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

The Martinez Beavers

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Yearling grooming-Photo Cheryl Reynolds

The Rossmoor Nature Association (RNA) is hosting an informative lecture and slide show on Wednesday November 14th at 3:00 p.m. in the Peacock Hall at Gateway. The speaker for this fascinating program about urban beavers will be Dr. Heidi Perryman a noted local beaver advocate and founder of the “Worth A Dam” educational organization. As improbable as it might seem, beavers are living comfortably in downtown Martinez—however, their presence there has not been without heated controversy.

Heidi Perryman, Ph.D., is a child psychologist with a private practice in Lafayette. She is also a board member of the John Muir Association at the National Historic Site in Martinez and became an accidental beaver advocate when she started filming the Martinez beavers in 2006. She started the organization “Worth A Dam” to manage their continued care and educate others about their value in the watershed. She has been particularly interested in the way that the beavers’ struggle has connected residents more closely to their environment, to their city government and to each other.

In addition to a very popular annual beaver festival, Worth A Dam does several community outreach and educational programs a year, including fieldtrips and class room visits. Dr. Perryman has also collaborated with beaver management expert Michael Callahan of Massachusetts to help release an instructional DVD teaching how to live with beavers (featuring footage of the Martinez Beavers). Most recently she worked with an historian, archeologist and biologist to publish groundbreaking research on the western fur trade and the original prevalence of beavers in California – a subject that has been surprisingly misunderstood for a nearly a century.

The beaver (Castor canadensis) is the largest rodent in North America and the only land mammal with a broad flat tail. Beavers and their ingenious dams help to create wetlands, store and filter water, augment fish populations, raise the number of migratory and songbirds, and have a dramatic positive impact on wildlife. Dr. Perryman feels that working to help people understand and coexist with this single species will continue to have a dramatic trickle-down impact on the environment in general. The Peacock Hall’s doors will open at 2:30 p.m. and the program will begin at 3:00. The length of the presentation will be approximately 60 min. with time for questions afterward. Visitors are always welcome to attend any of the RNA’s activities. For information about the Rossmoor Nature Association’s program series, contact Penny Ittner at 891-4980 or by e-mail at Related attachment (1st week): Beaver1bw Caption: “The North American Beaver”.

A nice [half] Cornish girl with a name like Perryman better pay attention to the news report of an adult beaver in the Tamar. The land of my ancestors is apparently deeply worried about their fruit trees. The reporter seemed surprised that the beaver doesn’t appear to be damming the Tamar, just living in the bank and eating dinner.

Ahh those quaint beaver-mistrustful folk. For all your smugglers, pasties and tin mines, you never learned to wrap a tree? You don’t even need to use wire. Why not build the fitted stone wall your people are famous for? It will keep out the beaver and give you a saturday’s effort to show off your skill.

For the record my grandfather was the son of a Miner in St. Austel who came over to California after the tin business dried up. He spent his youth in Sierra City working in the goldmines and if he saw a beaver or trapped one, I never heard tell of it. For what its worth, I sent this to the reporter:

Kay Sexton’s January 9th report on the meddlesome “Igor” documents the concern that residents have about beavers taking trees. She fails, however, to mention the benefits of beavers to the habitat. Beavers are a keystone species and have been shown to increase songbirds, salmon and other mammals. They are also instrumental in regulating waterflow which is essential for flood and drought management, and will become even more valuable as we face greater climate change. Their tree attacks, while frustrating, are easily controlled through wire wrapping. My grandfather was a tin-miner who migrated from Cornwall as a boy. Nothing would give me greater joy than to help his neighbors understand more about the benefits of beavers in the habitat.

In a related story, an Oakley neighbor made it out to big break for the beaver walk. He mused that Oakley beavers are luckier than Martinez beavers. Hmm, maybe.

Today is a grim day for beavers living at Mystic lake in Bozeman Montana. Located in the Custer Gallatan National Forest at the bottom of Montana near the top of Yellowstone.  November 1st is the date the Forest Service and City will be teaming up to syphon out some of the water before ripping out the dam entirely because they are worried a washout could impact the city. It is 35 degrees today with a winter storm warning, so in every likely hood most of those beavers will lose their home, their pantry, and eventually their lives if enthusiastic hunters don’t pick them off in the meantime.

City, Forest Service to tear out Mystic Lake beaver dam

City and federal officials are working together to get rid of a potentially problematic beaver dam at the outlet of Mystic Lake that they say is a safety hazard.

beaver-damThe city of Bozeman and the U.S. Forest Service began talking about tearing out the dam in late August. A news release sent out Wednesday said the dam is “large enough to create a public safety concern downstream due to increased water volume in the lake.”

