Archive for the ‘Beaver Behavior’ Category

Beaver Retreat

Posted by heidi08 On July - 24 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

You may remember that Idaho has a fairly complicated relationship to beavers. In the fifties they thought they were valuable enough to fling them from airplanes and hope they’d land, crawl to water and start a nice pond. Or not.

Mostly they like to trap them. They fur trap a whopping number of beavers. It’s one of the states where recreational trapping is more common than depredation. But Idaho Fish and Game has been getting some pressure from Mike Settell and our friends at Watershed Guardians. Who keep pointing out the MANY valuable things beaver could be doing if they were allowed to live.

Either Fish and Game listened or they figure this will work in their favor in the long run.


Saving beavers – Earthfire Institute joins beaver relocation project

Rehabilitating wild animals is a natural extension of Earthfire’s activities. Our infrastructure, know-how and interest in the well being of wild animals led us to rehabilitate two orphaned moose babies in 2013. It became a successful community project, completed in close cooperation with Idaho Fish and Game. Now another rehabilitation/relocation project is underway, this time with beavers.

In April of 2016 Idaho Fish and Game asked Earthfire if we were interested in providing a temporary holding pen for trapped beavers. We would be part of a coordinated initiative offering relocation services as an alternative to the kill permits issued when landowners request beavers to be removed from their properties. By accepting this project Earthfire became an integral part of the Upper Snake River Beaver Coop and their mission: “.. to recognize that beavers are great eco-engineers and a great asset when dealing with climate change and declining stream flows.” Earthfire is cooperating with representatives from the Forest Service, BLM, The Nature Conservancy and Idaho Fish & Game. The four goals of the Coop are:

Better understand beaver populations in the watershed. Determine the status of their habitat. Selectively relocate beaver to select sites to improve downstream storage. They can help us store water in the upper watershed for slow release during the summer rather than all at once

Provide information and support landowners

The Coop is responsible for trapping, penning and relocating beavers in the Upper Snake River region. Earthfire’s primary role will be to keep the beavers fed, healthy and safe until relocation. They will be trapped one by one until they can be relocated as a family. Because of strong family ties, beavers do not do well alone and often succumb to stress diseases.

Earthfire’s staff has completed a beaver trapping class organized by Idaho Fish and Game so we can assist the Coop in all phases of the relocation.

To build the holding pen Earthfire established a $7,000 budget and excavated a 70’ x 40’ area with running water on the 40 Acre Earthfire property. The excavated area was then covered with felt underliner before installing the pond liner, another layer of protective liner and 8” of round rock. The fence around the pond was dug down 1 foot and cemented to the ground to prevent beavers from digging out. As an extra precaution hotwire was added to prevent the beavers from climbing or getting close to the fence. Two dens were installed because not all beavers get along. The dens can be closed in order to trap the beavers for relocation.

Um, yeah?

I was a little more excited about the prospect before I saw this video. Earthfire is primarily and retreat destination with injured animals that can never be released. They create ‘new’ connections between humans and the injured wildlife for reasons best understood only by them. Watch for yourself:

No word on how that whole habituation thing will be avoided with these wild beavers in transit. I guess it’s rather similar to the parachute escapade, either it will work or it won’t but in the meantime they get rid of some beavers. I did look up a bit about the beaver Coop of the upper snake river. (Okay, I admit, I first read that “coop” like chicken coop. But I’m pretty sure its co-op.)  The whole thing is kinda secretive –  I can find some partners of theirs but no one who actually takes credit for the project. This may explains why they’re keeping a low profile. Note they are selling both the fur and the castor – to use as a lure in traps.


Well we surely wish those beavers and their champions the best of luck.

Not bad for a Tuesday

Posted by heidi08 On July - 20 - 2016Comments Off on Not bad for a Tuesday

Last night, new members or the PRMCC were sworn in. I was worried to see our old supporters go until I noticed that they included Adrienne Ursino who was one of the beavers very first supporters and the aide to former congressman Miller. She explained to the other commissioners that I had come to Madison’s preschool and kindergarten to teach beavers to the children and she admired how I was always helping people learn about beavers.  I quickly reviewed the mural process and described how it was based on our own photos, fit organically with the creek and reflected the real mountainsides behind it. The commission chair even said he had seen one of the beavers down at the new dam! Then I made sure to add that we should all be so lucky as to swim under our own memorial and keep right on taking trees at Ward Street.

