Archive for the ‘Beaver Behavior’ Category

Avoiding a beaverless state

Posted by heidi08 On September - 27 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

There are a few things to catch up on before they get away from me. First is that I was contacted by Enviormental writer Ben Goldfarb a few weeks ago who said he was writing a book about beavers for Chelsea Green Publishing and wanted to talk about the Martinez beaver story. If his name seems vaguely familiar it’s because he was the author of several important beaver articles in High Country News recently – the major one being “The Beaver Whisperer” about Kent Woodruff and the Methow project. Kent told him he should talk to me next, and we had a great chat about our story and the response we saw in the creek when the beavers moved in. He’s in the early stages of the book so we won’t get to enjoy it for ages, but I left him with a long list of people to talk to next and he was happy.

Meanwhile our eager Ranger Rick readers, waiting for their beaver story, saw an interesting clue at the end of their September issue. It started with a riddle about a beaver dam that they said would be answered next month and ended with this:captureoct-2016-adv-194x149


So does that mean we’ll see our beavers in the next issue? I don’t know. The last thing I heard from Suzi is that the issue would come next summer. But who knows? Maybe we’ll get a surprise or maybe we’ll get beavers TWICE in Ranger Rick!

And speaking of beavers fixing drought in California, here’s a result of not letting them that’s been on my mind lately. My parents lost 18 trees to the bark beetle but looking at this film I realize they are getting off lucky so far. The words Forest Succession echoing. I knew it was bad but I didn’t know it was this bad.

Here’s some of our damage:

Animal Attraction

Posted by heidi08 On September - 26 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

Another Monday has come with no kits yet to celebrate. I thought I’d share the video that raised my hopes. This was shot by Moses Silva the night of June 11 this year. The female emerges from a bank hole, is followed by the male and then they mate. I just noticed the vocalizations in this so turn your sound WAY UP if you want to be amazed with me. I think the female calls to him first, sounding almost like a whale, and when he follows you hear another grunting  (I think) male voice while they mate. It’s interesting to me because of that female invitation, which I don’t think has ever been written about. The sound occurs about 2 seconds in. I showed it to Bernie Krause when I heard it and he was interested, but said there was too much ‘ambient noise’ to really focus on.

Sheesh! It’s Martinez!

Well, what do you think? Is that a noise mom’s making at the beginning or not? And did that mating do its job or not? In all my years of filming and watching beavers I’ve never heard them blow bubbles until this film, and it seems like they both do. Maybe its a mating thing?

Beaver gestation is supposed to be around 107 days. So counting from the 12th of June her due date would be tonight, September 26. And here’s how weirdly synced am I, I didn’t know for sure her date until I just counted out the days with a calendar. That sure explains why she still looked huge in that last video. We don’t usually see the kits for the first three or four weeks, so when I get back from vacation they should be visible! Keep an eye out for me will you?

Assuming they exist.

Now, here’s something special just in case that sexy beaver footage got you in the mood.

D. S. & Durga HYLNDS Free Trapper (2016)

Brooklyn-based artisan perfumers D.S. & Durga released a new fragrance composition under their newer sub-label HYLNDS (pronounced « Highlands »). It is called Free Trapper, a throwback scent to the era of frontier people and the fur trade that was a magnet for adventurers in search of riches in the wilds…

« Beaver trappers were the cowboys of early America. Renegade mountaineers of the Jacksonian era who cut trails through the wild in search of beaver pelts – prized by hatters, doctors, & perfumers. »

The result is what looks on paper to be a dark, aromatic and animalic scent featuring notes of dark cedar, snake root, synthetic beaver castor, and wild bergamot.

