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Human “Beaver Deceivers”

   Posted by heidi08 On April - 20 - 2008Comments Off on Human “Beaver Deceivers”

At the April 16th meeting the mayor invited Mary Tappel to rebut the subcommittee’s report (and if you haven’t read this morning’s Gazette article about this meeting you really should). Ms. Tappel referred to parts of it as mythology and said that the beavers were moving on because their food source was depleted. She added that 7 of the 7 flow devices she has seen installed have failed because the beavers simply relocated, and she included ours as the eighth. She had clearly visited this website and referred to the picture at the top of the kit eating blackberries as evidence of the food depletion because there was “no nutritional value in blackberries”. She had visited the dam early that morning and determined that the lodge was abandoned and that they had moved downstream. She proposed the city look into one town that had decided to deal with its beavers by keep them in a pit and charging admission.

Ms. Tappel’s history of involvement with beavers is complex at best, but she is certainly no advocate for our beavers. Her resume shows a BS in Botany with graduate coursework in water sciences. She serves part time on the State Waterboard, and has been involved with riparian restoration and beaver management. However, her name intially caught my attention with this quote in the Sacramento Bee, long before I ever knew about beavers in Alhambra Creek.

“But birth control isn’t the answer,” Tappel said. “Where you live-trap the male beaver and sterilize it, it’s complicated and expensive,” she said. “It puts stress on the animal, being captured and removed from the environment and held in captivity while the surgery occurs. What’s more, she said, the population growth resumes in just a few years.”

Aside from the obvious thought that perhaps killing a male in a conibear trap puts stress on the animal too (and if you’ve ever seen the horrific youtube footage showing how this can often mean slow drowning for an animal you know what I’m talking about) but aside from this, the statement about the population growth returning is simply bad science. Is she suggesting that it won’t return if the animals are killed? Would any other expert say that it was possible to successfully kill every single beaver in the area? Would any other expert deny that as the habitat recovers, the population will likely boom?

You may recall that she is the expert who the Gazette quoted on November 24th saying that “beavers breed for 50 years” and that the kits should be relocated at 10 months. This is untrue and unsound and I worked hard to document this in our report, [1],[2],[3]. After these misstatements were challenged she refused to appear before the subcommittee directly and answer questions but returned to meet with staff in private. She advised them, among other things, that as a way to control population, the adult male should be removed so that the mother would be forced to breed with one of her kits eventually.

I had thought that her presentation that night did everything required to discredit her argument, until I saw the substantial reporting by the press that gave weight to her position that the beavers were leaving after having depleted their food supply. This is simply not true and is another example of the media obligingly reporting myths that benefit those who want the beavers gone. Yesterday I spoke with person after person who had heard that news and believed it, so I thought I would address it here at beaver central.

  • Yes the beavers will leave some day, of their own accord, which is what beavers do all the time, but there is no evidence that this is happening now.
  • No, we don’t want to keep ours in a pit and charge admission.
  • Yes, our female is very pregnant and was just photographed working on the lodge.
  • No, beavers are not like the story of the baby Jesus, wandering off looking for a new residence right before delivery.
  • Yes, that particular kit was photograped eating blackberries in the summer at the height of available food season. That beaver just liked them and would go out of his way every day (passing up willow) to eat them.
  • Yes, the beavers have built a secondary dam which is not a “do-over” dam but more like a terrace which gives them greater feeding range.
  • No, the beavers have not run out of food. They are currently eating primarily tulle roots which they pull up, wash and crunch like carrots. Diet variety is essential for beaver health and all the beavers in the Delta survive on tulle because there are few trees. We still have willow for them to take, their coppicing will encourage growth eventually, and other trees can be added as needed through volunteer support. In discussion with Skip Lisle he said that apples and blackberries are a natural food source for beaver, they sometimes enjoy the sweetness. Beavers eat ferns, fennel, acorns, water plants and a wide range of foods besides willow. Check out the area near the secondary dam and you can see how close we are to running out of tulle.

There is a unique value in having a beaver population so entirely accessible that at least 30 people can view their habits every day. When a new behavior is observed, such as the kits building an addition to the lodge as was noted last week, it can be documented and discussed. Ms. Tappel’s observations, however experienced, are simply incorrect, and not relevant to our beavers. They certainly should have no more weight than the reports of the many people who see and photograph them every day.

