Archive for the ‘Beaver Behavior’ Category

Hopes are never false

Posted by heidi08 On February - 8 - 2016Comments Off on Hopes are never false

I was hopeful this week when someone told me that on Martinez Rants and Raves an ‘otter’ had been seen at Ward street. Obviously I went to look it up thinking that otter are mistaken for beaver quite often and maybe I’d have good news. I was even more excited to read that the sighting took place at 8 am.

Unfortunately for us, however upon skillful cross-examinationm, the witness was certain it was an otter. She explained she knows the difference and enjoyed watching its slender tail for sometime.  Sigh. Obviously the lucky otter was chasing the steelhead run which had been noticed a little before. I can’t regret the near miss though – because having renewed hope was fun and it made me look up something about steelhead I hadn’t known before.

Apparently steelhead can spawn several times! Who knew? And they need and flat gravel bed to do it above a pond, Igor Skaredoff told me where there was a riffle once with gravel, I will have to ask him again where these sea-going fish return to. I know that steelhead start out their lives as rainbow trout, and literally undergo a SEA CHANGE (smoltification) when they pass through open water and get to saltwater. They come all the way home to spawn. Which is amazing.  Around here spawning usually happens November to April, or in the “Winter Run”.Trout & Beaver

I also know that beaver dams help them a lot by giving them deep pools to grow up and rich food to fatten up. But there is nothing on youtube about this I can share, because if you search for beavers and steelhead you only get many, many images of bulldozers ripping out beaver dams to “Protect” steelhead.

Which is, as I’ve said many times before, like protecting banks from money.

At least we have nearby beavers to amuse us. Rusty Cohn is sorely feeling the effects of winter visibility of his Napa beavers and has taken to using his drone photographs more creatively. Yesterday he wrote me about looking up Martinez on the b4ufly app and learning that because of concord airport the area west of amtrak (the creek is west of amtrak) is off limits for aerial photography. Sigh. But he got some fun photos of the Tulocay creek habitat.

I SO wish we could have similar photos of our beaver habitat. And of course some beavers to maintain it. Sigh.

There’s a new section on the website I don’t know if you noticed. I’ve been getting so may regional emails about ‘how do we save our beaver’ that I thought it deserved a menu item. I’ll expand it more as I think about it, but I think this is great for starters.

CHEWYesterday I decided that if SPAWN and CLUC can use fun acronyms, why can’t we?


Would you care for some WHINE with that Mr. Quinn?

Posted by heidi08 On February - 6 - 2016Comments Off on Would you care for some WHINE with that Mr. Quinn?

The fine report by the Vancouver Park Commission is taking some heat. Something was printed this morning from Stephen Quinn, the host of On the Coast on CBC Radio One. Obviously the paper felt the entire airwaves wasn’t space enough for him in which to broadcast his petulant opinions, and granted him a full page to write whatever he liked. In my head I hear the voice of Niles Crane writing this over an expresso, see if you don’t agree.

Biodiversity report wildly exaggerates the alleged upside of critters in the city

I have read with interest the so-called draft Biodiversity Strategy you released earlier this week and I have to tell you, it’s not sitting well with me. Frankly, it scares me, particularly the sections outlining measures that could lead to more wildlife running around our city. I urge you to take a more cautious and measured approach.

Let’s begin with beavers. While the Park Board apparently sees the increase in the city’s beaver population as a positive signal, I assure you it is no such thing.

I had never seen an actual beaver until a few weeks ago. Have you seen one? It was huge, like a giant flat-tailed rat with hideous teeth and beady black eyes. It was swimming upstream in Still Creek right beside the Superstore parking lot. I can tell you that just a short distance away there were mothers walking with their children! No one should have to face this sort of threat at eight o’clock on a Saturday morning in a place that is supposed to be nature-free.

Day-lighting the creek was a huge mistake! Your own report says salmon have returned and are spawning and then dying and if I may quote, “provide food for otters and mink.” So attracting more wild animals?Where does it stop? Bears? Wolves?!Capture

It goes on at some length, because word restrictions are only necessary for us persona non grata peons, not for celebrities like Mr. Quinn who’s afraid of beavers, wolves and bears. It all reads like those paragraphs so you can get the idea.  For my money the best line is, why would anyone want to daylight a creek anyway?

My hair was on fire this morning when I read through this tripe and burned out my response, but now I can see the humor of it. It’s almost  offers the best argument against itself by very quickly becoming absurd. If he didn’t have a national radio platform to beat his drum every day I could laugh this off. Hmm.

Your report also celebrates the “healthy populations” of other mammals like raccoons and skunks. Have you seen what

the mammals you love so much have done to my lawn – which already looked pretty terrible thanks to your ban on cosmetic pesticides? They have reduced it to mud, I tell you!