That’s right. Now YOU TOO can smell like a beaver. Or a trapper. Take your pick. (I guess it depends on if you’re a top or a bottom.) All those years when I wrote about the barely-latent sexual admiration modern society has for trappers, you thought I was exaggerating. HA! Here’s the proof. A fairly expensive perfume that reminds the nose of the fur trade. Knowing how important the smell of castoreum was to the success of beaver trapping, makes this particularly horrible. I’m thinking this would be my reaction to the perfume:


Dear Mr. Fellman

Posted by heidi08 On September - 25 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

I’m trying something different today. Rather than post my review of this misguided article in my usual quippy way, I’m going to address the author directly, like an old friend sharing a beer. I’ve written him through his blog already so I’m sure he’ll check to see mine when he opens his mail. Here’s the article that got my attention:

The potato rake and the battle with the beavers

  • OK last weekend I was spending way too much time at the millpond dam near my house. I was down there carrying a potato rake, a pitchfork, various shovels, and a collection of hearty oaths.

    I was frequently covered with mud, and I was always covered with sweat. I was, as I explained in an earlier edition of the Journal, doing battle with beavers, or, to use a somewhat earthier catch-phrase gleaned from a character that represented the Ipana toothpaste franchise in the 1950s, Bucky ”bleepin’” or “F-ing” Beaver. “You’re going to lose,” I was told cheerily when I revealed the fight I had undertaken against this apparently implacable foe.

    The folks gathered around the table at a monthly meeting of an environmental group I work with nodded their heads in agreement at this grim assessment. “Beavers always win… especially when all you have is a potato fork.” If I would put aside my liberal queasiness against the equally liberal use of nuclear weaponry, I might, was the consensus, have a fighting chance, but without the highest of high-powered arsenals, well, “You’ve read Don Quixote, right?”

    Ahh Bruce. You need better environmental friends! Come sit at our table. Yes, the beavers are determined not to freeze solid during the coming winter months, and they’d like to be able to reach all that food they’re busy storing so they don’t starve either. They’re quirky that way. But if you want that dam lower we can tell you how to keep it there successfully. And it won’t involve TNT or clam rakes.

    I couldn’t see any windmills on the horizon, and, in fact, I couldn’t see any beavers. That my foe was invisible was hardly surprising: Castor canadensis is, at the very least, crepuscular—active, that is, beginning at dusk—and the beavers I was confronting appeared to be downright nocturnal. I’ve found no signs of a permanent lodge. I can’t spot any suggestions of gnawed-down trees and shrubs. Ghost critters or not, they’ve certainly made their presence unmistakable.

    In front of the dam is a wall of mud, perhaps six inches high and foot wide. It’s reinforced with sticks and branches, many of which have been stripped of their nutritious bark—a beaver buffet item—and all of them showing signs of gnaw marks. Occasionally, I’ve found a beaver footprint, and if this wasn’t proof-positive of my invisible foe’s identity, consider the following.

    Crepuscular? Have you checked the nutrition label on a willow leaf lately? Do you really think a 60 lb beaver is going to consume all the calories he needs by eating leaves an hour a day? And find time leftover to raise a family and make the repairs you’re complaining about? Beavers are NOCTURNAL. And the biologist who made up the other thing also believed no one could see him if he closed his eyes.

    Indeed, it was the demise of the stream, a favorite hangout, which girded my loins for the fight. This nameless body of water has long been the home and, I suspect, nursery for a group of uncommon dragonflies known as Dragonhunters, large, fierce, and beautiful insects whose primary prey is fellow odonates, and I’d be hanged if I was going to let this creek be engineered out of existence. Now, when it comes to beavers, engineering is just what they do.

    Nature’s master craftsmen have been creating, maintaining, and, when they consider it appropriate, recreating wetlands to meet their needs since the glaciers receded more than ten thousand years ago. It’s simply their nature to do this, and when they returned to our area, after being trapped to the point of local extinction, in the 1970s, we were to learn that, even when we humans might suggest, “Bucky, this area is fine as is and doesn’t require any improvement,” there’s no arguing with beavers.

