Archive for the ‘Beaver Behavior’ Category

Beaver Fan Club still has Openings

Posted by heidi08 On January - 19 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

beaver strategy meetingOoh how nice to see the upcoming beaver conference get some positive press! I hope that gets many more curious people in the door.

Seven Feathers to host conference on beaver restoration

CANYONVILLE — Oregon’s official state animal, the beaver, plays an important role in the state’s wetland ecosystems. Those advocating for the beaver plan to convene next month for a series of presentations focusing on beaver ecology as a crucial part of threatened species recovery.

The fifth State of the Beaver Conference, slated for Feb. 22-24 at the Seven Feathers Convention Center in Canyonville, is meant “to provide an international venue for academia, agency and stakeholders together to disseminate information pertinent to beaver ecology,” according to Leonard Houston, conference coordinator and co-chair of the Beaver Advocacy Committee (BAC) of the South Umpqua Rural Community Partnership.

We chose the theme of ‘agents of regeneration’ largely to highlight the role that beavers play both in natural regeneration, which is ecological succession, and designed regeneration, which is restoration ecology,” Houston said.


Sherri Tippie and Me

The nicest part about this conference, and there are  many, is that the famous names you have been reading about for years here or elsewhere are walking or sitting right next to you. Or coming up to say ‘hi’ and ask

about your presentation. The truth is that it is both a blessing and unfortunate that the science of beaver ecology isn’t yet so advanced that names like Woodruff,  Obrien or Pollock can send


Mike Callahan and Me

their undergrads to do the presenting for them and report back if they find anything interesting. As renowned as they are, they have to do their reporting in person and are eager to share ideas and learn from each other. They’re even happy to hear what you have to say.

small suzanne

Suzanne Fouty and Me

Admittedly,they are probably even happier if you invite them out for a beer to say it. (And happier still if you offer to pay for it. Government salaries being what they are.)

santa barbara dinner

Michael Pollock, Mary Obrien, Sherri Guzzi, Mike Callahan and Me!

The point is, I think this is a golden moment in time where beaver science hasn’t become dominated and controlled by lofty minds and  big research institutions. You can contribute, you can interact.  They need you! But already the world is starting to shift. More and more folk are interested in taking charge of the beaver meme, and it won’t be easy and collegial forever.

Beavers are getting so famous, you better come this year. Just to be on the safe side.

Afancod for all!

Posted by heidi08 On January - 17 - 2017Comments Off on Afancod for all!


Wales is on the beaver Warpath, and  something tells me they aren’t giving up on their quest to reintroduce beavers any time soon. When Scotland gave the all clear they were immediately lining up to be next. They will be presenting at the beaver conference next month in Oregon. It’s pretty generous them to all do this separately, so we get to prolong the discussion of beaver benefits as long as possible. After they succumb, we still get all of England to do the promoting! Then what?

Proposals to reintroduce beavers to parts of Wales

A SPECIAL talk is to be held next week over proposals to reintroduce beavers to parts of Wales.

Welsh beaver project officer Alicia Leow-Dyke will be opening up the elusive world of beavers at a free event at the Centre for Alternative Technology on 24 January.

Alicia, of the Radnorshire Wildlife Trust, will talk about beaver ecology, the history and future of beavers in Wales and the impacts that beavers have on ecosystems, looking at how this can benefit many species, including humans.

In a report by the WBAI they said: “Beavers are often considered a ‘keystone’ species in aquatic environments, with an ability to modify riverine and wetland habitats to the benefit of many other species, with few negative effects.”

That sentence makes me excited and nervous in exactly equal measures. Yes, beavers modify rivers and benefit species but oh they bring a few negative effects for humans. Or at lets call them ‘challenges’. Truly solvable and worth doing but unfortunately not all people are up for a challenge. I’ll let them know when I get to meet them (assuming the sled dogs can get us both there). Here they are listed on the agenda for the State of the beaver conference:

5:00 pm – 5:45 pm

The Long Road: Returning Beavers to Wales.”

 Adrian Lloyd Jones, Wildlife Trusts Wales. Alicia Leow-Dyke, Wildlife Trusts Wales

Nice photo published this morning from Jestephotography I thought deserved sharing. His description says:

While out at Elk Island National Park this fall I stopped to set up on a family of 5 beavers , mom n pop with 3 offspring doing what beavers do.  Most of the time they where at a mid distance but this fellow decided the log right in front of me needed a good chewing.  I was belly down in the mud with my lens poking out between the cat tails for this one.

