In Glen Ellen, a colony of beavers arrives—and this time, they’re a little more welcome
by James Knight
Brace yourselves. Here at Martinez beaver central we’ve been called a lot of names in our 6 years. But this just might be the best.
A HARDY TAIL Popular beavers in Martinez set a game-changing precedent for a new family of dam-builders in Glen Ellen. – Cheryl Reynolds – Worth a Dam
In the mid-1990s, a family of beavers found their way up Sonoma Creek and settled in Glen Ellen. Although they were the first beavers that had been seen here since the animals were extirpated decades earlier, they got the same welcome that is traditionally offered to beavers: they were trapped and killed.
Then in 2006, a mating pair wandered out of the Delta and constructed a dam on Alhambra Creek in the middle of Martinez. “You could sit at Starbucks and watch the kits play,” says resident Heidi Perryman. The city council, worried about flooding, first considered the quiet, business-as-usual approach. But with so many people watching and protesting, the beavers got a stay. Perryman formed the nationwide advocacy group Worth a Dam, to help people navigate similar situations. (Her next talk on the issue is Thursday, July 11, at San Francisco’s Randall Museum.)
This article by James Knight for the Bohemian is an excellent read, you should go check out the whole thing. This is what happens when you take a little time to get the story right. (I first connected with him way back on May 3!) I suggested he follow up with Brock Dolman of the OAEC and that really gave a regional back bone for the article. Now when wine country folks spot a beaver problem, they know just who to turn to for help.
In Martinez, it isn’t just about beavers anymore. When the pond filled with fish, river otters returned to the area. Mink also turned up, along with a host of waterfowl and songbirds.
That kind of result could improve habitat for the North Coast’s federally endangered coho salmon, says Dolman. “Having grown up in Idaho and back East, I loved to fish in beaver ponds because there were a lot of fish in there. So I got to thinking: Why aren’t we talking about beavers?” While state agencies and landowners are trying to slow down stream flow and erosion with costly projects, “beavers can do it better, faster and way cheaper.” Dolman’s organization was invited to contribute beaver language to the 2012 Coho Recovery Plan.
If beavers pop out of the creek into another vineyard, it may not play out the same as last time. In Siskiyou County, Dolman says, the Department of Water Resources had requested a trapping permit almost annually for 30 years, because beaver activity interfered with a data collection point. “Two years ago, they were doing the same thing, and the biologist said, ‘Wait a minute, we’ve got to talk about this.’ They had a community meeting, created a beaver technical group, and for the first time the DWR didn’t get that permit.”
I’d really like to think James was right, and that Martinez was a ‘game-changer’ for how we deal with beavers in northern California. Certainly some things were changed. But even in Martinez it is clear that everyone isn’t playing the same game, so changing the rules of that game just won’t effect them. If new beavers showed up in the city tomorrow do you think that they would ask Worth A Dam what to do? All we can hope is that enough folk read smart articles like this and know to hold their leaders feet to the fire long enough to nudge things in the right direction.
Speaking of nudging, the 6th beaver festival was approved last night and the game is definitely on. Also our lovely artist Amelia Hunter was kind enough to tinker with the flyer and make the adult a little bigger.
Speaking of which, it was very high tide last night, and both dams were totally flooded. An adult beaver filmed pulling a branch through the gap of the primary and down towards the secondary!
One kit was finally spotted last night around nine. He also swam through the gap and was totally spooked by the fact that the water was rushing the wrong way! (Can solstice come any faster? This extended daylight thing is starting to get out of hand.)