     But, I thought, perhaps my persistence might convince them to go elsewhere to practice their unnecessary dam trade. After all, there’s already a perfectly functional dam in place. The pond it created and maintains doesn’t require any additional help. So I do my daily work to bring back the water flow over the dam, and make the stream safe for its resident flora, from Bur Marigolds and Cardinal Flowers to liverworts and mosses, and resident fauna, which includes otters, minks, Great Blue Herons, crayfish, Powdered Dancer damselflies, Stinkpot turtles, Brook Trout, waterthrush warblers, or any of the myriad other animals I’ve spotted here since I took this area under my observational wing in 1984.

    Okay. This endears you to me, Bruce. You’re a stream keeper. You’re motivated by stewardship and want to prevent the stream from changes that will result in less biodiversity of the species you love to photograph. Me too!


    Dragonflies mating: Bruce Fellman

    (You take amazing photos by the way, you really should visit the beaver pond some evening before the month ends and try your hand at beaver photos. Poke around this website for a while and you’ll see the builders aren’t as impossible to see as you think.)

    mirror mirror

    Martinez Yearling Grooming: Cheryl Reynolds

    Hey guess who can help you take care of that creek you love? I’ll give you a hint. It has fur and a flat tail. Those deep pools have more to do with the brook trout and the turtles than you imagine. And those creek plants you love so much – guess who’s raising the water table so that their roots have something to drink? Beavers are the original creek stewards. Why not learn to work with them instead of against them?

    And every night, for the past few weeks, the Castorean Conservation Corps has returned with mud, sticks, and impressive skills to undo my efforts.

    Yes beavers fix repairs they believe are necessary for their family to survive the upcoming winter. Go Figure. Hey you’re good with tools and own a pair of waders. Why not buy Mike’s DVD and learn to install a flow device that will keep the dam at the height you can stand and still protects the beavers? It will save your creek and your sanity. Unwilling to spend a dime on these dam rodents? How about a free book that will teach you to do this as well? Or hey, if you don’t like being in the water, why not hire Mike Callahan or Skip Lisle to do it for you? They’re a phone call and a couple states away. We brought Skip out 3000 miles to solve our problem a decade ago. You’re getting off cheap.

    flexible-leveler-diagramNow, I’ll let you go. I’m glad we’ve had this little chat. I know you have a lot of reading to do. Start by watching our story to learn how the flow device controlled our dam height for ten years and how the beavers transformed our creek. Then go down some evening and actually watch the family you’re fighting with. There are a million fascinating columns in your future if you learn to appreciate the effect beavers have on wildlife and watersheds. Don’t believe me? Check out the writing of Vermont’s Patti Smith for the Battleboro Reformer, or Connecticut’s Ben Goldfarb for the High Country News.

    Beavers are natural environmentalists. You guys should be best friends. Really.

    State of the beaver







    Beaver Mania

    Posted by heidi08 On September - 10 - 2016Comments Off on Beaver Mania

    Sometimes when you talk to reporters they can’t remember things if you say too much and you have to limit your comments to one or two key points and repeat them over and over.  Sometimes they get the gist, but not the details. Sometimes you can just tell they’re waiting to talk to the next person and are sick of listening to you. But every now and then you run into a reporter that remembers EVERYTHING you said so you better not say it wrong. Richard Freedman of the Vallejo Times-Herald definitely falls into that last category, I now realize. (Hopefully I didn’t get myself in too much hot water with the otter folks!)

    Beaver mania comes to the Empress in Vallejo

    Beavers don’t get the great PR like otters. You know, eating off their tummies in the ocean. Stuff like that. Even beaver crusader Heidi Perryman shrugs, “Everyone loves otters. They’re cute and don’t build dams. I’m feeling jealousy how easy otters’ lives are.”

    Yet, the beaver, those buck-toothed, paddle-tailed rodents, play an integral role in the food chain and the environment, says Perryman.

    Those dams they build hold back water, sure, but it creates more bugs. Fish eat bugs. Birds eat fish. Beyond more wildlife, the beavers have conserve water and in a drought era, it’s vital, Perryman noted.