Friends in High Country News Places

Posted by heidi08 On January - 15 - 2017Comments Off on Friends in High Country News Places

Well I’ll be gosh-darned. I just opened the nicest email from the beaver-savvy author of this High Country News review. It’s the kind of email that no girl deserves twice in her life, so I may as well just cancel the account now and hang up my ‘retired beaver tale-teller’ sign. You know, way back when I was a wee snip of a beaver advocate struggling to save our beavers from a conibear I was transfixed by a wondrous article in HCN that introduced me to the beaver shaman Mary Obrien who preached a whole new way of thinking about beavers and streams and ecology. The hair stood up on my arm to think that such wisdom existed in the world. And to get such a nice email from one of its reporters – well. You can see why I’m still tingling.

Apparently, he was prompted by reading our newsletter, which we had beautifully printed and received last week. (It came out pretty sharp, so if you would like your very own copy, email me an address and I’ll be happy to send one.)I asked his permission to share the delightful email  because it’s the kind of gratifying pipe you want to pass to your circle of friends,  but in the mean time here’s his awesome review of Frances Backhouse book. And some highlights so you can see that he really gets why all this beaver business matters.

The historical lifetime of the beaver

Our relationship with North America’s largest rodent is so complex that we can no longer classify beavers as simply as Horace T. Martin did in Castorologia, an 1892 zoological monograph written when beavers hovered on the brink of extinction. Frances Backhouse — formerly a seabird and grizzly biologist, now a University of Victoria-based writer/teacher — takes a new look at this landscape-changing critter in her book, Once They Were Hats: In Search of the Mighty Beaver. The book was a finalist for the Lane Anderson award for the best Canadian science book of 2015.

For last few centuries, we’ve regarded beavers as either nuisances or commodities. Now, we’re increasingly learning how they make our landscapes livable: not only by clearing a path for settled lands and farms, but by filtering, diversifying and storing the water on which we depend. Backhouse identifies beavers as “a classic keystone species — that is, the indispensable creator of ecosystems that support entire ecological communities; an unwitting faunal philanthropist.” As a Canadian, she surely has a particular affinity for her national animal, but the beavers’ watershed stewardship blurs political borders. In her final chapter, “Détente,” Backhouse shows that countries that once fought over fur are finding between beavers and humans can help provide a cooler future, too.

First of all, if you haven’t read the book yet, buy it NOW. Because you really need to support this kind of revisionist beaver thinking. And second of all, go read the whole review because it’s very well written and will make you eager to start flipping through pages. And third, I just heard from Mr. Rich that he is willing to let me share this so here’s the first paragraph that you can use please at my eulogy.

Dear Heidi,

As we start a new year, I want to thank you for your tireless coverage of all things beaver. After reading your recent post and newsletter on the decade you have honored this marvelous rodent, I realized what a small fraction of those 10,000 viewers/week probably reciprocate with the praise and support that Worth a Dam deserves. I know that I am guilty of this, having been a daily reader for at least the last two years without ever saying a word. I am so devoted to your site because there is no other nexus with such comprehensive insights into the beaver’s ecological benefits, and wisdom about their evolving relationship with us. There are many places to learn “facts” about beavers, but you connect them with humor and heart as you bring “distant leaders and particular regional blind spots” into conversation. So I hope I speak for many hundreds more when I say THANK YOU!

Rob Rich

I honestly have never read anything that makes me happier. Or ascribes better purpose to my weirdly addictive pastime. I frankly would be making it up if I ever tried to say why I post about beavers every day, or who I think reads and depends on it. But now I have the perfect answer, and suddenly it all makes sense.

I do it for Mr. Rich.

It’s Raining Beavers!

Posted by heidi08 On January - 13 - 2017Comments Off on It’s Raining Beavers!

Reach deep in your pockets and under that couch cushion. If you find anything there other than cheetos and lint you will want to donate it to the Lindsay wildlife hospital and thank them for treating two beavers in two days, which is more than they’ve seen in two years.

