Archive for October, 2012

Friends in damp places

Posted by heidi08 On October - 31 - 2012Comments Off on Friends in damp places

Storm Sends Beavers into Pentagon City Streets

Humans aren’t the only ones suffering the effects of Superstorm Sandy. The storm apparently forced some beavers out of their habitats and into the streets of Pentagon City.

A few residents who live in a condo complex on S. Hayes Street were about to head out this morning when they were surprised by a wet, furry visitor.

The residents called animal control upon encountering the beaver scurrying from door to door. Desiree Lomer-Clarke said the animal control worker who came to the scene reported having to deal with two other beavers earlier this morning.

Wow, that qualifies as the kindest possible reception to some stray beavers from our friends in Virginia. Considering that folks were water soaked and very recently had the most famous rabid beaver attack in the history of the world  just 7 miles away in Lake Barcroft, this was truly unexpected kindness.

The displaced beavers were not acting in an erratic manner to suggest they would have rabies — as happened twice this summer during beaver attacks in Fairfax County — so they were released near their homes.

As the area’s water levels return to normal, Zell said the beavers that wandered Pentagon City should be able to once again inhabit their dens. If the dens were damaged or destroyed by the storm, the animals should adjust easily to a new habitat.

Sounds like Mr. Zell is a friend of ours. You have to wonder what were the compassion strings that got pulled behind the scenes to let this happen so smoothly. Well, I never look a beaver gifthorse in the mouth. Thanks Pentagon city for showing some uncommon sense in a time of watery distress!

And to follow up on the dragonflies in beaver ponds report here’s a fantastic poster from their work in Germany. Click on the image for a better look.

Click for larger poster

In the Shadow of Sandy

Posted by heidi08 On October - 30 - 2012Comments Off on In the Shadow of Sandy

Flooding at Ground Zero Construction Site

Amidst the hurricane-meets-blizzard story that rocked the Atlantic coast yesterday, I hope you gave a thought to our beaver champions, who are sprinkled along the east coast like hardy wildflowers, bringing a touch of much needed color to their shores. I actually just heard from Mike Callahan of Beaver Solutions that he is trapped in London by Sandy and unable to get home. He is wondering if  there will be a Beaver Solutions truck when he gets back. Let’s also give a thought to Sarah Summerville of the Unexpected Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey, who has likely seen an unbelievable night.

Yesterday a ‘thank you’ package arrived from Sharon and Owen Brown of Beavers: Wetlands and Wildlife who visited earlier this month. It contained a very nice letter, several beaverish treats and a copy of their new DVD called Meet the Beaver! It’s a charming story of the beavers they hand raised and the impact beavers have on the environment. It also has footage that made me, whose watched beavers for 5 years, catch my breath. If I were you, I would march right over the the BWW website and implore to purchase your own. It’s not listed for sale yet, but I’m sure they’d be thrilled to sell you an advance copy. Their note said that I could share a little taste with you, and I knew just what flavor belonged. I know that sometimes I post videos that nobody watches but you honestly CAN’T miss this. Enjoy!

Isn’t that cool? What on earth is that toad doing? It’s not like he can’t swim or he needs the rest! It made me think me of the gingerbread man getting a ride from the fox. Remember that scene? Of course toads don’t dissolve in water and beavers don’t eat them, but still….

Now if that whet your appetite for some longer footage, check out Michael Foster’s newest piece on the San Pedro river. See how many different species you can name! He’s such an excellent wildlife photographer that its always a treat to look at his footage. (No Toad-riders though!) That weird little creature is a koati which we don’t have and you should really see up close for yourself some day.

Our River: A Work in Progress from San Pedro River Videos on Vimeo.