    A child psychologist when she’s not lobbying for beavers, Perryman joins Kate Lundquist as speakers this Friday at the Empress Theatre for “Beaver Mania,” an evening that includes the film, “Leave it to Beavers” as part of the Visions of the Wild festival.

    Well I can’t deny it. I do feel jealousy. Ha!

    Not only was the beaver saved in Martinez, it’s become the star of a huge mural and an annual summer beaver festival as Perryman created a nonprofit, “Worth a Dam,” with a website,

    “I really wanted to persuade people not to kill the beaver. I didn’t expect to become an expert,” Perryman said. “I’m an accidental beaver advocate.”

    It shouldn’t be surprising that beavers even live in Vallejo, said Perryman.

    “We’re constantly expanding. We’re growing into places where they used to be and that’s not going to change,” she said. “At the same time, their population is recovering.”

    Though humans may be concerned that beavers could overrun an area, it’s not likely to happen, Perryman said.

    “Beavers are territorial. They don’t want to live around each other,” she said. “If one family has moved in, another will go off to look for unchartered territory and sometimes that’s an urban stream with a low gradient, trees on it, and nobody usually goes there.”

    It’s interesting to me that one could look through the evolution of my beaver advocacy like analyzing the layers of stratification in soil and see where I crossed paths with a new teacher who taught me something I wanted to retain. Like the term “low gradient” applied to urban streams (from Greg Lewallen when we worked on the urban beaver paper) or the upcoming section on beaver resilience (from Leonard Houston’s address at the last State of the Beaver conference). I guess sometimes I listen too.

    Beavers, continued Perryman, are a resilient bunch.

    “They were the first animals after Mount St. Helens eruption (1980). And one of the first species after Chernobyl (nuclear explosion 1986),” said Perryman. “They have a lot of adaptive ability, so they’re coming to a city near you so we may as well learn how to deal with them.”

    “Leave it to Beavers,” a 53-minute documentary by Jari Osbourne, “is a great movie,” Perryman said. “I know people will leave the theater thinking, ‘Beavers do a lot of things I didn’t know.’”

    Visions of the Wild runs through Sept. 18, including “Beaver Mania!’ 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, Empress Theatre, 330 Virginia St., Vallejo. Free. Discussions and documentary, “Leave it to Beavers.” For more, visit

    I’m pretty happy with this article, and starting to get excited about the event. Solano county received its share of depredation permits in the last three years so I’d love to teach them something new about beavers. The theater is a lovely old restored venue and it will be really fun to watch our beavers and Jari’s documentary on the big screen.

    Are you coming?


    A treasure box of beaver stories

    Posted by heidi08 On August - 26 - 2016Comments Off on A treasure box of beaver stories

    There are quite a few beaver treats to enjoy today. I guess we should start out with the ‘day off’ I gave myself after Placer. I had been waiting to try this and just needed the space between deadlines. From now on I’m officially working on the beaver mania clock, but this was pure enjoyment. Alert readers might recognize the audio from earlier in the year’s Scientific American podcast. But the graphics are all mine.

    I sent this to Nick myself and Michael Pollock did told me he did too, but the champagne and thank you bouquet hasn’t arrived yet. I’ll let you know when it does.

    Here’s another remarkable treat that arrived yesterday, this one completely without Heidi’s fingerprints. The funny thing is that my father worked for PGE all his life from the lowest oiler in Oakland to the coporate office on the 35th flood in San Francisco as General Manager of Operations. This  is how he found a job for his shiftless immigrant son-in-law 30 years ago when the green card finally landed. Both men went on to retire from the company with generous pensions and mostly fond memories but maybe a little beaver intelligence survives in their absence?

    Shasta County: PG&E Moves Gas Line to Prevent Beaver-Caused Leaks

    ANDERSON — PG&E crews responded to a seemingly routine report of a gas odor on a rural residential road outside this Shasta County city. But what they found surprised them. PG&E crews recently relocated a gas line in Shasta County because of beavers chewing the line.  They located the leak and dug to expose the gas line for repairs, revealing a void around the plastic line and chew marks on the pipe.