The Benicia Police Department posted this video yesterday after a beaver
was found disoriented on the campus of Joe Henderson Elementary School. That beaver is apparently on the mend this morning, and the papers have amused themselves with the story.

Walnut Creek: Injured beaver found outside Benicia school

20170112_134444WALNUT CREEK — A disoriented beaver that showed up outside a Benicia elementary school early Thursday morning is recuperating at the Lindsay Wildlife Experience.

School personnel discovered the 40-pound male beaver drooling at the front door of Joe Henderson Elementary School around 5:30 a.m. Animal control officers took the beaver to the Lindsay for treatment.

Other than abrasions on its tail and the soles of the feet, the beaver appeared to be healthy, according to Dr. Guthrum Purdin, director of veterinary services at the Lindsay.

This is the second injured beaver brought to the Lindsay this week. On Tuesday, two beavers were found near Mohr Lane in Concord. One had been struck by a vehicle and died at the scene. The second beaver suffered a broken tooth and a fractured skull, and was euthanized Wednesday.

We’ve known for years about the beavers near Lake Hermann in Benicia, which is not far from the school. Cheryl has even been out to photograph them. The odd thing is that their series of beaver dams are currently upsetting public works enough that they are complaining to anyone that will listen. A reporter for the Vallejo Herald wanted to talk to me about it yesterday and find out how we managed them in Martinez. Neither of us even knew about that local rescue until last night!

North American Beaver Castor canadensis Guthrum Purdin, Director of Veterinary Services at the Lindsay Wildlife Experience, examines six-week-old orphaned kit Lindsay Wildlife Experience, Walnut Creek, CA *Model release availableDr. Guthrum is the veterinarian who treated our sick kit. He came to the beaver festival that year and is a big supporter. We are grateful that there is a safe place for beavers to recover and that compassionate teachers and animal control officers made sure he got there. Please tell them you support their beaver rescue by donating to help keep their doors open. And if you write “This is for the next beaver” on your donation we’ll be even happier.

And there’s one more thing we’re grateful for, and that has to be the silver lining in these stories.

A beaver population in Concord, in Benicia, in Napa, in Hercules, in Sonoma. We are surrounded by beavers on every side. Ten years ago that would never, ever have been possible. Ten years ago it was unheard of for beavers to suddenly appear in a  city. Worth A Dam made sure that Martinez was safe harbor for the birth of 24 kits over a decade. Even if they haven’t found their way back to Marin, these lucky beaver have changed the population of beavers in the greater Bay area for evermore.

No matter what happens now, they’ll never put that particular genie back in that bottle again.  Happy New Year!


Bad news for beavers

Posted by heidi08 On January - 12 - 2017Comments Off on Bad news for beavers

North American Beaver Castor canadensis Lodge in urban environment Napa, California

There is bad news a’plenty today for beavers. The puddles and buckets of rain that fell wreaked havoc on our flat-tailed friends. The beautiful lodge in Napa was flattened like adobe bricks under the ocean and while the well-built structure never washed away, it collapsed.  Robin went out in the morning to see the damage and Rusty sent these photos yesterday. I am stung with grief over the loss. He came back in the evening and saw one beaver hanging around in confusion. I’m guessing finding family members is job one after a displacement like this. Home is, after all, wherever your peeps are.


Flattened Lodge in Napa: Rusty Cohn

Worse still, It turns our that the beaver killed on Mohr Lane in Concord was the second one. The first was taken to Lindsay Wildlife Hospital an hour earlier. That one had a broken jaw and severe damage also and he died from his injuries. He was a smaller beaver, probably last summer’s kit. And obviously with his parent or sibling for safety. Both were killed.

The death was written about on the  the Claycord News and Talk website (the mayor is an old friend of the Martinez Beavers) and that earned a pretty interesting comments by readers.

Vehicle Hits, Kills Beaver on Mohr Lane Near Monument Blvd. in Concord

A beaver was struck and killed by a vehicle on Mohr Lane near Monument Blvd. in Concord on Tuesday night.

A ton of folks visit that sight, there have been 18 comments so far, but these two got all my attention:

Is this thing on?

I thought I saw a beaver dam on Walnut Creek between Monument and Willow Pass, upstream of the concrete drop structure. Anyone else see it from the Iron Horse this past fall? I’m guessing it’s gone with the high water.

