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

The Martinez Beavers

Category: Attitudes towards beavers

Yesterday Rob Rich brought this to my attention: the newly released results of the Miistakis survey working with Cows and Fish to learn about attitudes towards beavers in Alberta are available. It’s a fairly interesting read, even if you aren’t a psychologist.

With a large number of respondents (N=639) they were careful in how they included and presented questions.  Nearly 70% were landowners or land managers and 40% had had beavers on their land in the past 5 years. A very small number (21%) reported having no interest in beavers on their land and more than half thought it was a good idea!

The survey also did a nice job of looking at the basic knowledge about beavers. (You’ll be pleased to know that 70% of respondents realized they did NOT eat fish.) Interestingly, what the majority didn’t know was that beaver dams don’t block fish passage and beavers don’t disperse at 6 months. I took the survey back in June of last summer and wrote on the website that I was proud to be one of their “outliers”. I also commented that there were educational aspects to the survey itself, with some questions being as close to a “Push Poll for beavers” as one could get.

I am so enormously impressed with the hard work these folks are doing, and am delighted to see the results of this survey available. I can’t wait until 100% of those surveyed want beavers on their property! Maybe they’ll be so popular that you’ll need a beaver lottery!

Still, I’m a little cautious about these result which give the appearance that we’re “nearly there” in terms of changing minds about beavers.  Years of painful statistics classes forced me to look closely at the methodology section to see how these mostly cheerful respondents were obtained. 

I hate to be the beaver party pooper but this isn’t exactly a random sample. Or even a partially randomized sample. If I used the data base of “my contacts” to ask whether beavers matter what kind of results do you suppose I would  receive? This is as much a study of how successful their messaging has been as anything else.

And based on these results I’d say fairly successful. I don’t think we’d manage these kind of numbers in MARTINEZ! Or from the city council!

It’s interesting to me that a sixth of respondents didn’t answer this question. It’s not like it was a factual question they didn’t know the answer to. Maybe it was at the end of a page? Maybe it was confusing for some reason? Obviously the cruel stats teacher in my mind would insist the question be discarded or that incomplete surveys not be included in the results.

Which is not to say that these results aren’t very very interesting and worthy of consideration. I just want folks to know that the battle isn’t over. We aren’t even at the beginning of the end.

But we might just be at the end of the beginning.