Urban Beavers!

   Posted by heidi08 On January - 3 - 2013

Urban beavers kick off nature lecture series

Photo from our friend in Ottawa - Donna Dubreuil

When does a beaver change from our national animal to a damnable building machine? When they hear running water, according to Tom Purdy, a local expert on the chew-happy critter.

“Scientists have actually got beavers to try and start building dams by playing the sound of running water in an empty room,” Purdy told London Community News Monday (Dec. 31).

Purdy will be making the inaugural presentation of the 2013 Nature in the City lecture series, Urban Beavers, on January 15. Scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Wolf Performance Hall at the Central branch of the London Public Library (LPL) on Dundas Street, Purdy said his 45-minute talk will explore the “natural and unnatural history” of the beloved rodent.

Urban beavers? That’s MY riff! Talking for 45 minutes about beavers in cities at a nature center? And you’re not me? This is one of those moments where I’m both affronted and oddly delighted to be replaced! I can share. It’s a big world. It’s going to take all kinds of voices to deliver the message.

Assuming we’re delivering the same message?

Purdy taught environmental science at the high school level for 17 years, and spent over a decade as a resource manager at Pinery Provincial Park, where there is a large beaver population.

“My main emphasis will be on what beavers are really like: how much they actually eat, how much and where they actually dam and whether or not we can control any of that,” he said. “And to explore the biological/ecological benefit to having them around.”

Beavers have been an issue in the north end of the city, where they have destroyed swathes of trees, chewed through golf course irrigation pipes and their dams have caused unwanted flooding on commercial and industrial properties.

Purdy said he wants to give some solid facts for everyone to chew over – whether they think the beavers should be left alone, or wiped off the face of the earth, and everyone in between.

Hmm…I still can’t tell if we’re playing on the same team. Sometimes in order to sound open minded you argue from both sides before stating your actual point, I get that. But I get worried when I hear the words FACTS and BEAVERS in the same sentence. They are so rarely accurately paired.  This isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve heard folks pretend to be even-handed right before they explain that beavers ruin habitat for fish and spoil riparian borders. I’ve also heard very beaver-friendly folk go a long ways out of their way not to sound like a ‘hugger’ so that people will take them seriously. What’s the Purdy’s deal?

Purdy said he would focus on the beaver in three ways: first, on its history in North America dating back to pre-European/First Nations contact, our human relationship with the beaver and what features make the critter, which has a natural habitat that stretches from Texas to the Arctic Circle – so unique.

Uh-oh. what about the important 4th way? You know, the way where they are crucial wetlands creators and responsible for enormous biodiversity affecting fish, bird and wildlife populations, filtering pollutions and raising the water table? That way. Aren’t you going to talk about that?

The beaver topic came about as a result of listener reviews from last year’s lecture series. Tripp said when the organizing team was going over feedback cards, the beaver popped up a number of times as a desirable future subject.

“So this is the first time we’ve had to beat the ground so to speak and find someone who can speak about the beaver!

London is just a 2 hour drive from Toronto, where they have had Sherri Tippie speak twice at the fur-bearer defender’s conference and Mike Callahan came last year. I’m having a hard time believing that they couldn’t find anyone who knew about beavers before. Still, I’m glad it’s on the venue. I wrote Mr. Purdy about the benefits of our urban beavers, but haven’t heard back yet. It is almost always better to talk about things than not to talk about things, so I’m very hopeful.

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Oh and our good friends at the River Otter Ecology Project are in the chronicle. (again) You should stop by and read about sutro sam and their enthusiastic efforts.

The otter, dubbed Sutro Sam, has been hanging out in a large spring-fed pool along the rocky coast, munching on the many overgrown goldfish dumped into the pond by residents over the years.

“This otter is the first otter recorded in decades and decades in San Francisco, and as far as I know he is the only otter in San Francisco,” said Megan Isadore, the co-founder and director of outreach and education for the River Otter Ecology Project, which is tracking otter sightings around the Bay Area. “He’s a beautiful animal, well fed. He appears to be perfectly happy and not afraid of people”

A River Otter named Sutro Sam by local biologists searches for fish to feed on at the Sutro Baths on December 30, 2012 in San Francisco, Calif. Photo: Sean Havey, The Chronicle / SF

How about an article next about Berrellessa Beaver?

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