Jojo Potato

@Is this… I guess you don’t remember this post of mine: riding along the Iron Horse trail this morning where it follows along the creek north of Monument, saw a really beautiful beaver dam across the stream. Overflow was cleverly directed around the east end and the dam solidly built with sticks and mud across the main channel. There is life in Concord! Great to see.

So there was a beaver dam and family along the Iron horse trail and we didn’t even know. Two (or maybe more) of that family were killed, and I’m sure the others are scattered and disoriented. They could easily be our offspring or descended from our offspring. I was so saddened yesterday by this news that I comforted myself by imagining starting a beaver clinic, like Mother Theresa – but for beavers.  Where lots and lots of beavers would be rescued, snugly wrapped in towels and fed cottonwood or apples until they regained their strength. Maybe you want to help?

North American Beaver Castor canadensis Danielle Mattos, Director of Animal Care at Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, holding rescued beaver Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, Petaluma, CA

North American Beaver
Castor canadensis
Danielle Mattos, Director of Animal Care at Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, holding rescued beaver
Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, Petaluma, CA


Underneath that lodge so snowy white!

Posted by heidi08 On January - 7 - 2017Comments Off on Underneath that lodge so snowy white!

We’ve learned to appreciate friends where we find them. It’s not every day that we hear positive things about beavers from Illinois.
WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois
I’m guessing that’s a personal best for the prairie state, who isn’t always ready to share with their furry flat-tailed friends. Great work, wildlife biologist Andy Stetter,

People seem to appreciate beavers in winter, I guess because when you’re outside in the snow its something to look at. Here’s more fine writing from Mary Willson in Juneau.

On the Trails: One thing leads to another

As we pondered the floating skunk cabbage, we noted a pile of sticks, just a little way down the shoreline. We quickly saw that this was a winter cache made by beavers — sticks neatly cut and stacked. The cache held branches and twigs of several species: lots of rusty menziesia, some alder and blueberry and a few hemlock branches. An unusual assortment, in my experience. When they can get them, beavers really like cottonwood and willows, but these were not available in this area.

Cross section of lodge and dam: Mike Storey

beaver reaching snow

Reaching for food: John Warner

If there is a cache, there should be a beaver lodge nearby. But we could find no conventional lodge built of a mound of sticks and mud. Maybe these beavers lived in a bank burrow, under the roots of a big spruce tree. The beavers had built a small dam a short distance downstream of the cache. By raising the water level, they would keep the entrance to their living quarters underwater, protecting their “doorway.”

As we meandered along upstream, after our detour, we began to note the stubs of cut-off shrubs in several areas. These cuts, and those on the cached sticks, looked quite fresh. Soon we saw several narrow trails running from the creek-edge up into the woods, where there were more cut stubs. A few cut branches had been left along the trails, perhaps to be hauled later to the cache. Some of these trails had been made after a snowfall, and there were dollops of mud and footprints as evidence of recent use. Beavers had used some of these trails repeatedly, so they were well trampled. But we could find a number of clear footprints of beavers’ hind feet. And otters had used the trails, too.

beaver and kits in snow

Kits in snow: John Warner

These signs obviously meant that the beavers had been active outside of their winter quarters, even though they had a cache. This is known to happen, but usually beavers spend the winter months snug in their houses, the adults living partly off stored body fat, and the young ones, still growing, feeding on the cache. If you stand, very quietly, close to a beaver lodge, you may hear the family members talking to each other, murmuring and chuckling.

I’ve been beaver blessed in so many ways, and able to hear endless beaver voices discussing the quality of cottonwood and who found it first, but one thing I deeply envy is this: listening to their voices in the lodge under snow, and seeing steam rise from the opening in the top. If I got to have one beaver wish, (I mean besides safety for all beavers and recognition of their value on a national level, and new kits born in our creek this summer, besides all those wishes) that would be it. Thanks Dr, Willson for describing it.

Beaver steps in the right direction

Posted by heidi08 On January - 4 - 2017Comments Off on Beaver steps in the right direction

The NH ‘beaver trapping as a last resort’ law discussion yesterday generated all kinds of fallout. First the usual trolls who commented on the article that “Voices of Wildlife weren’t really conservationists because they were vegan” (?). Second, some local interest by a certain pro-beaver politician that I happen to know  and made sure the article crossed his path. He thought it was pretty interesting and sent me the beavers in Marin article, whose author I then introduced him too. The two swapped strategies for reintroduction And kicked around that crazy legislation in NH. Beaver matchmaker! Nothing may happen but connections were made.