(Given how MUCH controversy the beaver caused initially it was truly special to see how happy this made them.)

Afterward the commissioner discussed how lovely the mural was, and how quickly and professionally the process had gone They were impressed with its swift completion and found thanked Worth A Dam and Mario for making it happen. I thanked them for their kind words and couldn’t help thinking, ‘swift?’ that was ‘swift???’ because it seemed to me that it took ages and required repeated onerous effort to honor the contract, get the insurance, meet the city requirements blah blah blah. But okay, I can believe it happened ‘swifter’ than other murals in town.

Afterwards we drove to Ward Street to tell the beavers the good news. And there met some youngsters from Lafayette who will be selling temporary wildlife tattoos at the festival this year. They were eager for beaver photos to help them with their designs.  The beavers liked them very much and were obviously pleased with our news because they decided to cooperate. As did 3 adorable raccoon kits in the blackberry bushes.

The Importance of being Ernst

Posted by heidi08 On July - 17 - 2016Comments Off on The Importance of being Ernst

Sometimes even the back of the class earns a gold star. The Ernst trail  in Meadville PA lies in the upper left hand corner of the state near Ohio. Neither state has been particularly progressive on beaver management issues in the past, so I was thrilled to see this. Remember the trapper who said he was only going to take the ‘soldier beavers’?

ON THE ERNST TRAIL: Importance of beaver pond outweighs potential flooding

In the spring of 2015 the water, in the wetland, just south of Bean’s, on the west side of the Ernst Trail, began to rise precipitously up toward the trail. The water was also rising on the east side of the trail. We were concerned that the water might flow over the trail and perhaps damage the trail surface.

A short investigation revealed that beavers had dammed up the two culverts that drain from the west side of the trail to the east side and that there were many small dams on the east side as well. The board of directors decided to act.

In the course of trying to figure out what to do I visited the trail one June day last year at lunch with Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officer Mark Allegro. He was busy with nuisance bear complaints and only had time at lunch to consider our beaver problem. Mark pointed out that there weren’t any good options; our best hope was to wait for trapping season and get a trapper to trap the beavers

Since it was a nice noon-time, many people were on the trail, several of them recognized Mark, who was in uniform, and commented on wildlife they had seen along the trail. One person pointed out a huge snapping turtle on a log in the beaver pond, about 30 feet from the trail. Another showed me a couple of snakes alongside the trail that I had walked right by. Others noted birds they had seen, signs of beaver activity and so on. Our beaver pond was generating quite a bit of interest for trail users.

To better understand what a beaver pond had to offer, I talked to Scott Wissinger, an ecology professor at Allegheny College. Here’s what he said: “Because beaver ponds create so many different types of sub habitats of different shallow depths, flow regimes, plant communities and invertebrate communities, they are considered hot beds of biological diversity. Even if people don’t really care about invertebrate and plant diversity, they might care because the invertebrates and plants (especially their seeds) are magnets for charismatic animals that people do care about — fish, waterfowl, songbirds, amphibians and reptiles.”

With all this life attracted to the beaver pond, our board of directors decided to let the beavers alone. We’ll take our chances on the flooding.

Yes, if you need advice on trapping, go to the Game Warden, but if you need advice on BEAVERS go to college. I’m so hopeful about this article and will be working hard to get in touch with the author so he can see how to prevent flooding AND keep beavers. I can’t tell you how impressed I am that the people on the trail got you thinking about the enormous impact a beaver pond has on wildlife. And so glad that you listened, and kept asking questions because that isn’t easy to do when a man in a uniform tells you to give up.

Shout out to Janet Thew who posted on FB about the beaver totem skins offered by Decalgal. Of course I wrote her WRITE AWAY and she said she’d be delighted to donate to the silent auction. How much do you love this?

