Archive for the ‘Beaver Behavior’ Category

From Massachusetts to Methow

Posted by heidi08 On October - 3 - 2016Comments Off on From Massachusetts to Methow

Mike Callahan of Beaver Solutions just got back from Washington where he worked with the Methow Project and highway workers training folks to use flow devices. I think its pretty wonderful to have Kent and his merry band interested in solutions that allow pesky, trouble-making beavers to stay put instead of just whisking them away. I thought you’d want to see and hear about it. So these are Mike’s own words.

The Methow Beaver Project

completed-keystone-fence-in-winthrop-wa-with-oranogan-county-highway-deI was recently privileged to travel to north central WA State to train Okanogan County Highway personnel how to coexist with beavers. My thanks go to the Methow Beaver Project’s (MBP) Kent Woodruff and Julie Nelson for working to arrange it. We installed trapezoidal culvert fences at a couple of sites the County had been battling beavers at for some time.

kent-woodruff-and-julie-nelson-methow-beaver-projectKent, Julie and Josh Thomson (County Highway Engineer) were instrumental in the planning and execution of these two projects. I was very impressed with the County Highway workers and of course the MBP personnel who jumped right in the water to help construct these flow devices.



That part of the country is so beautiful! I also got to see the Methow Beaver Project in person as they relocated beavers to their new habitats saving them from being killed. Their program is awesome and I have many great memories, such as Kent open flame grilling some fantastic Steelhead Trout!

Thanks for sharing your skills and letting us watch Mike! If you want to stay abreast of Mike’s work you should join the FB group “Beaver Management Forum” which always has interesting things.

Now for me, we’re still on vacation. And while it was uncomfortably warm on Saturday, I awake to rainstorms in the morning. So of course I did the only reasonable thing a person could do in the rain at the ocean. I played with my toys.


Posted by heidi08 On October - 1 - 2016Comments Off on Castorology

I mentioned earlier how Rickipedia included me in this online group regarding that Riparian book on the Santa Cruz river right? Just before I left for vacation it inspired a burst of research from me when they showed me a chapter outline saying that there wasn’t consensus that there even WERE beaver in the Santa Cruz.

Deja Vu all over again!

Mind you the Santa Cruz is a tributary of the Gila river where James Ohio Pattie trapped so many beaver with his daddy that  he changed the landscape for ever. He even wrote a book about it. And why wouldn’t the beavers, who were thick and crowded in the Gila, look for additional habitat upstream in the Santa Cruz and Riollito at its head? Besides, guess what’s just on the other side of the mountains of the riollito? The head waters of the Sonora river in Mexico where Frontador Mearns famously documented beaver in the 1700’s. He went on to name  the subspecies of beaver after himself as a reward because why not (our state has three subspecies of beaver: the Golden, the Shastensis, and the Frontador.) If you believe in subspecies, which I don’t.

So the author of the new book was trying to connect with Rick about how to find out whether beavers were native to the Tuscon Basin (think Phoenix)  when there wasn’t a good record of bones in the area.  What were some ways to go about it? And of course I piped in with the suggestion that he look up the tribal info of the ancient peoples who lived there, the Hohokam and the Anasazi.

Of course we have all heard of the Anasazi and their cliff villages, but I had never heard about the Hohokam and spent the day reading about them. Turns out their early settlements date from 500 a.d. and they are recognized for the unmatched canal system they built that allowed crops of squash, and corn to be grown and sustain literally thousands of people in

the desert.  Apparently the canals were more extensive than anywhere in the northern hemisphere, and you’d have to go as far south as Peru to find anything similar. One researcher even noted that they were the first settlement in the country to grow and export cotton, long before the south got involved. When the Mormons moved in years later they were only too happy to finish off the indians and adopt their complex canals as their own.

No one knows how they learned to build and maintain such a complex canal system. But I have a pretty good idea, and you should too.

Moving mud: Glenn Hori

Moving mud: Glenn Hori

So I gave them my thoughts and the bits of research that had been found showing muskrat and marshland in the area. And this sparked a full discussion of whether beavers were good news or bad news in a desert. One researcher even bemoaned the loss of cottonwoods and referred to beavers as “Tree Predators” which made me giggle imagining a stealthy beaver creeping up on the unsuspecting tree.

So now there’s a full discussing of beavers and drought and climate change and its fun to read folks getting to similar places in their thinking even though beavers are always controversial, whether its among researchers or farmers. The main author who started this discussion is now suggeting that there be a new field of research about beavers and their effects, maybe calling it “Castorology” and forming an international group to study it!

Just think! We could all be founding members of the American society of Castorologists!







Moving and Counting

Posted by heidi08 On September - 29 - 2016Comments Off on Moving and Counting

Hey guess what? The Martinez beavers saved themselves and the city throws them a yearly beaver festival!

I freely admit I complain far too much. We know its true. I’d better go on vacation right now and improve my attitude.  Thank god Mendocino will get me just in time. I’m not happy when we’re NOT mentioned as a ‘beaver success story’ – but ahem, this isn’t really a lot better.

Nature: Sonoma County beavers are watershed heroes

One great example of this win-win approach comes from Martinez, a town that learned to embrace the beavers that moved into Alhambra Creek and threatened to flood an area of town and a major transportation hub. Citizens joined forces with the city to install a simple flow-control device that allows the water to be maintained at an acceptable level without destroying the beaver dams or removing the animals.