[1] Steve Boyle & Stephanie Owens (2007) North American Beaver: A technical Conservation Assessment

[2] Baker, B. W., and E. P. Hill. 2003. Beaver (Castor canadensis). Pages 288-310 in G. A. Feldhamer, B. C. Thompson, and J. A. Chapman, editors. Wild Mammals of North America: Biology, Management, and Conservation. Second Edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

[3] Collins TC (1976). Population characteristics and habitat relationships of beavers, Castor canadensis, in northwest Wyoming. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Wyoming, Laramie

Second Beaver Chapters

   Posted by heidi08 On April - 20 - 2017Comments Off on Second Beaver Chapters

I have to tell you earnestly, our website has the BEST readers. Bob Kobres from Georgia found that footage of the Buda Texas flow device, and yesterday Robin Ellison of Napa tracked down the story of what happened to the cow-herding beaver. I’m so glad I got to watch this. And this fine rancher should be a spokeswoman as she is clearly the nicest person in Saskatchewan and a wonderful story teller.

I love the idea of the beaver going under the fence and the cows just watching with awe as he waddles away. Thanks Robin for assuring us this had a happy ending!

Not sure we’re going to get the same for some beavers in Rancho Cordova on CBS last night. But the fact that they were on the news instead of just quietly dispatched means they have a prayer. The report says the city is being ‘advised’ and you can guess by whom.

Beaver Dams Creating Flood Risk For Rancho Cordova Neighborhood

Given the location, I’m willing to bet that the ‘advisor’ the city is talking to is Mary Tappel, who came all the way to Martinez just to share her misinformation with our staff. Ahh, memories. The idea bothered me enough that I spent the past hour writing the city council about our solutions and the inaccurate information we received. I’m going to trust that there’s a chance it will get read and considered, but in between Placer and Sacramento is a hard place to be a beaver.

This lovely photo is from Leopold Kanzler in Vienna. He got my attention yesterday on FB when he changed his image to this great photo, which enchanted me for obvious reasons. Then I remembered he was the brilliant mind behind these photos and knew we were among friends. I’m told that these were not photo-shopped just carefully constructed beaver- curiosity driven moments that he perfectly captured on film.

Beaver Uses Laptop Beaver Uses Laptop


A Modest [beaver] Proposal

   Posted by heidi08 On April - 14 - 2017Comments Off on A Modest [beaver] Proposal

“A Modest Proposal” was published anonymously in 1729 by Jonathan Swift and shocked readers with the [satiric] suggestion that the problem of too many Irish poor children could be solved if their parents simply sold them as a food source to rich people.

A young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout.”[1]

Long before Trump said Mexicans were rapists and murderers, Swift  hated the way people were treating the poor Irish and more particularly the way that people wrote about their plight as if one single solution could solve everything. One of the subtle victories of the pamphlet was that it shocked and enraged the reader so much that they ended up hating the narrator and feeling sorry instead for the Irish.

Let’s hope. Because yesterday New Hampshire NPR podcast  on beavers from “Outside In” centered on a thoughtful retired mid-wife who solved her pesky beaver problem by deciding to eat them.

No really.

“For seven years I said, you can’t kill them, you have to outwit them. That’s back when I thought you could actually outwit a beaver, but you can’t.”


The paradigm under which we currently operate is called the American system of wildlife management, under which wildlife is a commonly owned resource, and through regulation we decide how many animals we will kill. Are deer eating the shoots off of too many saplings out in the forest? Increase the number of deer hunting permits issued. Are farmers complaining about losing livestock to coyotes? Relax limitations on hunting them. Are there so many beaver that they are expanding wetlands until they flood wells and roads? Call in trappers to reduce beaver populations in that location.

This ensures that the population stays below what is called the “biological carrying capacity” which is a fancy science-y way of saying “how many beaver the land can sustain.” Pat Tate is a big believer in keeping animal density low, because he believes it makes the animal’s lives better.

Pat said, “As I’ve reduced numbers in the wetlands, and went back subsequent years to trap, the amount of scarring and bite-marks on the beaver decreases. So the individual animal’s health increases.”

And trappers I’ve spoken to hear a lot of hypocrisy whenever they hear people call trapping immoral. For instance, a trapper from Southern New Hampshire, Jeff Traynor, points out there isn’t the same outrage at housing developments or highways or parking lots: forces that have just as much to do with keeping beaver populations low.

