of, I sure would cover that earth wall with fencing or rip-rap or something that burrowing animals couldn’t dig through. At least below the water line where I couldn’t see it. An ounce of prevention, you know, is worth a pound of cure. Or any amount of GPS.

Doesn’t that seem relatively straight forward?

Study of behaviour muskrats, coypus and beavers kicks off

In a new study just launched by a number of Dutch district water boards and knowledge institutions, a team of scientists including statistical ecologist Emiel van Loon of the UvA Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics will be researching the behaviour of muskrats, coypus and beavers. The two-year project is titled ‘Dyke Diggers in Focus’.

standing of beavers’ behavioural patterns and territorial use, meanwhile, would make it easier to detect beaver damage and perhaps even ‘steer’ them away from burrowing in dykes.

To gain a clearer picture of these ‘dyke diggers’, the research will use transmitters equipped with GPS location and activity sensors. The project’s strength lies in pairing of science with practical techniques, with a hands-

Digging in banksides and dykes by muskrats, coypus and increasingly also beavers is causing significant safety risks, economic damage and structural maintenance expenditures in the Netherlands, where flood control is a constant concern. While capturing muskrats and coypus remains as important as ever, better insight into these rodents’ habits may enable faster and more targeted detection and ultimately allow a reduction in not only the number traps that are deployed, but also unintended by-catch and the needless killing of animals. Improved underon component for students, too. Use of this new technology will enable district water boards to answer the pressing question of how to prevent waterside damage through practical insight into the behaviours and territorial use of muskrats, coypus and beavers in the Netherlands. In future, the new technology will also be available to track and study other animals.

Emiel van Loon has been engaged to advise on the design of the experimental transmission component and will focus on questions such as how many animals should be tagged with trackers and where they should be captured. Additionally, Van Loon will be responsible for interpreting the tracking data and creating and validating the movement models to for example predict the use of space for the whole animal populations.

Nothing gives the whiff of modern science that air of prestige like saying it has GPS tracking. Science nerds just go crazy for that, (it’s like labeling anything retail with the words “bluetooth enabled”). People will be more likely to buy it whether it’s useful or not. Far be it from me to make fun of the vividly named Dr. Van Loon or question usefulness of putting a chip inside beaver heads to “STEER THEM AWAY” from burrowing into a wall, but tell me this. If they don’t burrow into your dykes, where are these creatures going to sleep instead?

Maybe creating a floating safe zones that would appeal to these animals would be more useful than this GPS thing? You know, some where to hole up and escape too or for a family to raise its young. Oh and use a couple of those graduate students to find out why no one can tell these species apart will you? Just sayin’.

Left: (Nutria) Castor Impostor ——- Right: Beaver (Castor Canadensis!)

I just got word from Carol Evans of a wonderful presentation she will be doing with rancher Jon Greggs to talk about their awesome work with restoring sage lands with beaver January 30th, 2018. The conference is mostly about ranching, but their part will be in the morning starting at nine. I have such respect for this work. Carol goes right into the lion’s den to deliver her message. You can sign up here.

This is an FYI as some of you have expressed an interest in hearing about the material Jon Griggs and I will be sharing at the National Society for Range Management meeting in Sparks, NV.  I’ll be talking a lot about the effects of managed grazing and beaver colonization on valley re-hydration in the Susie and Maggie Basins.  Jon will also be sharing his perspectives on all of this.  

Restoring and Managing the “Emerald Islands” of the Sagebrush Sea: New Science, Sticks and Stones, and the Eager Beaver