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The Martinez Beavers

Good News from the North

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Why Toronto residents must embrace city wildlife

Gladstone thinks it’s only fair she puts out a welcome mat for urban wildlife. “We are taking over their habitats,” she says. “They will stay and we have to learn to live with them.”

Her view is embraced by naturalists and conservationists. Animal populations have rebounded in North American cities and everyone — two legged and four — must adapt. But this accommodation will take effort: “We’ve largely taken ourselves out of the working landscape and mostly forsaken both the destructive ways and the stewardship skills of our ancestors,” says Jim Sterba in his engaging 2012 book, Nature Wars: The Incredible Story of How Wildlife Comebacks Turned Backyards into Battlegrounds. “But the comeback of wildlife and forests all but demands that we reconnect to the natural world around us, relearn old stewardship skills and develop new ways of practising those skills better.”

It’s not the New York Times, or the Washington Post,  or the Boston Globe. They (and countless others) reviewed Sterba’s handy published excuses for killing wildlife without so much as a single inconvenint fact check. We had to wait for the Toronto Star to put this brilliant piece together. Go read the whole thing all the way through, and email it to five of your friends. Then send a note of thanks to the author Liz Scrivener, who deserves a TON of credit.

Take the worrisome example of beavers.

 “Beaver numbers are definitely high,” confirms manager Toninger. “We have beavers swimming around million-dollar yachts on the harbourfront.”

Most complaints are about beavers damming and causing flooding in recreation areas but on occasion the problem involves backyards. In the winter, problems associated with North America’s largest rodent concern damage to trees. “They can level a whole forest and over the course of a winter can take down hundreds of trees.”

 Residents usually want beavers trapped and relocated. But that’s not the way nature works, Toninger explains.

 “Our understanding of wildlife is scripted,” he says, referencing Walt Disney. “That you can trap him and somehow he’d be happy and frolic somewhere else. You’d be trapping beaver for the rest of your existence. Move him somewhere else and the beaver dies a lonely existence in an area it doesn’t know. It can’t set up a territory and can’t feed. They are not like deer. They need a home base, they need a lodge. It’s no different than a stranger picking up your teenage son and taking him to a country he doesn’t know.”

 The conservation authority recommends installing a system of pipes called “beaver deceivers” or “beaver bafflers” so beavers can learn to live with lower water levels. Trees can be protected by wrapping them with wire.

Hurray for the conservation authority! Hurray for Liz and the Toronto Star! Honestly when I read this article I get the strangest feeling all over that there are a few reasonable humans in the world. It’s very, very strange, and wonderful!

I hope Mr. Sterba suffers from terrible indigestion today.

Our friends working on the beaver believers project have surface again after some much-needed rest. They posted this picture with USFS geomorphologist Suzanne Fouty.

suzanne & BB

Well this will certainly be a memorable summer for each one of them. I can’t imagine how Sarah is going to go through all that footage and end up with a 20 minute documentary, but I’m very intrigued to find out!

They also posted some stills of their interviews so far. You might recognize these folk.

tumblr_mrwk6fvQfF1su8crfo1_500tumblr_mrwjp6Ykxm1su8crfo1_500Heidi Interview

“Beaver Believers: A film about water, climate change and passionate people who care about our most industrious furry friend.”