We have been so focused on the festival dilemma and getting ready for Visions of the Wild Sunday that we didn’t even notice this fine article in the Gazette on Sunday. Time to settle in and appreciate it. My goodness, Donna Beth took good notes of our conversation, she wrote every point I made and only got one thing fuzzy. Cheers to the Martinez Gazette which broke the beaver story a decade ago! And than you, Donna for making it official.
MARTINEZ, Calif. –The beavers are back, Heidi Perryman said after a mother, father and one kit were recorded swimming in Alhambra Creek near Susana Street.
“We noticed that the water was not moving at the Susana Street Bridge,” Perryman said about a visit in the past few days to the area. Close to a corner fence, Perryman, founder of the beaver-advocating “Worth a Dam” organization, spotted a tiny dam.
She and Moses Silva, who films the beavers independent of Perryman’s organization, investigated further and found another dam between Martinez Junior High School and Creekside Montessori’s building.
Unfortunately, the beavers weren’t spotted in time for the 10th edition of the Martinez Beaver Festival Aug. 5, Worth a Dam’s annual event that brings together the public along with multiple environmental and wildlife advocacy groups.
Well, I always say that beaver don’t keep secrets. Now it’s official. At least the mayor knows that people will know if something happens to them.
Last year, after nearly a year’s absence of downtown Martinez beavers after an entire litter and an older sibling had died, a pair of beavers returned just days before the 2016 festival. They later moved away as construction for the city’s intermodal site became too much for the animals to tolerate.
This year, for the first time in the festival’s history, there were no beavers to see near the downtown “Beaver Park,” so the traditional guided walks were canceled.
Perryman is not the least bit disappointed that this new beaver discovery came too late for this year’s celebration. First, she knew beavers remained in Martinez, but were living farther inland. Second, since the festival generates such goodwill toward wildlife, she said, “It’s like we summoned them!”
You do what you can and you see if it’s enough.
Perryman wants the positive feelings to continue, so she wrote people who live in the block where the new beaver family has been seen. Her organization provided advice about protecting plants and promised to assist in dealing with trees beavers might find attractive.
She also made the announcement of the beaver family discovery Thursday at a Martinez Kiwanis Club meeting, “because they are big beaver supporters.” She also thanked the organization for a grant it has awarded to Worth a Dam.“I thought it was the best place,” she sad about her choice of the club meeting to spread the news.
A correction. I meant they have supported our festival by giving us grants in the past. Not everyone at Kiwanis is a beaver supporter, in fact some were adamantly opposed when I first presented. I hope folks don’t think I’m taking them for granted.
However, she said the animals’ choice of a place to build a new dam means they aren’t easily seen by the public.
“The thing is, last time what saved them was they were visible,” she said. “This is not very visible, and we need people to be concerned about them. You could see them if you are lucky, if you stand on the Susana Street bridge, because they are working on the dam near Susana Street Park.
Also, Perryman doesn’t believe the little dams will survive the first big storm of winter.
“It will be too much for that tiny dam,” she said. “It’s very narrow, maybe 10 feet across. The force of the water will push the dam – it will blow out.”
Unlike the much larger dam built earlier in the city’s downtown, this dam should cause no flooding problems while it lasts, she said.
“That creek bank is 40 feet, and that dam is 2 feet high,” she said.
If the dam is destroyed, the beaver family likely will move “to where it’s less conflicted.” That could be eight blocks inland, where the creek is wider, she said.
I said ‘constricted’, but close enough. I meant a wider creek so the water pressure is spread out over more area.
Perryman said the family is made up of a female, a male and their small kit. They were spotted earlier in August by one of Perryman’s friends, who said the adults would move around, followed by a little muskrat. “She was so impressed that wherever they went the little muskrat followed them around,” Perryman said.
But Perryman had a hunch that was no muskrat. When she and Silva saw the animals, she recognized the “muskrat” was a beaver kit.
The rest of the family story sounds like a soap opera.
The female, which Perryman and others have recognized, is the older of the two adults. She was the second mate of the first male beaver seen in the downtown area in 2007. She became his mate after his earlier mate died.
But he was much older than this female, and eventually he succumbed, too, Perryman said.
Now this “second wife” has found a new mate – and this male is younger and smaller than she. They are the beaver couple Silva found and filmed mating just before the 2016 Beaver Festival.
Another indication of the male’s age is that the couple’s mating produced just one kit, common for younger male beavers, Perryman said. The youngster may be about 10 months old, she said.
Okay, I do dimly remember saying something like this and instantly regretting it at the end of our goliath interview, but I shouldn’t have. It’s stupid, so don’t quote me on this. Young FEMALES have fewer kits. I have no ideas about young males sponsoring fewer kits, and I don’t think there’s any research on that.
“He’s a cute little guy,” she said.
Should the beavers decide to stay in the Susana Street area, Perryman might consider moving the Beaver Festival to Susana Street Park. “It’s a lovely venue, and a great chalk artist wants to do a wildlife painting if we can figure out how,” she said.
Meanwhile, Perryman is happy just to see beavers in Martinez again. “It’s very sweet. It’s very wonderful. I’m really thrilled,” she said.
The money quote:
“I want people to know that beavers need them now as much as they did 10 years ago,” she said. “When we solved that problem 10 years ago, we were doing something brand new. Now it’s old school. This is something we already have learned how to solve.”
Wow. That article reminds me what a whirlwind this all has been – between finding the dam, getting Moses to explore, seeing the footage, making the film, getting myself invited to Kiwanis, writing the neighbors, actually going to Kiwanis, contacting the chalk artist and finding out it could work, and talking to folks about possibly moving the festival. No wonder I’m tired!