“We are the most invasive species on the planet, there’s no doubt about it,” he told me, “As we encroach more we’re pushing them. So where is that overflow going? There’s only so many places that they can go. It comes to a point where you can say, well let’s just let nature take its course, or you can say, as human beings can we manage this creature with moral wisdom?”

Two things I’m SURE trappers possess an abundance of: Morality and Wisdom. P-uleeze! If you have time go listen to the whole thing, because it is actually stunning how often it is incorrect. The story didn’t get any better when he talked to our friends Skip Lisle or Art Wolinsky either.

But this “moral wisdom” argument, just doesn’t do it for many beaver believers. Skip Lisle, founder of Beaver Deceivers International, has heard this argument for years in his line of work, and doesn’t buy it. “You know, you always hear, we have to kill the beavers so they don’t get hungry. And if you were an individual beaver, you can imagine which choice they would choose if they had one to make, right? Would you rather be hungry or dead?”

The proponents of restricting beaver trapping often point out that while some management decisions are based on ecosystems science—with government biologists going out and to try to estimate how many animals the land can sustain— other times, the decision is based on our willingness to tolerate animals. This is, almost euphemistically, what we call the “cultural carrying capacity.” And for beavers, it’s often that cultural limit, and not the actual limits of the habitat, that they bump up against.

Skip and his disciples argue they can increase society’s tolerance for beaver by keeping the two species from coming into conflict. Beavers’ damming instinct is triggered by running water, and by using a clever arrangements of grates, culverts, and drainage pipes, Skip keeps beaver far enough away from the running water that they don’t get the urge to start building a dam.

By putting in this type of “fixed protection” whenever a conflict arises, Skip argues we can have the best of both worlds: a growing beaver population and an infrastructure that isn’t submerged under beaver ponds. For him, the argument that trapping leads to a healthier population is beside the point.

Good for you Skip, I’m glad you tried valiantly to elevate this beaver HIT piece. But of course the narrator visits next the plight of Massachusetts where the mean compassion-isitas outlawed body crushing traps in 1996 and the beaver population exploded, because no trappers! (Never mind that no one IS or WAS counting the beaver population in MA or anywhere and any time threats to human property is at stake the same traps can be used anyway.)

Then he trots faithfully back to the beaver-eating midwife who bemoans that she tried installing a beaver deceiver AND a beaver baffler and they didn’t work!  So the plucky gal picked up her fork and got to work.

Carol Leonard, who started off our story, spent seven-years trying to figure out how to fool the beavers on her property. “In my naivete I said oh well we’ll try these beaver deceivers and these beaver bafflers and all these do-hickers,” she recalled. But eventually she gave up and apprenticed with a trapper, and started to trap out the animals that threatened her property.

“We are meat eaters, you know, we are hunter gatherers, it’s part of who we are. And so to be able to turn a blind eye to that is just a blind eye,” she said. She applauds animal rights activists, but says she thinks their efforts are better spent protesting concentrated animal feeding operations, or other places where animals live short and miserable lives before heading to our plates. “I think the traditions of hunting and trapping in New England are good, healthy traditions. And I can’t talk against hunters… I can’t. I’m a meat-eater.”

Carol says she has trapped somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 beavers from her property, and while many still remain just downstream, the pond that was threatening her septic setback is no longer growing. In 2015, she and her husband were able to start construction and their home, now completed, is gorgeous, judging from a recent photo spread done by Down East Magazine.

That’s right, You know the old saying: if you can’t Beat ’em – Eat’em. 

I don’t know about you but I’ve reached my CULTURAL CARRYING CAPACITY for stupid-ass reporters like this who repeat beaver bullshit even though they  have the real answers RIGHT at their fingertips. A reporter with access to talk to experts like Skip Lisle or Ben Goldfarb but still clings to the bitter laments of trappers and fish and game instead. Ben told me in an email last night that in his interview with Sam Evans-Brown, the reporter said that he had been told “flow devices only work 10% of the time”. So of course, when midwife said it didn’t work, he believed it. Why would he read any of the articles citing their success OR interview Dr. Glynnis Hood who has been using them with great success OR talk to someone Skip had done an installation for a decade ago and ask whether it actually worked.

Details Details.

It’s all comes down to real estate. Beavers are in our WAY and we deserve to kill them, didn’t you realize? And besides who needs clean water anyway?

“I grant that this food will be very dear and therefore more proper for the landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have best title to the children.”