(It was my very best moment of 2017 so far, I can tell you.)

In other news this smart article came out yesterday, but I thought New Hampshire took precedence. It is by photographer Peter Cairns for the Rewildling Europe website.


Glen Affric is one area in the Scottish Highlands that has been extensively rewilded in recent decades.

Glen Affric is one area in the Scottish Highlands that has been extensively rewilded in recent decades. Peter Cairns / SCOTLAND: The Big Picture

The Scottish Highlands, an area covering around half of the country, is a rugged region of wild mountain and moorland and supports a population of just 350,000, or roughly 8 people per With on-going depopulation of the more remote Highland areas, the fragility of some rural communities is ever-present. You might imagine therefore that rewilding, with all the ecological, social and economic benefits it can bring, would be seen as a platform for reinvention; a springboard for rural revitalisation; an opportunity to be grabbed by both hands. You’d be wrong and the tortuous debate over returning beavers to Scotland, offers a clue as to why.

Consider this list of countries: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Ukraine. Each of these nations – most much more crowded and industrialised than the Scottish Highlands – has got on with the research, got on with the trials and got on with returning beavers to their landscapes. Germany now has 30,000 beavers. France 15,000. Here in Scotland, after 20 years of debate and a £2m five-year trial, the Government has recently finally approved beavers as a native species and allowed those few animals that exist here to remain.

So why has it taken so long to get beavers back and why, in many circles, is rewilding viewed with such suspicion? Scotland with its near-natural river systems and chains of freshwater lochs is perfect for beavers and yet the process of restoring them has been laboured. The reason, in my view, has very little to do with beavers.

Whilst the ecological case for rewilding is beyond debate in a country that has been burned and bitten to a frail shadow of its former self, resistance to rewilding – and beavers – comes from the threat of change. People don’t like change; especially when that change is perceived to be forcefully imposed. The strong Highland traditions of deer stalking, grouse shooting and crofting have created a barren landscape, bereft of the biotic communities that once kept it alive. Many traditionalists would argue that this landscape should not only be conserved but celebrated; that the Highlands aren’t broken so why try fixing them?

This entrenched perspective is entrenched further by the notion that the “establishment” – those public sector academics and administrators who understand little of rural life – is forcing its will on communities that see no justification for change. The arrival of beavers is perceived as the tip of the iceberg and what next? Wolves? The media in its constant quest for conflict and sensationalism is quick to re-enforce that narrative and further alienate an already sceptical audience.

I’m always interested in the discussion of psychological motives behind beaver resistance but I actually think he’s making a 500 year old mistake here. He thinks resistance to the idea of beavers comes because they have been absent so long and people are afraid of change. Let me tell you, as woman who has researched beaver resistance fairly thoroughly for a decade, it has nothing to do with the amount of time they’ve been missing. People are afraid of beavers whether it’s been five minutes, five years, or five hundred years.

Trust me.

captureBeavers are now going about their watery business for the first time in 400 years and given time, will become part of Scotland’s landscape. For those of us wedded to the vision of a wilder Scotland with more life – human as well as non-human – we have to accept that change is never easy. Returning beavers to the wider Scottish landscape requires the winning of hearts and the unlocking of minds, showcasing successes and learning from mistakes. That can be a slow and frustrating process but further “dewilding” is surely not an option? We cannot carry on losing species and habitats, disrupting natural processes, contributing to an acceleration in climate change and hoping that the fortunes of fragile rural economies will miraculously turn around? The road ahead for the Scottish Highlands remains uncertain but without rewilding, that road will ultimately lead to a dead end.

I have tremendous respect for the rewildling movement and think it represents what is best about our wish to live a more natural life. But whether or not it has any hold on a nation I think beavers should be reintroduced to Scotland. Period. Lynx or no lynx. Beavers are more important than rewilding. In a world where clean water is a premium and biodiversity is on a constant downward spiral, beavers matter more than just about anything I can think of.

Except bees.