More Theories

   Posted by heidi08 On September - 3 - 20151 COMMENT

We received the toxicology report on the yearling yesterday, and it was equally as unhelpful as everything else we’ve learned so far. No disease, no toxins, no pesticides. No clues that might point us in the right direction at all.

We have run extended organophosphorous and carbamate compound screens. We have tried the GC/MS and LC/MS screens to see if we could pick up drugs or other possible compounds. All were negative. We tested for the metabolite of bromethalin and for strychnine, both of which were negative. There was no obvious inflammation or necrosis to indicate an infectious etiology. We have exhausted most of our tests. If you can think of anything else you would like to test for, let us know.

But there was a sentence that got me thinking.

We cannot rule out toxic plants that may have been ingested

Toxic plants? Toxic plants? What’s toxic to beavers? Only one plant that I can think of. And it’s been historically called ‘beaver poison’. It’s Cicuta douglasii or water hemlock. It’s the relative of the plant that killed socrates and is so lethal for mammals that wikipedia says 

this plant has an enormous impact on animals. It is one of the first plants to come out in springtime, and has a very appealing odor.[3] As little as 0.2%-0.5% body weight for sheep, 0.1% body weight for cattle, 0.5% body weight for horses, and 0.3% body weight for swine can be lethal. Death can occur within fifteen minutes of ingesting this toxin. These characteristics, along with the fact that it grows in moist areas make it a very desirable, yet deadly, plant for grazing animals.

The plant closely resembles the water parsnip, a harmless common flower that I’ve observed over the years in our Alhambra Creek. (In fact when we picked up our original mom she was on the little spit by starbucks surrounded by what I assumed was parsnip. But I also vaguely wondered if it was hemlock, and if she knew she was going to die and sought it out on purpose.)

Water hemlock is NOT harmless.  It is the most lethal plant we have in America. The plant is indigenious to North America and common in California streams. So it wouldn’t be unusual for it to be in our stream. Or for a hungry beaver kit to feed opportunistically on this easy sweet smelling plant. I’m sure adults would get more cautious and know to avoid it.

I also thought yesterday about the change in our habitat which has meant less ‘kit friendly’ food sources. (Over the years we have seen kits eat mostly blackberry branches, (easy to reach) which have gotten fewer and far between in the current habitat. Maybe from beaver browsing or deliberate city-laden pesticides or who knows?) The creek bank used to be draped in vines and now it isn’t.

What if our sweet kits turned towards another easy sweet smelling food source?

Here’s the flower, which you’ve all seen because it looks the same as so many others. And here’s the leaves which are uniquely serrated. This plant is lethal to humans to touch. So if you see it do NOT do anything other than let me know. 336xNxwater-hemlock-leaf.jpg.pagespeed.ic.ZWnsshDcB3

It would be a fairly reasonable theory if it showed up in our midst and the kits partook. that could explain what happened and why nothing else has been found. I talked with the pathologist and they’re interested.

The seeds are the most poisonous part, and apparently it goes to seed in late June early July. When happened to be when our kits died.

I guess it makes sense that young might eat it. But harder to explain about junior who should have known better. Still our habitat or the drought could have made it more available than before, and there’s no proof that he died of the same thing as the kits anyway, I guess.We just don’t know.

I’ve spoken with some plant experts to see if we can get this diagnosed for sure. In the mean time I know what I’ll be keeping an eye out for. You too. Look but DON’T TOUCH.

 Thereupon Crito nodded to the boy who was standing near. The boy went out and stayed a long time, then came back with the man who was to administer the poison, which he brought with him in a cup ready for use. And when Socrates saw him, he said: “Well, my good man, you know about these things; what must I do?” “Nothing” he replied, “except drink the poison and walk about till your legs feel heavy; then lie down, and the poison will take effect of itself.”

Such was the end, Echecrates, of our friend, who was, as we may say, of all those of his time whom we have known, the best and wisest and most righteous man.

The Phaedro (Death of Socates)

Beaver Dam Jam returns!

   Posted by heidi08 On September - 2 - 20151 COMMENT

Don’t know what’s happening with the Utah beaver festival this year, but we’re on for Idaho again. The Watershed Guardians are proud to present their second annual Beaver Dam Jam.