    The void was a beaver den, which had likely been abandoned as the beaver came across the gas line and perhaps thinking it was a tree root, chewed away. As soon as the rodent punctured the line releasing gas, the beaver apparently gave up and left the unfinished den.

    We knew the first time it happened it was a beaver,” said David Ferguson, a gas maintenance and construction supervisor in Redding. “We made the repair and thought it was an isolated incident,” he added. “But after it happened a few more times, about once every one or two years, we realized we needed to find a solution.”

    Cherokee Drive on the road in southern Shasta County. The gas line lay next to the banks of Anderson Creek Overflow, which in recent years has had an incursion of beavers as the industrious rodent reclaims developed areas. On Wednesday (Aug. 24), PG&E crews finished the relocation job and began serving the four residential customers with the new gas line at a safe distance away from the beaver habitat.

    And no I’m NOT making this up. I guess the explosions in San Bruno a few gave them so much trouble they are bending over backwards to show they’re nice guys? Maybe the decision was purely fiscal since sending someone out year year after year to fix the chewed pipe cost money. Whatever the reason I’m dam proud of PGE this morning!

    Now, if you regretted not being a fly on the wall for the Placer presentation you’re in luck. I think this should be cued up right to watch on your own. There are only a few places where I flubbed up, but I’m still quite sure its the BEST beaver presentation Placer County as ever had.

    (And I’m looking at you, Mary Tappel.)

    Outlasting the Outliers

    Posted by heidi08 On August - 24 - 20163 COMMENTS

    I was never very good at math, but for some reason I really got statistics. (Unlike Jon who is excellent at math and dismal in is stats class. Go figure.)  That way of thinking about numbers just made sense to me. I could put the formulas together and analyze what came out. That said, I would be the first to admit that I remembered only what I needed to know to graduate and retained a chalk outline of the information in my brain once the dissertation was signed.  But it generally helps me read research better and understand what was being done.

    What remains of the chalk outline tells me that regression analysis is something you do when you have a bunch of numbers you’re trying to tease out the most significant factor that makes them different from each other. Why do some kids drop out of college and others succeed? Is it money? IQ? Parental support? Social skills on campus? etc. And of course identifying the primary cause is important because you want to use that in making future decisions down the line. So when a friend of a friend in the field of social stats for medication offered to work with the county portion of our depredation stats I was very excited.

    This is what he wrote at the time:

    I used the square miles to predict the expected # of permits for each county, bases on the square miles of water.  Then I looked at the actual number of permits, and calculated a ratio of the two.  The data and graph are attached.regression analysis

    You have one county that is clearly an outlier – Placer. This country issued almost 7 times as many permits as expected. 

    So yesterday I spoke to the Board of Supervisors of the outliers in question. The county chambers were  high tech – there were four large wall screens and the entire meeting was streamed to Tahoe where it aired live with participants. There were two computer/media guys on hand to make sure everything ran smoothly and two women taking notes up front. The Commissioners filed into their seats on the dais and the meeting started a little after nine. There was an award for a stalwart Rosie the riveter airline mechanic who had worked for years and years at the historic society, and then several multi million dollar contracts were approved for snow plow equipment and police squad cars. You really got the impression that this was a county with discretionary funds.

    And then there was me and beavers.

    A CDFW supervisor from Tahoe introduced me and then Jack Sanchez from SARSAS added a nice introduction as well.

    Heidi  has become the nation’s foremost beaver specialist as a result of a beaver family moving into Martinez Creek in front of a Starbuck’s and producing kits.  She started Worth A Dam and has spread the beneficial aspects of beavers in waterways worldwide.

    Because Placer County allowed housing development too close to its waterways, an adversarial relationship has developed with beavers.  I believe if the English, Russians and beaver trappers had not exterminated beavers in Ca in 18th and 19th centuries, we would have no need for our Rim Dams, Shasta, Folsom and Oroville.

    I present with great pleasure Dr. Heidi Perryman to talk about beavers.