Final gift from Moses Silva filmed at the noisy crane work station by the beaver home. I guess not everyone is intimidated by progress.




Selfies and Science

Posted by heidi08 On July - 16 - 2016Comments Off on Selfies and Science

Something really exciting happened yesterday, but I am using all my shards of self control and not talking about it yet, in case it affects the outcome. You will know soon. And it will be cool. I promise. In the mean time, a wildlife friend posted this article on FB and it really got me thinking.

Even scientists take selfies with wild animals. Here’s why they shouldn’t.

One of the great things about being a biologist is getting to work in the field and connect with wildlife. Through my career, I have enjoyed many unforgettable close encounters with various species, including turtles, birds, marine mammals, invertebrates and a lot of fish, especially sharks and rays.

My research program also has a strong focus on citizen science. I use data collected by recreational scuba divers and snorkelers to describe marine animal populations and conservation needs. Therefore, I work closely with the tourism industry.

Reflecting on my own experiences, however, I recognize that I and many of my peers have not always followed those best practices. Sure, we need to have close encounters with wildlife to do our work, and we have the necessary training and permits. We often have reason to photograph animals in the course of our research – for example, to quickly capture information such as size, health, sex, and geographic location. But we do not have permission, or good reason, to engage in recreational activities with our animal subjects – including restraining them for selfies.

I have worked with many researchers, including some who have pioneered best handling practices for wild animals. These people have years of training and experience, and know how to handle and release animals properly to maximize their survival. I have witnessed the making of many researcher-animal selfies – including photos with restrained animals during scientific study. In most cases the animal was only held for an extra fraction of a second while vigilant researchers simply glanced up and smiled for the camera already pointing in their direction.

But some incidents have been more intrusive. In one instance, researchers had tied a large shark to a boat with ropes across its tail and gills so that they could measure, biopsy and tag it. Then they kept it restrained for an extra 10 minutes while the scientists took turns hugging it for photos.

Although this may be an extreme case, a quick online search for images of “wildlife researchers” produces plenty of photos of scientist-selfies – with whales, birds, bats, fish, turtles, and other animals – including some of the world’s most endangered species.

Mixed signals

Taking selfies with animals may seem trivial and even beneficial if the photos get viewers interested in science. But these images do not show the researcher’s expertise or training or explain how his or her scientific sampling protocols have been vetted and approved by animal ethics experts. Moreover, the photos do not reveal that many sampling procedures injure or kill some of the animals that are captured for study and that research proposals include acceptable numbers of casualties. The public only sees scientists with animals that appear to be thriving and producing valuable information, despite being captured and handled.

When biologists add extra seconds or minutes of restraint for taking selfies, they reinforce the perception that animals are robust enough to tolerate this treatment. Some members of the public may think that it is a safe and acceptable practice and try to emulate what they see.

The easiest way to show that researchers working with wild animals are following best practices is to avoid engaging in recreational activities with restrained animal subjects, and to be careful about sharing photos from the field that are not clearly related to sanctioned research activities. By taking these steps, biologists can lead by example and help guide the public to interact more responsibly with wildlife.

Of course when I read this article I immediately went searching for scientists posing with beavers, and thought to my self, NO ONE would do that. But of course they did do that. After I found the first one I thought, well sure there’s one lunatic in Canada but no one ELSE would do that. And then I found three more. And then I stopped looking because it was too depressing.

The smart article makes reference also to the great effect of famous reseasherri worth a damrchers interacting gently with animals (Jane Goodall, Sylvie Erle) (Ahem, Sherri Tippie) and says that while those events have significant benefit to public perception and little harm to the animals, researchers still need to be thoughtful about their choices every time.  Is the photo to help the world see that animal in a different way? Or is it just to show off? Where will this photo go and who should see it?

Even if all the average biologist, researcher and technician did was THINK of the points raised in this article I’d be grateful. The tension between observing and interacting is a constant one, and certainly not unfelt in the drama of the Martinez Beavers, right down to the end of life decisions we had to make with our original mom. Go read the whole thing, and share it with your wildlife friends.