 Beaver Dam Jam is Sept. 26 at Scout Mountain, Pocatello

The Beaver Dam Jam, a music event to support beaver conservation, will feature the bands Cure for the Common and Wire Mama on Sept. 26 at Camp Taylor on Scout Mountain.Pocatello Regional Transit bus rides from Holt Arena near Bonneville Park at 5 p.m., and Old Town Pavilion at 5:30 p.m.; the music starts at 6 p.m. Suggested donations for attending the event are $30 for singles, $50 for couples and $20 for Idaho State University students with valid Bengal ID cards and seniors age 65 and older Camping options are available, on a first-come, first-served basis at Justice Park on Scout Mountain (make reservations at, by renting a cabin at Camp Taylor or staying at the Mink Creek Pavilion. For complete event information, including purchasing tickets, finding more information on camping and transportation options, visit More information on the event is also available by contacting Mike Settell at 208-220-3336 or

I’m so excited for them and proud of what they’ve accomplished I thought they deserved a graphic.

beaver dam jam

Trust us – We know best

   Posted by heidi08 On September - 1 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

This piebald beaver can be found on occasion in the Putah Creek Nature Park in Winters, in a part of the park untouched by the ongoing restoration project. Alejandro Garcia Rojas/Courtesy photo

Creek project puts pressure on wildlife

As the Putah Creek Nature Park in Winters gears up to finish a decade-long restoration project, locals are voicing concerns over wildlife that call the last stretch of undeveloped land home.

In 2006, the City of Winters initiated a four-phase project to bring life back to the Putah Creek Nature Park. Since then, the project removed a damaged percolation dam and narrowed the channel along 7 out of 8 acres of the park. As the project moves into the final phase, however, locals are voicing concern over the last, untouched stretch of the park which is home to species of beaver and otter.

 While this portion of the creek wasn’t visible before the new, wider pathway was put in during the earlier phases of the project, Hemenway says she’s worried that this final phase will drive away wildlife.

 “We keep being told ‘(the beavers) will be back eventually.’ Well when is that?” Hemenway said, of the city’s response to her concerns.

 “What we’re seeing now are unforeseen benefits from past phases of the project,” Brydolf said.

 Beavers and otters weren’t found prior to the initial channel realignment phase that took place in 2011. Locals such as Caro and Brydolf were hoping the project would be reevaluated in light of the wildlife that have settled in the crook of the creek. Yet at the beginning of the month, they received notice that construction efforts would be pushed forward to the end of June, two months earlier than previously anticipated.

Winters is getting mighty uppity about their creek, and rightfully so. Not only do they have tons of new wildlife, they have a very rare beaver that is making waves from Colorado to Conneticut and beyond.  People are beginning to understand that the “great plan” being implemented for Putah creek might not be all that great. I can’t think why. The city manager is obviously brilliant and very sensitive to the needs of wildlife.

City Manager Donlevy said a main reason for otters and beaver in the area is the improved fish populations.

 Yes, it’s true, John. There’s nothing beavers like better after a hard day at the dam office than a nice fat trout. (I always suspected that herbivore nonsense was a smokescreen.) I’m sure you know best. It’s reassuring to realize how solidly you understand the needs of  wildlife and creeks in undertaking a significant job like this. No wonder you can’t wait to finish. Sigh.


It’s September and this new design was needed. This should hasten fall along, don’t you think?

beaver drop


Just how stubborn are the Scots?

   Posted by heidi08 On August - 31 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

The English and Welsh say: very stubborn.

Rewilding: Reintroduction extinct species back to Britain will be ‘enormous’ challenge, study finds

The reintroduction of extinct species across rural Britain will have to overcome “enormous” challenges to be successful, a major study of the UK’s largest “rewilding” project has found.

Rewilding is an increasingly popular strand of conservation. There are ambitious plans to revive biodiversity by reintroducing native species, including wolves, beavers and lynx. But new research for the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) has detailed the range of challenges facing the restoration of ancient habitats and returning of lost species to the wild.

According to the study, which will be presented to the RGS on Wednesday at its yearly conference, a number of “on-ground” challenges, including the unpredictability of wild animals, are likely to make rewilding difficult.

 The research, by Dr Kim Ward from Plymouth University and Dr Jonathan Prior from Cardiff University, primarily looked at the recent Scottish Beaver Trial in Knapdale, which began in May 2009 with the release of three beaver families. The animals went on to breed successfully, making them the first wild beavers in Britain in 400 years.

While the scheme was been hailed as an “outstanding success” by conservationists, the study found it created “conflicts with other land users”, amid local concerns over “disruption to rural business”.

 “Disruption to rural business is a chief concern of the most vocal critics of the Scottish Beaver Trial. They argue that the beavers’ potential to build dams along waterways, and fell trees, changes the dynamics of the wider landscape in ways that cannot be predicted and will negatively impact the rural economy,” said Dr Prior.

