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, ,,. 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.
 Steve Boyle & Stephanie Owens (2007) North American Beaver: A technical Conservation Assessment http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/projects/scp/assessments/northamericanbeaver.pdf
 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.
 Collins TC (1976). Population characteristics and habitat relationships of beavers, Castor canadensis, in northwest Wyoming. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Wyoming, Laramie