The Beavers in Downtown Martinez, CA are refusing to go away quietly.You may recall that back in October 2007 their dam was reported to pose a flooding hazard and the animals were slated for extermination. Although the mayor was able to offer relocation as an alternative, the huge public response at the November 7th meeting pressured the Council to form a “beaver subcommittee” looking at the possibility of allowing the beavers to stay. This body consisted of Councilman Mark Ross and Council woman Lara Delaney along with five interested residents: Creek expert Igor Skaredoff, County Flood Control District Engineer, Mitch Avalon, attorney and property owner Al Turnbaugh, and local beaver advocates Julian Fraser and Heidi Perryman.
One of the subcommittee’s first acts was to bring on expert Skip Lisle from Vermont to review the situation and install a flow device that could manage dam height and maintain safe water levels. In early January a “Castor Master” was installed, which is basically flexible tubing that moves the water from upstream to downstream.It is designed to disguise the source of the leak so that hard-working beavers are not triggered to make repairs to the dam. Skip stayed in town long enough to make adjustments to the device so it was sure to survive the heaviest storms.The dam has since been successfully maintained at a much reduced height. During hard rains the dam simply washes out and the beavers later rebuild.
The subcommittee report was released in early April and addressed issues such as hydrology, saturation, environmental impact and beaver management. It stresses reasonable means for stewardship and emphasizes that the any steps undertaken should be for the good of the city overall, regardless of beavers. Importantly, after the dam height was lowered, the Hydrology report by PWA estimated the impact of the beaver dam as of minimal significance.
The report was presented at the April 16th 2008 meeting, where 6 out of 7 subcommittee members recommended endorsing strategies of successful management for allowing the beavers to stay in Alhambra Creek. The council declined to vote and deferred to a later meeting pending more information on the soil saturation and city liability issues. In a surprise move Mayor Rob Schroder had invited Mary Tappel to the meeting to rebut the report and challenge its findings.
Ms. Tappel was involved in the Elk Grove action resulting in the extermination of 51 beavers. She stated that every flow device she had observed had failed, and included Martinez in her calculation noting the beavers had built a secondary dam. While experts Skip Lisle and Sharon Brown stated that the secondary Dam was not a “do-over” but rather a terrace that allows a broader feeding area, Ms. Tappel argued that it meant the beavers were moving after having depleted their food supply. None of her predictions proved correct. The beavers now have three “secondary dams” and are still based in the same pond.
In June of 2010, Mother beaver died, leaving behind her last brood of three kits who were just old enough to survive on their own. A necropsy revealed the cause of death was several infections sustained after a broken incisor allowed her bottom teeth to puncture the roof of her mouth. During her time in Martinez she produced 15 successful live births over four years. Father and a two year old from 2008 are caring for the new kits, and all three appear to be doing fine and have two have since ‘dispersed’. In March of 2011 the father beaver left for a time, returning with a beaver we didn’t recognize. In 2012 we were surprised with one new kit. Obviously the new mom is a young female with her first offspring. In 2013 she had three kits.
Beaver supporters have painted trees with sand to discourage chewing, and replanted willow and cottonwood. Several civic art projects honoring the beavers have been launched. A non-profit organization (“Worth A Dam”) has been organized to help shoulder responsibility for habitat replacement and community education., and holds a yearly beaver festival. Worth A Dam has held community education events, visited class rooms and organized the first annual ‘beaver festival” in 2008. We have also provided beaver management education, advice and financial assistance to other cities hopint to co-exist with beavers. Beaver experts from across the country have come to Martinez to appreciate this unique setting and learn about our community response. The beavers have become a unifying symbol for an expanding town that can often be uncertain of its center. This represents a unique opportunity to demonstrate humane environmentalism in the home town of John Muir.
Worth A Dam
Dedicated to Maintaining the Martinez Beavers in Alhambra Creek through responsible stewardship, creative problem solving, community involvement, and education.
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When you come for a visit be prepared to stay a while, half of beaver watching is beaver waiting! You can bring a flashlight, they don’t mind the light but never approach or climb on the lodge or the dams, as these structures are essential for keeping the beavers safe. Enjoy yourself and tell us what you see! Oh and if you stop in one of our fine downtown eateries mention that you were here to see the beavers! If you enjoyed your visit, drop a note to the mayor and let him know!
Map Design Donated by: Libby Corliss
President: Heidi Perryman
VP-Wildlife: Cheryl Reynolds
Treasurer: Jon Ridler
Donations: Lory Bruno
Art & Activity: Frogard Butler
Wildlife: Kimberly Robertson
Watershed: Igor Skaredoff