First of all, why isn’t a Scottish university reporting to us how impossible it will be to release beavers in Scotland? Why do we need professors from 600 miles away to analyze the situation? And second of all isn’t this really a paper about how impervious the Scots are to new ideas? Shouldn’t it be done by social psychologists specializing in attitude change? There was once a time when rural land use didn’t include vegetarians or dental floss too. And it was hard to change those ideas. But they adapted.

I’m thinking they’ll re-adjust to beavers back in their midst, too just fine.

I’m not sure what other people do on their day OFF but I worked on a new brochure about beaver management. I’m thinking of something that we can distribute at events to address the conflicts and outline solutions and also emphasize the good things beavers do. This will need tweaking I’m sure, but what do you think so far? There must be some way to virtually show this as a trifold brochure, but I haven’t found it yet. Try to imagine CONFLICTS as the front cover, techniques on the inside and WHY on the back. I’m trying to sell to the nonbelievers.



Big news at Beaver Central

   Posted by heidi08 On August - 30 - 20151 COMMENT

There’s no important beaver news this morning, but I have something VERY important to tell you. Two things actually. Earth shattering.


This is the newest photo take of the threatened piebald beaver in Winters posted on the new Putah Creek Wildlife Stewards facebook page. (Go LIKE them if you haven’t already). Just remember that we probably won’t ever see anything like this again. It was taken by local photographer Vance AndTj Koski.

piebald beaver

Vance AndTj Koski

Isn’t that amazing? Seeing this I realize that losing his habitat is NOT that beaver’s biggest threat. His biggest danger is being trapped, because that is a very, very rare beaver pelt. I usually think that publicity saves beavers, but with our beaver dying lately I’ve begun to think that keeping beavers close isn’t always the best way to save them. Sometimes they’re better off taking they’re chances somewhere else. I said this to the defenders and they agree it’s complicated but feel that this beaver is likely to be threatened wherever he or she goes. Which is true. I’m honestly not sure what I would do.

I feel totally blessed that I ever got to see that photo though. Don’t you?

minor's council CCBAAnd the second important thing is of a more personal and less piebald nature.  I completed my presentation for minor’s council training for the Contra Costa County Bar Association yesterday about establishing rapport with child clients. Now I’m completely and totally DONE with all my commitments.

No, really. Done.

For 11 months I was getting ready for  various beaver talks or getting grants or planning the beaver festival, (or holding or recovering from the beaver festival), and then I had to submit reports to make sure we received our grants. Meanwhile the shrink side of my brain signed on for this talk because I knew it was after the festival and I’d have time, (and a topic near and dear to my heart) which I later found out the class was being video taped and being sold to the state bar so I wanted to make it good,  (which it was) and yesterday it happened and now I’m totally and completely done.

Which makes Sunday August 30, 2015 the very first real day off I’ve had since last September. Usually the months WHIZ by but I am stunned that 29 days ago we held the beaver festival. I love September. Because the next festival is still as far away as it will ever be.

Here’s another gift from Rusty’s visit to the Napa beaver pond to celebrate. Chirping and mutual grooming by otters pups. Enjoy.

Beaver beginnings

   Posted by heidi08 On August - 29 - 2015Comments Off

Beaver Genome Project: ‘There is a lot of interest’

PORTLAND, Ore. — With an assist from Filbert — a furry, buck-toothed denizen of the Oregon Zoo’s Cascade Stream and Pond habitat — scientists at Oregon State University are preparing to sequence the genome of our state animal, the North American beaver.

 Researchers say results of the Beaver Genome Project could help us better understand population dynamics of this iconic Northwest animal, which has evolved to play a key role in maintaining the habitat complexity of wetland ecosystems.

 “This kind of research can tell us things like how many populations of beaver there used to be and even give us clues as to their size,” said Dr. David Shepherdson, the zoo’s deputy conservation manager. “It can also give some indication of how connected and genetically diverse our current wild populations are.”

 “Beavers are important to the ecology of the region, and understanding their genome is an important part of understanding their behaviors and role in the ecosystem,” added Dr. Stephen Ramsey, assistant professor of biomedical sciences at OSU. “There is a lot of interest in exploring the genetics of wild beaver populations throughout the Northwest, but we lack the reference genome that would really facilitate those kinds of studies.”

 Enter Filbert, a North American beaver at the OregonZoo. Since zoo veterinarians were conducting the animal’s routine physical exam and blood-work panel this month, they offered to set aside a small blood sample for OSU’s genome project.

This is the beaver in question in the Oregon zoo engaged in a daily pastime: it surely seems typical enough to make inferences on all members of the species.