And I will try again tomorrow not to blurt out the exciting almost-news.

A Present for Rusty

Posted by heidi08 On July - 14 - 2016Comments Off on A Present for Rusty

I never thought I’d ever really appreciate the noisy art of chainsaw carving. Clearly I was wrong.

The evolution of a beaver

Mr. “Rusty” Beaver was raised in a 12-metre (40-foot) spruce tree on a quiet residential street in the Canadian prairie town of Beausejour, Manitoba. After 78 years of slow growth in sandy soil, his journey west began when the lives of his mom, sisters and brothers came to an abrupt end in favour of a new residential development.

Fortunately for Mr. Beaver, he was rescued by Beausejour resident Russ Kubara, retired school teacher and chainsaw carver extraordinaire. Then it all came together. A new roof on Ron’s house decommissioned the flagpole that launched off the eave and a date for a road trip to Russ’s new home in Beausejour was confirmed.

Day after day, the 180-kilogram (400-pound) log was whittleCaptured down to a manageable 90 kgs (200 pounds). A large hole was bored through from top to bottom and an eight-metre (25-foot) flag pole already waiting with the Canadian flag mounted was inserted.

It was so fitting – Canada’s mascot at work chewing a tree at the base of the Canadian flag.

Ron thoroughly enjoyed seeing Mr. Beaver come into existence as he emerged from the spruce log formerly laying prone in Russ’ back yard. He is now securely fastened to a buried concrete base in his new home at the front of Ron and Lynne Kubara’s house in Surrey.

Mr. Beaver now has been christened Rusty – named for his creator.

You can’t imagine how longingly I’m looking at my front yard waiting for a beaver flag pole holder to appear! We of course need two: (one American one British). The creative process and repurposing is very impressive. And to think that lucky beaver is named for our own Napa photographer extraordinaire obviously! He sent this last night as a demonstration of beavers creating habitat for turtles.


Turtle and Beaver: Rusty Cohn


My buddy at NCHEMS helped with a  very odd request yesterday. This is a map of all the places in California that issued ZERO depredation permits last year. We can infer what that means, right? California is missing a lot of beavers.

no permits 2016But I of course saved the REAL news for last. Guess who was cheerfully swimming around Ward Street today enjoying that felled willow? Two lovely beavers as comfortable in that big pool as you please.

The habitat is so rich up there my lens apparently got distracted by a moth, but never mind. We know who that was.

There was no activity at all at the old dam, where we started the morning at 5. Does that mean they moved? Does that mean their vacationing? Does that mean they’ll build a dam at Ward Street when the rains start? I can honestly say, after a decade of beaver watching, and dedicated study that I have absolutely no idea.

Stay tuned and we’ll see.


Friday is beaver achievement day

Posted by heidi08 On July - 8 - 2016Comments Off on Friday is beaver achievement day

It’s always feast or famine around here at beaver central. A trickle of news stories thru the week and then a DUMP of beaver news all at once. Maybe it’s something about Friday being less important than the other news days, but buckle up because we have lots to talk about.

The first is the long-awaited story from Charlotte North Carolina, and I dare say the most progressive look at beaver in that part of the South since I’ve been on  the beaver-beat. Wen the article appeared it aired with a very  special photo which I of course captured for your viewing pleasure before I made sure it was corrected.


On a quiet fall night on the Catawba River, a beaver dam stopped a potential disaster. The dam was all that stood between a sewage leak and the river that supplies much of Charlotte’s drinking water.

“A beaver dam strategically located contained the spill,” the utilities report stated. Beavers were the heroes on this day, and can benefit local ecosystems, but they are not always so helpful.

Beaver trappers in Mecklenburg County say that the rodent can become a nuisance. One beaver dam, for example, covered up the manholes to underground pipelines, preventing repair crews from entering. To curb their effects, the state has a beaver trapping season. A beaver is typically killed in the trap.

Hmmm fine beginning and intriguing angle linking it to the sewage spill. Now lets get to some more discussion of this issue.