St. George and the Dragonfly

Posted by heidi08 On October - 29 - 2012Comments Off on St. George and the Dragonfly

Brought to our attention by our beaver friends in Wales but based on a study  conducted in Germany

The effect of the Eurasian Beaver on Dragonflies and Damselflies (Odonata)

In order to compare beaver ponds with woodland streams representative of large areas north of the Alps, but yet not influenced by the beaver, we studied the following habitat types:

1. Natural springs (definite woodland springs)
2. Streams (natural – semi-natural in woodland, not influenced by the beaver)
3. Beaver ponds (some 10 -15 years old, up to 2000 m², sunny to half-shaded).
4. Beaver ponds abandoned for 1 to 3 years.

Now, being as that I’ve been watching our own beaver ponds for the last 5 years and have seen the density of dragonflies wholly influsenced by the quality and quantity of dams, I’m going to guess the answer to this research question before I get to the end of the story. The year that our dams and lodge were totalled, and mom was dead and dad took off for a while, there was a huge drop in our summer aviators – partly because everything they wanted to eat was washed away. But let’s see what they found anyway? (And by the way, if you’re like me you would appreciate a reminder of the difference between dragonflies and damselflies) when at rest damselfly wings lay parallel to the body, while dragonflies are still perpendicular like airplanes. Now with that out of the way, lets read on:


Despite the relatively short period of time since the return of the beaver, and the rather small number of beaver ponds, the ponds already now make a remarkable contribution to the conservation and spread of rare dragonfly and damselfly species.

Beavers contribute markedly to nature and species conservation in the densely settled countryside of Central Europe. The species should therefore be more greatly integrated into plans to implement conservation measures and renaturisation of water bodies than it has been to date.

Particularly notable are:

– The extraordinary combinations of species (boreal alongside sub-Mediterranean species)
– The extremely different habitat requirements of the species

– The increase in typical stream dragonflies and damselflies in spite of damming by the beaver
– The increase in part of highly endangered species

Steve Wheeler: Coitus Interruptus

Are you shocked? Me neither! Being that dragonflies eat the kinds of things that hatch in beaver ponds, it should be a surprise to no one that they actually do better with some beavers around to make and maintain the ponds. Still, we are always grateful when someone goes to the trouble of documenting the obvious, because it is apparently very hard for some people to see even with proof.

A dragonfly is a remarkable predator. Once I sat in the sun and a slender blue example decided to sit on my knee, and use that perch as a landing pad for his continued predation.  He would wait with little twitches of his tale, discoball eyes on the gnats floating around my garden, spy one that looked a likely target and ZOOM zap out of his perch to snap the gnat up mid-flight and then settle again on my knee perch while he was still swallowing. He would repeat this as long and as often as I watched or waited. I remember once a million years ago rescuing a drowning dragonfly in my canoe off mirror lake in Lassen, and allowing its drenched form to dry in the sun while I paddled about. While the soaking creature dried at close range I was very surprised to learn that even though dragonflies have pretty remarkable wings,  when you are in any proximity to them you realize fairly quickly that are also really big carnivorous bugs.

So there are more kinds of dragonflies and damsel flies at beaver ponds? Gee, I guess there must be things that eat these creatures too! Someone should do a study on whether their populations go up near a beaver pond next!

Give a little to get a lot

Posted by heidi08 On October - 28 - 2012Comments Off on Give a little to get a lot

The county of Columbus North Carolina has settled on the specs for their beaver killin’ extravaganza. Apparently folks will get 30 dollars a tail after paying a 2 dollar tag fee (each corpse) and registering as a trapper. That means if Pa takes out a colony of 6 he will spend a dozen dollars and make himself a handy $180.

Beaver bounty rules finalized

Beaver trappers will have another incentive to take to the water in Columbus County starting Nov. 12 – bounty money. The county beaver committee finalized the details on the bounty plan Monday night, according to Dan Jones, a member of the board. The county will pay $30 per tail. To qualify for the program, a trapper must be registered with the county and purchase a $2 tag for each beaver. Members of the beaver committee and their families are not eligible to participate.