And then you say that 674 racoons have been killed by cars since 2001? Does that not tell you that animals like raccoons don’t belong in our city? I find it interesting that your staff can keep such an accurate count of dead raccoons but still not know how many coywolves are out there.

I had no idea that this golf course mentality existed in Canada. I thought it was uniquely American – a product of places with green lawns and clipped hedges. Thank you, Mr. Quinn for opening my eyes.

Of course I sent my letter to the editor. You should too.

There are lies, there are dam lies, and there are beaver lies!

Posted by heidi08 On February - 5 - 2016Comments Off on There are lies, there are dam lies, and there are beaver lies!

Sometimes life in the beaver-biz is very rewarding. And sometimes it just annoys the stuffing out of me. Take this article out of Whinging-ton Ma for starters.

Hopkinton selectmen vote to trap beavers

HOPKINTON — Selectmen have agreed to hire a beaver trapper after flooding became a problem on the recently purchased Pratt Farm and neighboring properties.The board voted 5-0 on Tuesday night to pay for a plan to eliminate the beavers.“We decided we need to protect the town’s land,” Selectmen Chairman Ben Palleiko said in an interview.

Palleiko said the plan will likely cost about $5,500 — $4,000 for the trapping and $1,500 for taking apart seven dams. The board decided on an option known as a kill trap. A live trap would be as twice as expensive and the beavers would be euthanized at a later time, not released elsewhere, officials said.

How surprising! The folk in Hopkinton seemed so darned open-minded and committed to humane solutions! (Not). They have been gunning for those beavers since day one, and they kept promoting their death in the paper until they tipped the argument just enough. I especially admire the duplicity necessary to get this quote from their ‘beaver expert’ printed in the paper.

“Due to the beaver activity, an accurate flagging of wetlands may not be possible at this time, which will stall the work of the team,” she wrote in a letter to the board.The board made its decision after hearing from Malcolm Speicher, a beaver specialist, who has done work in town, including Legacy Farms. The town needs to seek bids for the work.

Speicher said it is only a matter of time before the town’s aquifers feeding to the town’s wells will be contaminated with bacteria from beaver feces.

Palleiko said Speicher believe there could be up to 40 beavers in the area.

Now mayfacepalmbe you’re wondering where they found this illustrious specialist. We are talking about MA, so maybe he’s at Cambridge? Harvard? MIT??? Ohhh no he’s a trapper who happens to specialize in beaver and fisher. So of course he knows all about beaver stools causing bacteria in the water.



And now this. Things  just got real in Mountain House. Now its time to bring out the big guns. Folks were shown Mike’s video about how to solve problems so they tried to think of an unsolvable one. We in Martinez know erosion trumps flooding. That’s why, after Skip’s flow device worked well and no one was worried about drowning anymore, the lawyer sent a letter about the foundation slipping because of unseeable burrows and that’s how Martinez got to buy 350,000 worth of sheetpile.

Obviously, this is deja vu all over again.  Officials are now saying the biggest problem is these.

20150923_145033You can guess how true I think this is. Coal mining beavers?

But I think it’s always good to ask smarter minds than mine. Glynnis Hood says that beavers in her research do cause tunnels that collapse and its possible that a bank lodge this big could exist if the beavers have been around for some time. And Mike Callahan says its theoretically possible if there are tunnels inside leading to the water.

But I think if in 10 years of having beavers in Martinez they ever excavated anything like that, the mayor would have personally thrown me in it. Michael Runtz says a bear could do this, but he doubts beaver.

Stay tuned, I’ll tell you when I hear from more folks.

Apparently beavers are going on Broadway now, with Alan Cummings new musical. This made me howl with laughter – especially the leaping ballet beavers at the end. Enjoy!

A few more gifts arrived yesterday, and I’m thrilled for beavers good fortune. The first was some promised plates from this adorable set at thirdhalfstudios. How fun are these?

And the second is a beyond lovely sterling silver floating necklace that arrived from Winterchild. Like this but with a beaver symbol and on a breathtakingly delicate sterling silver figaro chain. I’m not sure I can keep from bidding on this. You definitely shouldn’t.

Beaver Impressive

Posted by heidi08 On February - 3 - 2016Comments Off on Beaver Impressive

Too much good news. Some days there is almost nothing to cover, and other days everything good seems to happen at once. Yesterday I found out for the first time that Patti Smith keeps a blog about her observations of wildlife. You might remember she was the gentle soul keeping an eye on the beavers of Popples Pond in Vermont. She brought some helpers to the snowy stream to reinforce their food supply yesterday.Capture

This afternoon, Margaretta and Isabelle arrived to help the stranded beavers with an offering of poplar boughs from their home in Dummerston. Once at the pond, I call to Willow and then we all sit quietly on the upside-down sled hoping that Willow won’t think it too early to come out to visit. After a few minutes, David, the lucky dad of these two great girls, spots Willow hauling herself onto the ice at one of the upstream holes.

girls&willHow much do you envy that child? Willow is such a good sport. If you’d like to read more of Patti’s adventures you should check out her blog and pick up a copy of “The beavers of Popples Pond“. You won’t be disappointed.