Sharon Brown, a biologist from Beavers: Wetlands and Wildlife, a national beaver advocacy group, said that once a colony of beavers is removed, a new colony typically will move in sometime in the near future.

Some towns, like Martinez, Calif., near the San Francisco Bay area, have petitioned local governments to install flow devices to curb beavers’ negative effects. These devices steal water away from the beavers, lessening their impact. But it allows the beavers to still keep their dam.

“(The city council) was kicking and screaming” because they initially didn’t want to pay, said Heidi Perryman, who runs a beaver blog in Martinez.

Christopher Newport University, in Newport, Va., released a study comparing the costs of keep or removing beavers. The study looked at 14 dam sites, and compared the costs before and after flow devices were installed. It found that before the devices, it costs around $300,000 to remove beavers and to repair the surrounding areas. Often a new colony moved right back in.

The price over the same period of time with the devices was around $44,000 because the beavers’ damage is permanently controlled. “People don’t realize the benefits of beavers are hidden,” Brown said.

Beaver dams filter water, which helps contain urban runoff and water pollution from spreading downstream. They also create new ecosystems, as animals come to the slower water around the dam. Beaver removal can destroy these habitats.

In Martinez, the community ended up saving their town’s beavers, even creating a yearly festival to celebrate the beavers’ continued survival.

“There has been a strong push to coexist,” Brown said.

Ta daa! Positive beaver quotes from North Carolina! And a powerful 1-2 punch from Sharon and myself – why and how to live with beavers, my favorite topics. Of course Sharon gets extra respect for being a ‘biologist’ and Worth A Dam doesn’t even get a MENTION, but it’s okay, I’ll make sure we’re a household word eventually. Hrmph.

Back to Massachusetts now, where Mike Callahan might get hired to save some beavers in Mendon.

MENDON – Officials are looking into installing a beaver flow device in the Mendon Town Forest, where beavers are causing flooding.  According to Community Preservation Committee and Land Use Committee Chairperson Anne Mazar, a beaver dam located in the Town Forest is causing flooding in the area. She and Bill Dakai, volunteer Mendon Town Forest Land Steward, showed the dam to Mike Callahan of Beaver Solutions, who said a beaver flow device could be installed there to solve the problem.

“A flow device lets the beavers live at the pond and build their dam, but the device lets water flow under the dam undetected by the beavers,” said Mazar.

Over the years, Callahan has successfully installed hundreds of the devices around the country, including one in Mendon at Inman Pond that Mazar said “works well.”

It is a long-term cost-effective and humane way to control beaver flooding,” she said. “Trapping and dam breaching is costly and not permanent.”Many towns, she said, spend thousands on culvert repairs because of damage from beaver flooding.  Mazar said the device costs about $2,000 to $3,000.

If the site is right for the flow devices, towns can save time and money,” said Mazar.

If the name Mazar sounds vaguely familiar, it should because it was just a month ago we wrote about her when the town agreed to kill beavers in Lake Nipmuc.  As you’ll remember, those conditions weren’t ‘suitable’ for a flow device and the beavers were killed. Of course I’m unhappy with that explanation, but Mike thinks like a businessman and never wants to stake his reputation on a situation that doesn’t look favorable – he needs that city to maintain faith in him down the line so they hire him again and save some other beavers.

Which makes sense, I guess.

In the meantime, we’re happy these beavers in the forest get saved, and wish Mike and Anne all the luck in the world.  And I must remind everyone that the conditions weren’t exactly favorable in Martinez either, and look how we turned out!

Now you’ve been very good so I’m saving the best for last. I’ll spare you the silly article about the golf course being bewildered how a ‘baby beaver just showed up there lost one morning’ because I assume that EVERY READER of this website knows why orphans appear at golf courses. You definitely want to make this one ‘full screen’.

From the sublime to the ridiculous!

Posted by heidi08 On July - 6 - 2016Comments Off on From the sublime to the ridiculous!