    My talk went as it was supposed to, and everything worked the way it was supposed to. The four screens displayed my slides which were also streamed in Tahoe, and even without video and 8 the last minute surprise I think the message really got across. When it was over several commissioners asked questions and repeated the phrase “Seven times more”  with horror. I really had the impression that the talk registered with them and left a mark. Vice chair Jennifer Montgomery even said she remembered our friends at the Sierra Wildlife Coalition in Tahoe saying something similar years ago when the beavers were killed at Kings Beach.

    When I left the meeting I was followed out by the CDFW man who thanked me for an excellent presentation and talked about how they had made a mistake in Tahoe years ago because they didn’t understand and now knew better, and a reporter for the Auburn newspaper who wanted to talk about 7 times more and ask about mosquitoes. Jack and his wife came to say what a good presentation it was and so did one of is board members. They had already scheduled a private meeting tomorrow with one of the commissioners to follow up!

    Honestly, we floated home feeling that we had really done something useful. I thought about Robin from Napa getting the PRA in first place so we could analyze the data, and Jon and I slogging through all those grizzly permits, and me writing my grad school friend in a panic about the data, and her asking her friend from Infometrics who generously donated his time and my meeting Jack when I presented at the salmon conference in Santa Barbara, and us all collaborating to prove that beaver belonged in the sierras, and I really felt like all the piano strings had pulled in just the right way to make this happen.

    Afterwards Commissioner Jim Holmes sent me this very nice note.

    Dear Dr. Perryman,  Thank you so much for your very informative presentation on Urban Beavers. It gave me a wonderful overall picture of the importance of beavers in our ecosystem.

    The recorded meeting should be available soon, and in the meantime I am definitely very aware of the step they took forward and the role we played in making that happen. Sometimes I think what I like best of all about this beaver chapter of my life is the self-guiding interdependence of it – weaving the help of friends into a creation of my own imagining without anyone telling me what I should do and letting that make a difference.

    Feel sorry for the trapper in New Hampshire

    Posted by heidi08 On August - 17 - 2016Comments Off on Feel sorry for the trapper in New Hampshire

    With Pelt Prices Dropping, N.H.’s Beaver Population Grows

    New Hampshire NPR would like you to consider the poor, unappreciated and undervalued trapper this morning. Because you know, those icky beavers can’t be regulated in any other way. Everyone says so, Even the NH Furbearer biologist Patrick Tate, whose salary is paid by selling trapping licenses. Go figure.

    CaptureWell sure, this report contains a brief ineffective interview with a ‘save it all’ vegan at the end, and no discussion whatsoever of the valuable services beavers provide or the fish and wildlife that are harmed by their removal, but the real issue of whether this is a trap-happy report or not comes down to this essential question: A) Does it feature a sympathetic photo of the trapper? And B) is he presented in some humble, hardworking way like sitting on the stairs, writing a letter to his mother or standing on the street in his socks? Answer here:


    If only there were a hole in his stocking! That would be really effective story telling. Because OBVIOUSLY no one else in the ENTIRE state can manage the voracious beaver population without help from trappers! I mean it’s not like our NH friend Art Wolinsky as been living peacefully with the flow device he and Mike installed and his beavers for half a decade right? Icing on the cake: Art just wrote me that they invited Mr. Tate to watch Mike install this flow device in person. No kidding.

    Well the important thing is that the trapper is knowledgeable about what he’s doing. He clearly is very informed about beavers, right?

    Kaska’s not sure how many beavers are in this pond. He should be able to tell once he catches one—by looking at its tail. Beavers are territorial: they fight by biting each others’ tails.

    If tomorrow I find a beaver in one of my traps that has bite marks out of his tail, that will tell me I have two different family units in this area. Maybe I’ve got the stranger; maybe I’ve got the resident. But that tells me that I maybe have more.”

    Yup. Because tail marks always mean that a stranger beaver is snooping around the area, right?

    Mom's tail

    Mom’s tail