Now onto more good news and a fine article from Vancouver. Just in time for our urban beaver chapter, too.

Vancouver’s urban-beaver plan focuses on enhancing habitats

Several dozen beavers are thought to be living in Vancouver, some of them making themselves at home in restored marshland near the Olympic Village, and now the city’s park’s board has approved a strategy that will give them some company.

The Vancouver Park Board has approved a detailed strategy to enhance and expand coastlines, forests and wetlands across the city. The Biodiversity Strategy aims to restore 25 hectares of natural land by 2020 – much of it spread across various shorelines – as well as tackle forest restoration near the Fraser River.

“There’s lots of evidence that there are physical and mental benefits for those who access nature in their daily lives,” biologist Nick Page, of the parks board, said in an interview. “Compared to rural populations, there are few points of access to nature in the city.”

How wonderful is THAT. Of course wildlife is good for our physical and mental health. So good in fact that they might have lifted that sentence EXACTLY from my section of the chapter. I’m so envious of the beaver plan in Vancouver. The impressive thing is that they even have the chops to stand up to pressure like this.

“The problem comes when beavers start working on natural water courses,” said Wayne Goodey, a University of British Columbia lecturer with a background in animal psychology. “In general ecological principles, even a couple of animals can do a large amount of damage to the landscaping.”

Mr. Page, however, is confident that adaptation, not relocation, is the best strategy for these local beavers.

“There’s not really an opportunity for them to dam anything, and if they do, there’s very little chance of them flooding important infrastructure,” he said. “Relocation is very expensive, $10,000 each beaver. You can protect a lot of trees and clean out a lot of culverts for that price.”

 My mind is reeling from this article. What a WONDEFUL response to beavers appearing in an urban environment, and to a pompus know nothing who pretends to understand that beavers are bad for creeks. Hrmph. Think of how much our chapter will help them justify this bold decision. I am so impressed with Mr. Page. He gets a letter.

And silly Mr. Goodey does too. He apparently understands neither animals nor psychology.

Finally, I came across this yesterday and feel so irresponsible I hadn’t seen it months ago. Dietland is THE author on beavers and kind enough to donate two copies of his book to the silent auction at this year’s beaver festival. He also has done head-turning research on scent mounds, and if you ever wondered about this unique beaver behavior, you really should watch this all the way through. His video footage is fascinating.

Thank you Dr. Muller-Swarze for your lifetime of beaver research and for sharing it with us!


Shaken not Stirred

Posted by heidi08 On February - 1 - 2016Comments Off on Shaken not Stirred

Okay. Remember how I told you that the BBC article about farmers shooting pregnant beavers was going to get folks plenty upset? Well now they’re REALLY UPSET and it’s all over the news. I will spare you the outrage, but they’ve published the email correspondence with autopsy reports and I assure you that roar isn’t going to die down anytime soon. Hopefully by the time it does, beaver will be a protected species.


CaptureIn the meantime, let’s have some good news. Saturday was the sold out BEAVER SUMMIT in Georgia, a state whose beaver policies have made me cry on more than one occasion,  and I thought I’d share a little from our friends about it. I think more updates will come, but for now let’s hear  from Jane Kobres. Her husband Bob presented and yesterday she sent these remarks.

Things went really well yesterday. Bob was the first speaker and he mostly did historical background of beaver in N. America plus talking about how he got interested in beaver. They only allotted 15 minutes for each speaker, which was not enough. All but one of them needed more like 25 minutes, but they all ended up speaking at least 20 minutes except for one person. The attendance was good–about 40 people counting speakers. There were people from the City of Atlanta, Parks and Recreation, and some local environmental groups. Everyone seemed pretty engaged and glad to be learning about beaver. Importantly, the discussions at the end involved “what can we do” type questions.

And so it begins. Forty people in Georgia will think about responding differently the next time a pond appears in their creek. I want to call it the first informed dialogue about beavers in the state, but the inventor of the Clemson pond leveler was from Georgia so there must have been more folks who knew they were worth keeping once upon a time.  I can’t believe how far BHNP has come in such a short time, and I’m SO happy to think we encouraged and informed them along the way!

Now we need a beaver summit in EVERY state! Who wants to go next?


Don’t you think Amelia Hansen should write me back and donate something to the auction? Yeah, I do too.


