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

The Martinez Beavers

Category: Beaver Art

It’s Sunday! Time for two great photos and some very good news! The first is from Austria’s Leopold Kanzler who has taken amazing photographs of beavers for years and is credited with many of my favorites. He just announced he is winning second place in a wildlife photo contest for this:


I think the courage necessary to hold very still under that particular tree deserves first place, don’t you?

I’ll share the second photo later, but for now let’s appreciate this sunny article  about the beaver dams at Amy’s park, shall we?

Outdoors: Busy beavers unsung heroes at Amy’s Park

I’ve been oohing and aahing over beaver dams lately. There’s just something about them — maybe the feat of engineering achieved by a furry creature with a big tail and some really tough teeth, or the dams’ remarkable ability to reshape the landscape — that wows me every time!

We saw our most recent beaver dam at Amy’s Park in Bolton Landing.

The uneven little parking lot for the 500-acre preserve had just a single car in it when we pulled in around lunchtime one weekend. We set off along a woodsy trail under an overcast sky, stopping at a rocky outcrop to admire the view over a pond. We eventually hiked all the way around the preserve’s two ponds, finding a beaver lodge and numerous gnawed stumps.

The conservancy deserves a lot of credit for its work to protect the big lake. But I think we need to give the beavers a hand, too. Without them, there would be no ponds at Amy’s Park. The conservancy protects wetlands, but the busy beavers are the original architects of those environmental filtering systems.

Nicely put, Gillian Scott of the Time Union. We agree that beaver dams are a constant WOW. Thanks for the nicely written reminder.  I assume you’re a friend of Beavers: Wetlands and Wildlife which isn’t far away. New Yorkers who care about beavers have to stick together. Speaking of which this ran recently in the New Yorker and of course has to be shared.


Ha! Now for the REALLY good news. We have been noticing that the water in the creek at Susana street is ponded up again, and that little visible dam has been nicely rebuilt. Yesterday we heard from two sources that they saw beavers in the area. One is our friend whose back deck opens up to the creek, and she took this with her phone on Friday. Hopefully she’ll get us more soon.


Yesterday was a strangely successful day that turned out well for beavers. After writing about the Mystic lake madness I wrote the acting director of the Custer Gallatan Forest Service and some city folks protesting the decision to sit on this problem for three months and then expose the beavers to slow death. I was written back fairly promptly by that acting director saying the army corps of engineers had told them there was a risk of a 500-year flood event for the town below if the dam washed out. He assured me they knew about flow devices and would talk about this for the future, but had to do this now. The beavers would be trapped, not left to starve, which was something.

I was grimly comforted by this news, and mollified that he wrote back at all which I did not expect. He also said that he was back at his regular job now in Vermont and another ranger was in charge – whom he cc’d on the message so we could be in touch. I still thought the beavers were done for, but I was glad that my letter had been responded to.

45 minutes later I received this:

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.

Chad Benson
Deputy Forest                                                                                                                                                                                  Custer Gallatin National Forest


There must have been a lot of other public outcry besides mine. Maybe we’ll  never know. I will say I am capable of writing a fairly decent letter, but am downright talented at finding the right email address to target even when folks work hard to hide it. Still, I can count on one hand the number of times something like this happens. Maybe it has something to do with Amy’s recent presentation on the topic and my reminding the ranger of her skills and the fact that she was trained by the man who solved our beaver problem a decade ago? Maybe someone chained themselves to a bulldozer or threatened to stop dating the mayor’s niece. Who knows how these things work?

I’m just happy it did!

Dispersal: Elizabeth Saunders

To celebrate I started thinking about a festival design that would promote our new location and vaguely remembered a charming illustration by Elizabeth Saunders the artist who works with Cows and Fish. It was about beaver dispersal, but I thought it could easily be re-purposed to inspire Amelia on our brochure this year. Even as a starting place, I’m liking this a lot.


Today is full of blessings in every way! Louise Ramsay posted this on FB a very nice beaver program from radio 4. There are some irritating parts but stay patient because it gets very good. I especially find it kind of wonderful to hear how happily the reporter describes their return. Enjoy!


heidiWBULovely but slow yesterday at Wild Birds Unlimited. Plenty of folks were dam interested to find out there were beavers living just one block up! We left the sign with Mike so he could continue to pass on the word. There were lots of interesting people and conversations but my favorite has to be the man who said he lived on a lake one summer in Illinois and would canoe every day. Whenever he’d show up a beaver would surface along side him and swim beside him as long as he paddled slowly around. He said it happened nearly every day in the month he stayed there, and showed it was an adult beaver in describing its four foot length. Isn’t that a wonderful and rare story?

It made me think of Grey Owl and this striking video.

When I got home Bill Leikam sent me this from a buddy doing sound recording in the Catskills at a beaver pond. What you are hearing is coy-wolfs, geese and a flying squirrel chittering. If you feel any stress at all after listening to this, I’d be very surprised. Enjoy.

Taos is a historic and artist mecca in the upper middle of New Mexico. With an elevation of nearly 7000 feet, you will definitely feel the visit all the way down to your lungs. There’s plenty to keep you busy whether your hiking, painting or meditating. But save some free time tomorrow evening because Ben Goldfarb will be talking at the Harwood Museum about beavers and his new book.