The work will begin Nov. 1. Workers will siphon water from the lake to Bozeman Creek to drop water levels. Heavy equipment will roll in to help tear out the dam.

The Forest Service wants to warn hikers that Bozeman Creek’s flows will likely be increased while the work is ongoing. Trucks and heavy equipment will be rumbling up administrative roads and trails throughout the area, including Forest Service Roads 176 (Moser Creek Cutoff) and 979 (Bozeman Creek).

So they agreed this work should be done three months ago but didn’t get around to doing it until NOW when there is no chance the beavers can recover their food stash or rebuild their flooded home? I suppose they didn’t want to compromise the trails during hiking season so they waited until winter. But this is just cruel. I can’t believe the forest service is helping them do this. Who do they work for anyway?

Beaver Dam Removal Planned for the Mystic Lake Outlet south of Bozeman

Bozeman, Montana – Trail users near Mystic Lake, in the Sourdough Drainage, south of Bozeman, Montana should be aware that there will be a flurry of activity associated with a beaver dam removal project starting November 1.  Visitors can expect vehicle activity, heavy equipment operation and a crew working near the lake outlet for about two weeks..  “We realize that the activity may disrupt hunters and recreationist in the area but the work is extremely important” acknowledged Acting Bozeman District Ranger, David Francomb.

For the project duration, there will be higher than normal water flows in Bozeman Creek. Flow related water surges will be comparable to spring run-off water levels, thus, recreation users considering creek crossings should use extra caution.    Property owners along Bozeman creek will see more water in the stream.  According to Brian Heaston, City of Bozeman Engineer, “the increased flows are not anticipated to pose a threat to life safety or property.”

You’re worried about disrupting the poor, poor hunters in the area? Trust me, they’ll be fine. Someone sent Ben Goldfarb the last-org discussion about this decision by some wildlife activists in the area who know better. I’m glad people are worried about these beavers, because they should be. I feel just awful for not writing about this sooner and contacting the folks involved. We were in transition between the Sierras and home and the alert must have escaped me.

I doubt anything short of an injunction is going to stop them today when their heavy equipment is already loaded and on its way but we can make their lives a little less pleasant. Honestly these are the very kind of decisions that enrage me. For what its worth, here’s the forest service number and the project engineer’s  direct line


I was feeling hopeless this morning but I am SO WRONG! Sounds like locals must have gotten involved. I wrote Mr. Francomb and he wrote back this morning from his home in Vermont, cc’ing the ranger currently in charge. They knew about flow devices but were worried about a dam washout. Then a late email came just now saying that the flooding will be mitigated and a long term solution will be proved at a later date! WHOO HOOO!

Update on Mystic Lake project.  Engineers are currently working on a mitigation device to keep water to tolerable level after lowering and keeping the beavers in the system.  Long term solutions will be discussed at a later date.  Thanks.

Apparently those darn beavers will insist on eating and building regardless of what they might  be interrupting. Just look what they did to these young lovers in Saskatchewan, Canada.

Dam! Beaver nibbling leaves Saskatchewan wedding in the dark

A pesky beaver is being blamed for leaving a Saskatchewan couple in the dark on their wedding day, after the busy rodent chewed through a power pole and knocked out their electricity. Kim and Calum Martin spent months planning their May 27 nuptials at The Resort, at Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. They had plans of a hot catered meal, lots of music, and twinkling lights.

As for the beaver, Kim wonders whether the furry fellow might have been trying to send a message.

“We think it was a blessing, as our Canadian wedding was blessed by the beaver,” she said. “It makes it extra special.”

I think I love this couple. What a romantic wedding night that they will treasure and always remember! Not to mention that it must be good luck because beavers mate for life and sending that monogamy vibe into the newlyweds can’t hurt.  We’re grateful for the plucky hotel that carried on, and for the gracious couple who took it in stride.

I’m a little disappointed in the power company though, because any power poles going through this much water should be protected with metal to prevent calamities just like this one, don’t you think?

Last night’s talk in Marin was a rainy, positive, beaver booster shot for everyone involved, including me. The classroom was full of hardy bird watchers who made the trek to Richardson bay despite the weather and the traffic near the golden gate. Jon did a lovely job setting FRO’s remarkable children’s banner across the wall, and we let folks take newsletters and festival announcements as they entered. Then I proceeded to give an hour+ talk about the journey Martinez had taken with the beavers.

