Because the beaver isn't just an animal; it's an ecosystem!

The Martinez Beavers

Save-everythings, Save-somes and Save-ours.

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Lesley Fox, executive director of The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals, shows Kent council members the dangers of a Conibear trap, during a presentation discussing alternatives to trapping in urban areas.
— image credit: Jessica Peters/ OBSERVER

I would like to comment on the article “Group aims to reduce trapping,” Observer, Feb. 13, 2014.

 Leslie Fox claims that installing a pipe in a beaver dam will force the beavers to relocate. This is true, but if the beaver moves doesn’t this essentially become someone else’s problem? And should the municipality (a.k.a taxpayer) be required to pay $300-$800 for each beaver dam pipe installation when a trapper can remove the beavers at a fraction of the cost?

This is the second time I’ve read about people getting this wrong idea from FBD about what flow devices do. I’m sure Adrien or Lesley don’t actually SAY that beavers will leave, but they might leave it a little fuzzy and people fill in with their expectations. If you were going to pay money to put in this contraption, the point must be that beavers LEAVE right? Why else would you do it? They need to say SPECIFICALLY over and over that the flow device is installed so that the beavers can safely REMAIN and perform their ecosystem magic while using their naturally territorial behaviors to keep others away.

I don’t think a single person in Martinez ever had the idea that Skip’s installation would make our beavers leave. This is a misunderstanding that can clearly be avoided.

This is as good a time as any  to talk about the difference between the “Save-everythings” and Worth A Dam.  The work we both do is important, and I  respect them, but Worth A Dam is beaver-focused and FBD is beaver-inclusive. Because their focus is NO TRAPPING they might offer several alternatives, of differing qualities, with less clarity for how they work because they want people to know they have options. I am less concerned about trapping than I am about allowing beavers on our land and water scapes. And in order to do that I want to clarify alternatives and outcomes exactly.

But both of us are a separate category than the “Save-somes” who want beaver services for salmon, or drought, or frogs, without particularly caring about the animals themselves. Beavers are a means to an end for many, many of our friends, and if a particular beaver or family dies in relocation, there is always another to fill the gap.  Over the years I have been alternately heart-broken and frustrated with the “save-somes”, but I have come to peace with them for the most part. In the vast scheme of things we need the “save-everythings” and the “save-somes” to help turn the tide against beavers intolerance. There is no way to move forward without them.

Hellogoodbye 1
Kits coming and going over primary dam – Cheryl Reynolds

Worth A Dam started out as a “Save-ours” organization. It took everything we had to protect a single family of beavers in Martinez. And against may odds we did a great job. When danger was averted we transitioned to a “Save-more” organization. And at this point there isn’t a single beaver story that I’m content to end in trapping although I know many, many do. Somewhere along the way the focus shifted to education, which is a longer-term goal and less inherently disappointing. If your mission is to stop any beaver from being killed you will always face failure – but if your goal is to teach people why to do it differently, there is always a modicum of hope.

All this is to say that there is an inherent prejudice in how these three groups are treated by the powers that be. The “save-somes” get the most respect, ostensibly because they have a justifiable interest in the cause and they pragmatically don’t mind a few casualties along the way. The “save-ours” are indulgently tolerated for the most part, as an amusing child with a pet cricket that she wants to take to bed. But the “save-everythings” face the worst – reviled by the trap-friendly community, politicans who want easy answers and dismissed by the scientists out of fear of getting accused of being a supporter. Their path is very stony.

I first became aware of this divide from beaver contact Jake Jacobsen who was the watershed steward for Snomish County in Washington. He was one of the early installers of flow devices. We were in contact for many years before he retired. One day he idly sent me a short video taken of blowing up a beaver dam. I was more tender-hearted in those days and was pretty icked and said so. He wrote back “that I should be able to laugh at these things. I shouldn’t act upset or people would accuse me of being a hugger“.

This really surprised me at the time. Would I have worked as hard to save our beavers as I did if I wasn’t a hugger? But overtime I’ve come to realize what it  says about the tightrope he felt he was walking his whole career – and the tightrope “save-somes” have to walk to be taken seriously in what they consider to be the ‘real’ world. If the truth were told, I am more like a hugger who has learned to camouflage myself as a ‘save-some”.

Maybe this is an odd way to talk and think about the different groups, but that’s probably what you get when you turn a psychologist into a beaver advocate. I’m a snail and my shell comes with me. Maybe someday the lines between the three groups will be more blurred and you won’t be able to tell them apart – but for now they are pretty distinct.

Which of the three groups are you?

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One comment on “Save-everythings, Save-somes and Save-ours.


I consider being called a “tree hugger” a compliment 🙂

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