Well isn’t that nice. I mean with an unemployment rate of 12.8 percent who wouldn’t wanna kill a few beavers for extra credit? Of course the beavers have to be from Columbus county, with written permission from the landowners where they were killed, but it’s not like they’re gonna come with registration papers. Who would know if you pop over to Robeson or Brunswick to scoop a few extra? At $30 a head you can hardly afford not to!

Let’s see.. Wikipedia is kind enough to tell me that the county has about 17 square miles of water, and we can assume  there’s probably not  more than one colony per two miles or so, so that shouldn’t cost the county more than a cool 3000. Since they’re already in drought conditions you gotta wonder what they’ll be complaining about next. Awful woodduck hunting?  Poor trout fishing? No matter that they could have been a peck of flow devices for that money and had all the trickle down benefits of those beavers with none of the drawbacks. Never mind. Preaching to the deaf.

Here’s my favorite part of the article:

Tags may be purchased through the Soil and Water conservation Office

Because nothing says ‘conservation of soil and water’ as clearly as killing beavers.

The folks who should know better…

Posted by heidi08 On October - 27 - 2012Comments Off on The folks who should know better…
With some suspicion. I will weep for thee,
For this revolt of thine methinks is like
Another fall of man.
Henry V Act II: scene ii

Wildlife agents hunt beavers to stop floods in Federal Way

State wildlife agents are hunting beavers in Federal Way over concerns of flooding on South 373rd Street. The rising water levels in the Hylebos Creek, as caused by beaver dams, pose a threat to the road’s infrastructure and the safety of drivers.

Three beavers were trapped and euthanized this week at the Federal Way site. The department is looking for one more beaver, said Matt Cleland, district supervisor for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Wildlife Services.

Oh my goodness. Another city bringing in the feds to trap beavers. USDA to the rescue! Where is this anyway, Arkansas? Montana? Oh, no. Its in WASHINGTON STATE. That’s right, the place where everyone knows better and they just passed a unanimous beaver relocation bill this year. The place where the lands council whose highly successful beaver program has been on NPR, the Atlantic and the Wall Street Journal is just 300 miles away.

In 2007, the Spring Valley Restoration Project was intended to control flooding on South 373rd Street and expand the spawning grounds for salmon. WSDOT built a bridge and rerouted the creek through a culvert. Friends of the Hylebos, a local conservation group, helped plant trees and vegetation at the site.

However, beavers soon moved in and built large dams. The dams have raised the water level to just inches below the bridge while flooding the surrounding properties.

Let me get this straight. You just restored the area to encourage salmon. And beavers moved in which you should know will encourage salmon more right? But now there’s too much nature in this natural area so your bringing in APHIS to kill some of it? Makes sense to me.

“We weren’t going to remove them until the water got that close to the bridge,” said Carl Ward, a biologist for WSDOT. “One of the dams is 6 feet tall and has flooded 10 acres. … They built a second dam, which made it a lot worse.”

Ward acknowledged that more beavers will eventually build dams in that area.

Ya think?

Comment from Leonard Houston of the BAC in  Oregon:

In the article you will see that WDOT put in a bridge and rerouted the creek through a culvert, if that is not a reporter error then that is the most backward approach to road infrastructure and fish passage I ever heard of, here as most places we take out culverts and put in bridges to prevent blockage points by beavers and debris and to allow unobstructed passage to fish.

Hard to believe Michael Pollock lives just miles away and no one thought of working with NOAA or USFWS . This whole project stinks of poor planning with no forethought to long term management issues involved in every stream restoration project especially those conducted in beaver habitat.

Honestly, I don’t know whether to be mortified or amused by this tom-foolery. I love how much smarter Washington is than California, it encourages me all the time with what is possible. I love their successful programs and their smart public works. But to be truthful its a little daunting to see them so consistently be so much better than us. It’s like the big brother whose reputation you know you can never possibly live up to.

Well, looks like your brother has just totaled the family car and his halo will be a little bent for a while.