Muhammad goes to the Mountain House

Posted by heidi08 On January - 29 - 2016Comments Off on Muhammad goes to the Mountain House

mh_map_finalIf the name Moutain House sounds vaguely familiar it should. In the turmoil of 2008 it had the dubious distinction of appearing in the NYT as the community with the most homes “Under Water” financially. More recently they had other water issues to deal with, when their historic source was cutoff and they had to scramble to find a new one.

I wonder if you can guess how they feel about  ‘watersavers’?

35659917Yesterday I received a panicked email from a resident worried that the beavers in Mountain House creek were going to be trapped. Of course the creek was being used by the planned community as a handy drain, and they didn’t want anything backing up the water. She didn’t know who was in charge of the decision to depredate but she said Brian Lucid was on the Community Services District and interested in learning about options.

The appropriately named Brian Lucid is a native San Franciscan and 20-year veteran who served in Iraq before running for a seat on the board. When he actually contacted ME yesterday I was starting to get a little hopeful.

He told me about their concerns and talked about beavers blocking the water and nibbling neighbor’s trees. And I told him how Martinez had dealt with similar concerns a decade ago, and how downtown businesses were worried about  flooding, and how we had studied the issue and  decided what to do. I told him about the beaver population rebounding all over the state, and getting new beavers very soon if he gets rid of these ones. And I told him how when we decided to install a flow device and let the beavers stay they kept any other beavers from moving into our creek.

“Flow device?” He asked. “What’s that?”

So I told them about controlling vertical growth of a dam, and protecting culverts, and how 10 years ago there was no one trained in this work in the state and we had to bring in Skip Lisle from Vermont to do it for us. But now, there were several people trained in CA and the whole thing would probably cost about 500 for materials. Worth A Dam could even help with a scholarship. I even sent him a copy of Mike’s DVD.

He  mentioned that he was a backpacker and appreciated wildlife, and was interested to hear about the role beavers play for salmon, steelhead, groundwater recharge, biodiversity, nutrient cycling, and climate change resilience. We talked about the controversy and the resolution, how our creek never went dry when the beavers were here. How beavers were great for teaching children about nature and science and mentioned our annual beaver festival. Then I sent him a big care package of information and said I would be happy to answer questions or connect him with the answers. I also suggested he might talk to Mark Ross or Lara Delaney to get the city’s perspective. He was eager to talk with his general manager, because in his words “it sounded like a no-brainer”.

Heidi Happy!

Not that this means everything’s solved and Mountain House beavers are out of the woods. It’s just a beginning.Lots of obstacles could hinder Mr. Lucid along the way. One swallow doesn’t make a summer, they say.

But summer has never come without at least one somewhere. So it’s a start.

Then I arranged a speaking date with Pinole Rotary who wanted to hear about the Martinez beavers and get the story first hand. Since there are eager beavers in Rodeo they must be on their way to Pinole next – I say not a moment too soon!


A noble attempt – And a funny surprise for the educated.

Posted by heidi08 On January - 22 - 2016Comments Off on A noble attempt – And a funny surprise for the educated.

WKBT channel 8 in LaCrosse Wisconsin wants you to appreciate the Myrick Park marsh trail in winter. Click on the image to go see how much. If you stay all the way through there’s a cheerful surprise at the end. If it doesn’t make you laugh out loud, think of it as a quiz.

The Marsh in Winter

Did you see it? No telling. Shh. Crazy that you’re allowed to trap 50 feet from the tail there, better be careful if you’re taking your dog for a walk. I knew there was a reason we lived in California. But do you think every time we see the ‘wildlife viewing area’ sign it means wildlife trapping area too?

I had fun begging for beaver necklaces yesterday and got two immediate positive responses. I’m gun shy about using Etsy so I’m saving it for later. (If you’ll remember they suspended my account last year because I was too effective.) Aren’t these lovely?

First, from Esther at “Winterchild jewelry” this lovely image which can be on necklaces or earrings.

She  writes about the beaver:
Beavers are animals I have a lot of respect for. I admire their remarkable work ethic, their ability to actually construct dams and lodges and especially their tightly knit family unit. I’m sure you’ll agree that the seconds between catching sight of a beaver and hearing the sharp slap of its tail on the water is truly delightful!

Thanks Esther Winter for your generosity and talent! Follow the links to see her other fine work.

Next it’s a pewter beaver birth totem from Laura Johnston at Le animale.

Carry le industrious beaver with you and build your dreams into a reality.Capture

Of course everyone knows that beaver make dreams come true, so that seems very sound advice! Go check out her many spirit animals here and thank you Laura for your generosity!

Let me know if you see anything covetous out there and I’ll do my best to add it to the auction!