What might have been a liability has now been turned into an asset. The city now hosts the Martinez Beaver Festival and promotes these creatures as watchable wildlife, bringing thousands of visitors and supporting the local economy.

What a relief! I thought Worth A Dam hosted that event for the last nine years.  How silly I was spending literally months planning and worrying, days with supplies in my living room, and weeks on the phone arranging things, when the city was handling all the details by itself. Whew! Maybe I’ll take a seaside vacation next August and read about it in the Press Democrat since they have made it clear Worth A Dam services aren’t required at all.

Other than these  fairly irksome paragraphs its a nice article about the beaver blitz being organized by OAEC to count beaver populations in Sonoma county. I’ll share the good bits and you should think about helping out with their beaver count if you can.

Over the next several decades, conservationists began to recognize the benefits of beavers and began advocating for an end to over-trapping, even supporting efforts to reintroduce beavers to degraded stream channels. The science began trickling in to substantiate the claim that beaver dams conserve water because, as Brock Dolman explains, they “slow it, spread it and sink it.”

“It turns out that as water backs up behind small temporary dams, it flows out across the floodplain of a stream, giving it an opportunity to water riparian forests, trap sediment and slow the water so that it has time to sink into the gravel and replenish the groundwater,” said Dolman, Occidental Arts and Ecology Center WATER Institute director. And this is only the first of many benefits.

In an effort to promote beaver stewardship, Dolman and Kate Lundquist, also of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center WATER Institute, have been leading a statewide effort to promote beaver stewardship. They work with farmers, vineyard owners, municipalities and resource agencies across the state to share emerging techniques for receiving the watershed benefits that beavers provide while preventing property damage.

“Here in Sonoma County, we see Sonoma County Regional Parks as one of the beavers’ best hopes,” says Lundquist. “Most of the recent observations have been in or near county parks, with the most consistent cluster showing up between Maxwell Farms and Sonoma Valley Regional Parks.”

With that in mind, Lundquist is working with Regional Parks and the Sonoma Ecology Center to host a one day “blitz” of the county to look for beaver signs. On Oct. 8, observers will join teams throughout the county in the first ever “Beaver Blitz.” Register at

To learn more about beavers, visit

I’ve heard that our own Cheryl Reynolds will be joining the efforts, which is lucky for them because she is very experienced at tracking beaver sigh. It’s fun to think of what they might find. I’m not exactly sure what system they’ll use to ‘count’ beavers, since they’ll be looking for signs, dams, chews, tracks etc and that requires someones system to convert into population estimates but I wish them all the best.  Good luck Brock and Kate! I hope your count generates interest and raises awareness too.

There are a couple good beaver articles this morning. The other worth mentioning comes from Wildlife Defenders in Colorado.

Exploring with Beavers, Nature’s Ecosystem Engineers

Beavers don’t often go exploring. Perhaps only once a lifetime, when they disperse as juveniles and search for a new home and mate, do they really explore the boundaries of their world. But one beaver family recently went on quite the adventure. That family of nine beavers was captured earlier that week in the north part of Denver. Their final destination, and their new family home, was a crystal clear mountain stream about an hour south of Denver.

Beaver are nature’s ecosystem engineers, felling trees and building dams, and changing waterways for their own benefit. But they also benefit other species in the process, including humans as well as many species that are now in jeopardy at least in part due to the historic loss of beavers. Their dams help to control the quantity and quality of water downstream, which both humans and animals use. Their ponds and flooded areas create habitat for many plants and animals, such as fish, birds, insects, and amphibians. In fact, some species only live near beaver ponds. Beavers dramatically change their environment, and those changes can last for hundreds of years, even after the beaver have moved on.

This specific beaver family’s former home, a stream on the north of Denver, is slated for re-alignment this winter. The stream engineering will destroy the beaver’s home and habitat. But officials knew it would be a shame to lose the natural engineering benefits that these beavers can provide. So, Denver’s Department of Parks and Recreation contacted Wildlife2000, a local non-profit organization focused exclusively on beaver relocation, and Defenders to live-trap and relocate the beavers to a place where they would be safe and could help create important habitat for other species.

The family will probably move a little bit upstream or down, but eventually they will find the ideal spot. They will start to build a dam, creating a deeper pool for themselves where they can build a lodge, and creating habitat for other plants and animals as well. Within a year, the area around their home will be quite different; within five years, even more changed. New plants and animals will move in and take advantage of the beavers and all their hard work. Defenders will return regularly to monitor the results and learn lessons for future beaver restoration efforts. Relocating this family was a definitive win-win, for them and for all wildlife where they are making their new home.

I love this discussion of the valuable role beavers play in creeks and streams. But, as you know, I’m never entirely comfortable with the “yeah let’s move beavers and solve all our problems” article as a solution. I remarked accordingly in a comment that they decided not to print, but you know by now what it said anyway. Solve problems with flow devices and wrap trees and let the beavers stay were they are. Because the beaver population is going to keep rebounding and we’re going to run out of remote places to move them to eventually. Better to let them reintroduce themselves and use their own naturally territorial behaviors to keep others away.

Now that’s the beaver news and I am outta here!



Avoiding a beaverless state

Posted by heidi08 On September - 27 - 2016Comments Off on Avoiding a beaverless state

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 - 2016Comments Off on Animal Attraction

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 - 2016Comments Off on Dear Mr. Fellman

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?