Which is not to say this isn’t mildly interesting, but it’s certainly not the genetic research we need on beavers. Whagenomet we need to do is look at all the pretend subspecies (three supposedly in California: Golden, Shasta and & Sonora) and find out if they’re really any different or if they’re just different names because some naturalist wanted credit. In Europe they tested all the pretend subspecies and found there was an east version and a west version, and that was it. We need to do that in the US, and we haven’t. All we need is a couple of hairs from the pelts in a museum and we’re good to go. Unfortunately this news is about the kind of genetic testing you would do on yourself to learn that you had ancestors in Asia or were once related to tribal kings. Interesting, but not going to change our thinking much.

Yesterday afternoon Rusty Cohn of Napa had the random fortune to be walking past the pond and film this amazing interaction of the three young otter pups born in Tulocay creek this year.  This is the kind of moment that when you’re holding the camera you can’t believe you were lucky enough to get it on film. When I say enjoy. I know you will.


Anonymous restoration work

   Posted by heidi08 On August - 28 - 2015Comments Off

Where cutthroats swim and cattle roam

A watershed restoration project on private and public land near Elko, Nevada, is benefitting threatened Lahontan cutthroat and the cattle of the Heguy family. The Susie Creek project has been highlighted by the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association and the Elko District of the Bureau of Land Management in the first of a series of articles showcasing ranching conservation projects on Lahontan cutthroat trout streams in Nevada

Susie creek. Maybe you’re thinking, “Susie creek, Susie creek…I know that name….” and you’d be right. Because you do. Because it’s the remarkably restored creek filmed in this part of a certain documentary that we all watched last year.

(That initial clip is of susie creek NV being assessed by Suzanne Fouty and Carol Evans.)
Clearly they know what’s saving these trout and the stream. And the author Brent Prettyman is a major beaver benefit reporter from way back, so he knows what’s going on too. But this article definitely hides the beaver light under a bushel.

It’s like everyone is afraid of saying the B-word.

The Heguy family allotment includes 37,000 acres of public land and 13,000 acres of private. Restoration work was done on the entire allotment and included help reseeding native vegetation from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after a wildfire, water developments to draw cattle away from riparian areas and a pasture to manage timing and duration of grazing on the land.

Um okay, you got a lot of money to plant willow and build fences to keep the cows out. Yeah, that is a great start. Then what happened? Did the trout just magically appear? Did it rain trout? Or was there several middle steps. Actors that enriched the soil, increased the invertebrate community, and stored the water over time. HMMM? Speak up, I can’t hear you?

The benefit for the threatened trout is colder water and more of it, as well as critical streamside vegetation. The evaluation showed riparian vegetation in the entire Susie Creek Basin increased by more than 100 acres. There had been no beaver dams in the system and there were 139 when the evaluation was done. More water was visible on the landscape and well monitoring showed an increase in shallow aquifers.

Okay, so we kept out the cows and planted willow and then these fish and beaver dams just started magically appearing! We have no idea why! I mean there just HAPPENED to be 139 beaver dams by the time  the creek was restored? That’s soooooooo random.  What an incredible coincidence.

What a bunch of beaver sissies! They just can’t admit how important a role they played can they?

The most amazing part of this article is that Carol is able to work with this rancher and get him to keep the cows out of the creek and manage to get a grant for it. All the while knowing full well that she can’t say the name of the heroes responsible or she’ll raise hackles. Plus the feds would never fund a BEAVER project!

Carol Evans is a magician, a talented tight-rope walker and I salute her for that. Here’s her additions to this article from her response this morning,

Well, thanks for this. Is it great, but there are a few things I would like to clarify. The Heguy Allotment is at the top of the watershed above the area where beaver have colonized. The majority of the Susie Creek basin is grazed by Maggie Creek Ranch. Cattle were never removed from any portion of the watershed or stream; rather we just work with the ranchers to manage grazing (basically the magic formula is to reduce frequency and duration of hot season grazing over time; the recovery areas are still grazed spring, fall, summer – short duration, etc.). Also, willows were not planted; recovery just happens here when you remove the stressor (too much hot season grazing) and let nature do her thing! This is happening in many places in NE Nevada.

 On another note, myself and several ranchers have been invited to speak on the subject of livestock management=riparian plants=beaver=water (!) at a conference on Restoring the Water Cycle at Tuff’s University in Boston in October. Cool that this important story continues to gain attention!

 As a side note, in the Maggie Basin, where prescriptive grazing has been in place for about 25 years, active beaver dams went from 100 to 270 in four years (from 2006 to 2010)! We have some similar type info in another basin. Remote sensing is a great way to look at all of it. The next step would be to quantify the water storage. Some day . . .

 Thanks for your work in telling the story!

Carol Evans
Fishery Biologist,Tuscarora Field Office
Elko District, BLM
3900 E. Idaho St.
Elko, NV 89801