Creative Destruction

Posted by heidi08 On October - 26 - 2012Comments Off on Creative Destruction

What if you wanted were a clever author who prided himself on saying things in such a novel way that folks were forced to think of your topic in an entirely new light? Let’s say you wanted to talk about the economy and how the wealthy keep taking our cream off the top in a way that can’t possibly last. You wanted a compelling metaphor for unending selfishness and ruthless destruction so you picked the only obvious choice.

The Beaver.

Take for example the beaver. These little creatures are extremely unsustainable. Once they find a mate and an occupy a creek, tributary or stream, they get to work building a dam and lodge. To do this, they must saw down all available trees within close proximity to their home. Within a season or two, the surrounding landscape looks like a tornado hit it. A stand of forest is reduced to a collection of stumps. A beaver family will turn vibrant riverine habitat with healthy banks, fish runs, and flora in to a flooded plan for their pond. This level of destruction has been found to cause local extinction of some plant species dependent on riverbanks.

Yes, those little ecosystem destroyers! Thank goodness Neil Chambers has the courage to lay bare their chomping wilderness-crushing ways! Remember the barren wasteland the landscape had become after 60,000,000 of those little creatures had tromped all over our pristine shores before we came on the scene. Obviously, left to their own devices, the country was a  lunar tundra. Thank goodness all those trappers cleaned up the problem and made space for us to build cities!

His desolate photo looked a little suspicious to me. Why are none of those trees coppicing? Why is their no new growth in that photo? I went to look around for the original. And found a lovely mountain range that looked very familiar.

The Cordillera Darwin consists of several parallel west-to-east trending ranges. The rocks are predominantly Mesozoic quartzites, slates, phyllites, and low-grade schists. Each range is flanked by broad glacial valleys that developed along a series of left-lateral strike-slip faults. The faults mark former plate boundaries between the South American and Scotia plates. The introduction of the north American beaver, Castor canadiensis, has caused considerable destruction to the ambient environment.

Patagonia. Tierra del Fuego. The author had to scour the most remote reaches of South America to find the remnants of the get-rich-quick scheme that went awry when beavers were loosed upon the land by some Argentine tycoon in the 40’s. Turns out most of the trees in South America don’t ‘coppice’. So no new shoots. And trees that are cut stay cut, which is bad for the beavers, and bad for the countryside, and rotten for arguments.

To say that beavers are unsustainable because they are killing trees in Pantagonia is like saying Ben and Jerry’s is a failed product because no one is buying it on the African plains.  Is the region ready for your produce? Does it have refrigeration   or trees that coppice for example? But Neil had a point to make, and didn’t much care about the accuracy of his metaphor.

Though they are extremely unsustainable, beavers are also keystone species. In their destruction, they create new niches, and are essential into the changing dynamic of forests. Biodiversity springs anew from their actions. In fact, they are so joined to the bionetwork, they contribute to its overall health. They seem to have no problem being unsustainable either… no initiatives to conserve trees or remit dam construction. No efforts to recycle branches, twigs or bark. They do what they do without shame or remorse. They are both unsustainable and the underpinning of biological life.

I cannot even imagine the conversation two competent ecologists would have about this paragraph: An unsustainable keystone species? A species that makes habitat for something else just before it commits dramatic suicide? Just so we are clear, beaver chewed trees in North America, like willow and aspen and birch, sprout and regrow. It is a green renewal and it is lovely to see. In fact there is even a fantastic article about it from our friends at the river Tay today in Scotland.

“After all, we know that beavers cut down trees. Most of the trees that beavers cut are willow trees and the like, near water, and they will generally coppice or sucker abundantly the following spring. In fact some people think that beaver saliva may contain some growth promoter as beaver cut seems to regrow particularly well. The short bushy vegetation that grows next to water in the presence of beavers is good for stabilising riverbanks and is excellent habitat and fodder for numerous species.

Go Louise! What a range! from beavers as a laser beam of ecological destruction to beavers regrowing trees with their magic spit all in the same day! (For the record birds nest soup has magic spit in it, beaver saliva probably does not.)