Global beaver citizens that we are, I woke up with an email from the Edinbugh professor and regular reader of this website J. Suilin Lavelle, who said she just ran into Roisin Campbell at the mammal conference on the weekend! Roisin told her she had a lot of fun on her visit to Vermont meeting Patti and Skip. (Which I wrote about a few days ago because, honestly that’s how small the beaver world is.) The beaver champions of that nation are currently in a Brexit-induced panic because the Scottish government had dragged their beaver decision out for so long, and now the insanity over the EU vote might delay or derail everything.

You probably didn’t realize that Brexit was bad news for beavers too, did you?

Meanwhile, there’s a nice bit of news from the Mendenhall Glacier beaver cam this year, which I was recently alerted to by a US Forestry friend here in Vallejo.

Thousands Around the World Tune In to Snoop on a Beaver Den

Watching the beavers sleep has kept thousands of viewers occupied since June 28, when the US Forest Service installed an infrared camera in the den to record in real time the beavers’ activities. As nocturnal creatures, that means sleeping most of the day and getting up periodically to stretch, eat, or relieve themselves. Recommended viewing is between 7 AM and 7 PM Alaska Standard Time.

Natural resource specialist Peter Schneider and fisheries biologist Don Martin initially set up a beaver camera in 2004 to satiate their curiosities about a collection of food outside the beaver lodge on Steep Creek. To monitor the beavers’ activities, they set up a camera outside the lodge and even had it insulated throughout the winter.

Are you keeping track of the mileage with your atlas at home here? The beaver story has gone from Scotland to Vermont to Juneau to Vallejo to Martinez so far. Some 2500+miles and counting. Not bad for a morning’s work!

And just so we don’t feel too smugly accomplished, here’s a glimpse of how far we have yet  to go courtesy of the silliest research ever published.


Yes. that photo is what you suspect it is; because you, dear reader are smart and this article is stoo-pid.

As more beaver colonies form, the rodents have an adverse effect on the climate by changing levels of methane gas. This happens because beaver colonies are formed in ponds constructed by the beaver dams. These tend to be pockets of shallow water (no more than 1.5 meters high.) Within this oxygen-poor standing water, methane gas levels build up and the gas, because it cannot dissolve in the water, is eventually released into the atmosphere.

According to Professor Colin J. Whitfield (University of Saskatchewan in Canada), compared with 100 years ago, 200 times more of greenhouse gas is released into the atmosphere from beaver colonies. This has come from a study into beaver colonies in Eurasia (the Castor fiber species) and North America (the Castor Canadensis species.)

The model suggests beavers currently contribute 0.80 teragrams (or 800 million kilograms) of methane into the atmosphere. Interviewed by International Business Times, Professor Whitfield suggest this problem not going away anytime soon unless action is taken: “Continued range expansion, coupled with changes in population and pond densities, may dramatically increase the amount of water impounded by the beaver…[this] suggests that the contribution of beaver activity to global methane emissions may continue to grow.

Truly the reporter selected the IDEAL photo to accompany this groundbreaking research, it really communicates the level of intelligence of those involved. (Nutria) See Dr. Whitfield is from the university of Saskatchewan which is famous for the kill contest they held this year.  He teamed up with Dr. Cherie Westbrook of Alberta who was probably just happy to publish something without the name Glynnis Hood on it, and I’ve been told that she regrets how this study has been misused. But I spare her no mercy and want this supposedly seminal research to be the beaver albatross around her educated neck. She should have known that folks would be only too happy for another bogus reason to blame beavers.

Let me explain this again for those who are mislead, yes beaver dams release methane, which is one of the green house gasses we are not really worried about. It dissolves in 2-3 years, unlike carbon, which we are VERY worried about, which lasts for decades.  (When you drive to work your car doesn’t release methane.) Along the way beavers increase the water supply which we are going to need as carbon numbers keep rising. Beavers also aid biodiversity, which we need in on a planet that is rapidly losing species. (I of course tried to write the editor yesterday about the photo, but it appears they are obviously not overly concerned with accuracy.)

Oh and did you know that we successfully entered Jupiter’s orbit  after the fireworks on independence day? We’re on a 20 month rotation studying a planet at 540,000,000 miles away. And the five year mission predictions were accurate to within 1 second.

Welcome to Jupiter!