This was an enormously appreciative audience, that laughed in all the right places, appreciated the news and film clips, loved the images and video, and really enjoyed the civics lesson we had learned in living with beavers. Afterwards there were wonderful questions and unanimous positive feedback. One woman asked what had been the hardest part for me personally because I seemed like such a natural advocate. (Ha!) Another brought me a copy of Alice Waters chapter on beavers, and a third asked me if I knew they had a special grooming claw. The room couldn’t have been more varied or diverse. There was even a man who had trapped beaver in attendance, who described how their tails were good eating. A man brought up the beaver reintroduction campaign and wondered what I thought about it, prompting the woman who invited me to tell the group that Marin Audubon wasn’t supportive of the reintroduction plan posed recently. Which came as an obvious surprise to everyone there after my talk to hear such a thing!

But my favorite comment of the night came from one very interesting fellow, who said that there already HAD BEEN a beaver in Marin at the pond near Smith Ranch road, probably about 20 years ago.  This made total sense to me, because you could see how they would come up Galinas creek after crossing the San Pablo bay from the Carquinez Strait. That beaver had eventually died or been gotten rid of but it confirmed my theory that whether they’re introduced or not, these plucky animals are going to get there on their own. It gave me the opportunity to repeat my new favorite metaphor: that any city ‘deciding’ whether they wanted beavers or not, was akin to any parents ‘deciding’ whether they wanted their teenagers to become sexually active.

It was going to happen on its own, whether they wanted it or not.

smith ranch road

Beavers are notoriously vulnerable on roadways. They are low to the ground and usually crossing in the dark which makes them a prime target for roadkill. image002Do they ever use wildlife crossings? Inquiring minds wanted to know. Some fine investigative beaver reporting comes from Robin Ellison of Napa. She was interested in whether beavers ever use the crossings trans Canada offers. You know the ones I mean.

Turns out they have an extensive system to document the wildlife crossings with trail cam footage, and trackpads keep records to monitor use. They were only too happy to share the info with Robin and wrote back:

Thank you for your inquiry and interest in the wildlife crossing structures as they relate to beaver species movements.  I’ve had our database specialist look through the history of wildlife crossing documentation and have found some results for you.  We’ve not been able to find documentation on whether or not road mortality numbers for beavers were affected.  However, we did find information on beavers using the Trans-Canada highway wildlife crossing structures.  There are only 5 incidences that have been documented on all of Banff National Park’s highway wildlife crossing structures (we currently monitor 44 of these structures).  As you mentioned, all the beavers that have been documented on wildlife crossing structures were associated with waterway travel–in these cases the beavers were on a flat pathway in an underpass that has a creek running through it.

Below I’ve listed the information we have on beavers using the Trans-Canada highway wildlife crossing structures.  I’ve also found a photo of a beaver using a wildlife crossing structure (you can see the creek in the background).   

Screen shot 2017-05-17 at 6.07.19 AMNot a ton of observations, beavers are probably less likely than others to venture out of the water. But there are more observations than I might have expected. You can see three identifications came from trackpads which I had to look up. Here’s a nice description from some research they did trying to find which tool worked better. They found that trackpads had their place but cameras were better if there was a lot of wildlife traffic.

Field Data Collection
All 24 CS in the study area were continuously monitored forlarge mammal use since 1996 using track-pads (Clevengerand Waltho 2000, 2005). At least one track-pad (range 2–7pads/CS) was constructed at each end of every underpass,and each track-pad spanned the width of the underpass and was approximately 2 m long in the axis of animalmovement. Track-pads on the overpasses consisted of onetrack-pad located at the center, spanning the width, and were approximately 4 m long in the axis of animalmovement. Tracking material consisted of a dry, loamy mixture of sand, silt, and clay, 1–4 cm deep. We visited eachCS every other day, and at each visit we classified thetracking medium as Good, Fair, Poor, or Too many,depending on our ability to detect tracks. A track-padcondition of Good occurred when our ability to detect tracks

Here’s what one of the cameras documented. That lucky beaver made it safely across and back into the water. (The darker area is the creek). Beaver_external distribution ok

I haven’t been doing this beaver work for very long, but I’ve already come across several beavers and otters struck by vehicles. We could learn a lot from our Canadian friends. Thanks to the helper who shared this information

J. Kimo Rogala, M.Sc.
a Resource Management Officer II
Ecological Integrity Monitoring, Banff National Park
Parks Canada Agency | Government of Canada
Box 900, 216 Hawk Ave, Banff, AB, T1L 1K2

for keeping track of this information. And thanks Robin for doing the legwork! This is a wonderful insight into something we understand very little about. I’m just glad these beavers never had to go through this:

(For the record I spoke years ago with the fellow who filmed this beaver. Not the news site  that made his footage into a comedy. And the witness swears he made it across safely. Although one foot did appear injured in the photos I saw.)