Talk targets beavers and ecosystems

Environmental writer Ben Goldfarb will spend his October residency at the Aldo & Estella Leopold Cabin putting the final touches on a manuscript about the importance of beavers in restoring ecosystems.

Goldfarb holds a master’s degree from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies – the same school that Aldo Leopold attended and was among its first graduates. And the Leopold Cabin sits across the valley from the historic seat of the beaver pelt trade in the early 1800s at Taos Pueblo.

“I can’t think of a better venue at which to complete my present project, ‘Song of the Dammed,’ a book about the ecological and hydrological benefits of North American beaver restoration,” said Goldfarb, who spent last summer surveying ranchers, scientists and public land managers about beaver restoration. “Northern New Mexico plays in integral part of the story I want to tell. And I’m happy to be invited to U.S. Forest Service property, as that is an agency that gets the importance of beavers the most.”

Ooh that’s so exciting! I wrote Ben yesterday to see if someone will be filming or taping the talk so the poor souls not in Taos could see it. He said he wasn’t sure and corrected that the books title is now “Beaverland”.

Goldfarb will present elements of his book, including a history of beavers in North America, the ways beavers influence restoration, and several case studies that support his findings at a presentation planned Wednesday (Oct. 4), 7 p.m., at the Harwood Museum of Art, 238 Ledoux Street in Taos. The presentation is free and open to the public.

The Aldo and Estella Leopold Residency began in 2012 as “an inspiring retreat for writers to reflect and create in the home where Aldo and Estella Leopold first lived as newlyweds from 1911-12,” a press release states. “Now in its 6th year, the Leopold Writing Program selects one to two writers for one-month-long residencies, depending upon funding. Participants receive a $500 stipend to help defray travel and living expenses. In exchange, residents give a public presentation of their work in Taos.”

Past residents include Courtney White, John Hausdoerffer, Bonnie Harper-Lore, Leanna Torres, Gavin Van Horn, Tovar Cerulli, Priscilla Solis Ybarra, Andrew Gulliford, Maya Kapoor, Andrea Clearfield, and Ariana Kramer.

Could Ben be in better company than the spirit of these great writers? I don’t think so. He asked me what I thought of “Beaverland” as a title and I said it was nice maybe kind of similar to “Beaver World” and Enos Mills territory?  My personal inclination would be more to something about the way they are an  extremely unappreciated resource that gets ignored. Like “Untapped” or “Unsung” or more specifically focused as to their function,  “Water-Savers”.

I also tossed out the notion I had been toying about thinking of  beavers as “Stream-catchers” (playing off the idea of dream catchers being the Ojibwe  belief of the woven hoop you place near the infants crib to keep out the bad dreams) Maybe the beaver dam itself is the web? Keeping out flooding and drought, and the stream that it brings are the ‘good dreams’ vibrant with fish and full of life?

Ben liked that idea and thought it might become a chapter, so we’ll see what happens. In the mean time I’m excited that beavers get a book and Ben gets to talk about it tomorrow night.


original dam 2007
Original Martinez Beaver Dam 2007

Am I supposed to believe it’s October? The weather certainly does because we had soup last night and were actually cold on the back deck. But I seem to remember the beaver festival happened what seems like a minute ago. Good lord. With moving the next one to the end of June that leaves only 9 months until it all happens again. Whose crazy idea was that?

Meanwhile, I’m working hard on my upcoming webinar for Fur Bearer Defenders. The technology requires that I must use a simple PPT with no video so that means I have to put everything together from scratch.  In doing so I came across a few wonderful photos I thought I’d share. They were stored in an archaic segment of the website I didn’t even know existed, so it’s wonderful to see them again. Above is our original dam, shot looking upstream from the Marina Vista Bridge in January 2007 – before the flow device, before the controversy and before kits were ever born.

city installing
City helping Skip Lisle Install the flow device – 1-2008

I also found this nice one from when public works decided to be helpful and assist in the beaver pipe installation. I had to work that day so I have no idea who this photo belongs to. And all these were stored for safe keeping on a computer that as it happened became very unsafe so they were lost to the ages. Apparently the website used to load things to something called Apache?

skip installing lg
Skip Lisle removes dam to install flow device

I’m sure the fluttering pulses of Martinez secretaries are very happy that I found this one. It shows Skip hard at work. I believe the appreciative fans at the Gazette took a million photos of these warmer shirtless moments, such that I was privately told later that the gay editor suggested that Skip should do a calendar. But those photos  too were all lost on the photographers hard drive explosion so they are gone forever. Thanks to “Apache” and the printed version, a sample remains.

Skip gazette-001
Front Page News

Quite a walk through memory lane isn’t it? Usually when I present video I have some nice shots of beavers doing their thing around admiring humans, so I was looking for something like that among my stills. I found this wonderful photo from Suzi Eszterhas which for some reason I hadn’t seen before.  I know the faces are cute, but look to the left and see what they’re watching below the dam.  Can you believe how lucky Martinez used to be?

boys watching
Children watch beaver below dam: Suzi Eszternhas