Honestly, I can’t believe this dodgy article got published in any magazine. Doesn’t everyone know by now that beavers create wetlands and restore habitat? What backwards nature-phobic prehistoric journal printed this anyway?

Metropolis Magazine
61 W. 23rd St.
4th Floor
New York, NY 10010
212-627-9977 (tel), 212-627-9988 (fax)

I am beyond stunned to find this bio on the treehugger website:

Neil Chambers – Contributing Writer, Design / New York, NY

Neil Chambers is an award-winning green designer and founder of Chambers Design, Inc and Green Ground Zero. He was named one of 50 Most Beautiful People Saving the World. In July 2011, his first book came out entitled Urban Green: Architecture for the Future, published by Palgrave|MacMillian, which reached #1 on the Amazon Kindle eBooks list for Land-Use and Urban Planning books. Passionate about cities, buildings, healthcare, habitat, infrastructure, biodiversity and ecosystems, his professional work drives to interconnect these areas into what he calls ecomimicry. He is a National fellow with the Environmental Leadership Program and has taught at New York University as well as the Fashion Institute of Technology. During his national book tour, he visited more than 20 universities throughout the southeast, west coast and northeast of the United States. He has been featured in Architectural Record, Guernica Magazine, Eco_Design Magazine, Civil Engineering, Vogue Italia, BBC News, Fox News,, the Economist and other media outlets. When not designing green hospitals, restoring habitat, writing for or lecturing about the future of sustainability, Neil loves to run, swim, bike and hang out with his wife Lucy and son Thunder.

Letters to write. Must dash.

Crossing the Moors

Posted by heidi08 On October - 25 - 2012Comments Off on Crossing the Moors

Yearling grooming-Photo Cheryl Reynolds

The Rossmoor Nature Association (RNA) is hosting an informative lecture and slide show on Wednesday November 14th at 3:00 p.m. in the Peacock Hall at Gateway. The speaker for this fascinating program about urban beavers will be Dr. Heidi Perryman a noted local beaver advocate and founder of the “Worth A Dam” educational organization. As improbable as it might seem, beavers are living comfortably in downtown Martinez—however, their presence there has not been without heated controversy.

Heidi Perryman, Ph.D., is a child psychologist with a private practice in Lafayette. She is also a board member of the John Muir Association at the National Historic Site in Martinez and became an accidental beaver advocate when she started filming the Martinez beavers in 2006. She started the organization “Worth A Dam” to manage their continued care and educate others about their value in the watershed. She has been particularly interested in the way that the beavers’ struggle has connected residents more closely to their environment, to their city government and to each other.

In addition to a very popular annual beaver festival, Worth A Dam does several community outreach and educational programs a year, including fieldtrips and class room visits. Dr. Perryman has also collaborated with beaver management expert Michael Callahan of Massachusetts to help release an instructional DVD teaching how to live with beavers (featuring footage of the Martinez Beavers). Most recently she worked with an historian, archeologist and biologist to publish groundbreaking research on the western fur trade and the original prevalence of beavers in California – a subject that has been surprisingly misunderstood for a nearly a century.

The beaver (Castor canadensis) is the largest rodent in North America and the only land mammal with a broad flat tail. Beavers and their ingenious dams help to create wetlands, store and filter water, augment fish populations, raise the number of migratory and songbirds, and have a dramatic positive impact on wildlife. Dr. Perryman feels that working to help people understand and coexist with this single species will continue to have a dramatic trickle-down impact on the environment in general. The Peacock Hall’s doors will open at 2:30 p.m. and the program will begin at 3:00. The length of the presentation will be approximately 60 min. with time for questions afterward. Visitors are always welcome to attend any of the RNA’s activities. For information about the Rossmoor Nature Association’s program series, contact Penny Ittner at 891-4980 or by e-mail at Related attachment (1st week): Beaver1bw Caption: “The North American Beaver”.