Archive for the ‘Beaver Behavior’ Category

Kit Season

Posted by heidi08 On April - 30 - 2015Comments Off

Worth A Dam was visited by Canada and the Finnish Laplands yesterday. The first was a request from the CBC to use our ‘beaver crossing’ photo in an article. The second was a facebook contact about a beaver sighting in Finland, where they weren’t supposed to be and has scientists Duncan Haley very excited. We are a multi-national beaver operation apparently.

Regina beaver uses crosswalk, stairs to reach Wascana Lake

Capture I was just happy we got an actual request to use the image. Much better than simply stealing it.7580905_GApparently beavers are on the move all over. This report just turned up in Louisiana,

Beaver out for a stroll

Of course we know that these beavers are dispersers and immature two year-olds looking for their own territory. We see it every year, although we never know exactly when it happens. Sometime around February or March. I assumed it had already happen with our 2013 yearlings. That would mean our population is down to three. But last night Jean saw FOUR beavers. Which means we have to review our figures and rethink.

In all the years we’ve been watching beavers we’ve had one that didn’t disperse, a 2010 kit that stuck around for years afterwards. I often referred to him as the Useless Bookend because he was the exact same size as a very helpful kit who dispersed according to schedule.  Do we have another UB? And Jean saw Mom, Dad, Jr and the UB? OR do we have a couple UBS and the kit wasn’t even seen? Or did all three stick around and Mom and Dad left? I’m soo confused.  Here are some photos she snatched with her iPhone.


Of course it especially matters because its KIT TIME. The very best time of the year. Check out the photo that Rusty managed to snap yesterday at the Napa Beavers. Looks like Napa’s got kits. I wonder about Martinez?

Sonoma teats

Which makes it just the right time for this video I made with Moses’ footage years ago. There is only one Heidi Clip in the entire thing. Can you find it?

Beavers swim up stream to S.A.R.S.A.S.

Posted by heidi08 On April - 28 - 2015Comments Off

SARSASThere are days in the Beaver-Biz when you get the feeling that something is really happening, and that you yourself are part of the momentum. You can almost hear those creeky rusted wheels start to shift and turn, you aren’t sure at first whether you believe it. You draw a breath to watch what happens next and then comes that wonderful moment when you just sit back and watch it all unfold.

That’s how yesterday’s Placer meeting was. We started out the day by driving to Auburn at 6:30 to avoid Sacramento traffic. We were a little panicked to find the destructive lane closures and partitions on 80 which I later described as a cement tomb with speeding. There were accidents and stopped cars on the way but we eventually made it to our destination. (And lived to have it explained to us that this was just the second year of a multi-year project. Lucky them!)

SARSAS BtalkThe presentation was going to be at the central location for county offices in Placer called “the domes” for obvious reasons. (I have heard that there are tribes who believe a house should have no corners because evil spirits lurk in them. Geodomes have multiple corners so maybe that’s why they kill so many beavers in Placer. Ahem.)

 They was a big square conference room and equipment all set up with a county technical consultant to get everything plugged in. And then the room started filling up. Afterwards folks said it was the best attendance they ever had. I was especially happy to notice county employees coming in at the end, in addition to all the fish and beaver supporters.

The prescient soul who had actually invited me over a year ago was actually on vacation with his family in Europe and couldn’t be there. His fellow leaders did a great job of orienting the presentation and getting me settled.  On the way in I met Sherry and her neighbor who had driven down from Tahoe, Janet who is local and always takes the train down to help at the festival, and Jeanette who did such dynamic working helping with programs last year. Hats with tails(I actually heard her laugh out loud when I showed the photo of her and her niece, coincidentally during my talk.)

I had restructured things to make my talk more “fishy” so started out with the salmon info and the clip about bridge creek and beaver assisted salmon recovery. Then got into our story. My talk ran a full hour and there were attentive faces throughout. And laughter in the right places, I was happy to note.

highlighted permitsI was especially aware of where I was sitting when I got to the part about the depredation permits. I said “Our statistician noted that one county issued seven times more permits than anywhere else in the state. And that, as it happens, was this one.” I was so happy to see the horrified faces, I can’t tell you. Even more so when I pointed out that according to CA law you need to report the numbers of beaver you trap, but not the number of beavers you depredate.

Afterwards there were questions and appreciations, and some talk about beaver dams and salmon passage or adequate gravel for spawning. I was thrilled to learn that there were attendees in the room who had actually heard Pollock’s talk in Weed and knew all about channelization and salmon enrichment. On particularly knowledgeable young man introduced himself  as Damion Ciotti from the Habitat Restoration Division of US Fish and Wildlife Service. We connected several years ago and he was very interested in our work in Martinez.  I made sure he left with a copy of Mike Callahan’s DVD. You can’t imagine how helpful his comments were in soothing the beaver-disbelievers in the room. I couldn’t have orchestrated it better than to let fish savvy folk do the defending for me!

Afterwards folks chatted about their own beaver encounters and promised to come to the festival. Jeannette said she saw a beaver at Lake Natomas in Folsom from her kayak and felt honored. Janet presented a cluster of little beaver items she had picked up on her journeys, saying they could be gifts  or I might pass them into the auction! And Sherry said she had agreed to give a talk at the educational portion of Taylor Creek where they did the flow devices installations.

Then Jon and I made our way back to the flat lands of Martinez, chatting happily about the day and its possible consequences. We were both exhausted, but in a good, accomplished way, and happy with our results. One of the final questions came from one of the group leaders, who wondered, now that the problems were averted and the city wasn’t afraid anymore, have our city leaders embraced the beavers? Do they support their presence now?

Which made me chuckle, and I answered carefully that they did eventually give up trying to kill them, which, if you think about it, is a kind of support.


It was the best of times and, well, you know…

Posted by heidi08 On April - 26 - 2015Comments Off

There is abundant news on the Michael Runtz beaver book front. This warranted such a media turnout I have to think the book can’t be far behind this time. But I’ve been Charlie Browned by Lucy’s football before.

Acclaimed author Michael Runtz provides in-depth presentation on beavers

He explained he wanted to see the Eurasian beaver, after so many years of studying the Canadian beaver.

“I wanted to photograph them,” said Runtz. “They’re a little more reddish brown, with narrower tails. The reason, I believe, for the narrower tails is the Eurasian beaver favors river habitats, which have faster moving water than the beaver pond habitat of Canadian beavers, so the narrower tails are beneficial in the faster moving water.”

 He said Eurasian beavers tend to share their habitat, whereas Canadian beavers create their own.

 “I’ve discovered quite a few things about beavers over the years, including they use their teeth differently when cutting down trees versus eating,” said Runtz.

 He said beaver’s diets are interesting and they always bring their food back to the water to eat.

 “It’s their safe haven,” said Runtz. “They love aquatic plants. They are almost like farmers, nibbling on these plants and then leaving bits and pieces in the water from which more grow.”

 He said beavers select their food based on scent.

 “If there are seven different types of willow trees in an area, they may only eat three or four varieties,” said Runtz. “Poplar is one of their favorite foods.”

 He explained he took part in an experiment, taking bark from trees beavers tended to favor (poplar) and ones they avoided (balsam fir), boiling down the bark to make a sap, painting the opposite trees with the sap (balsam fir with poplar sap and vice versa).

The beavers cut down the balsam fir that smelt like a poplar and dragged it back to the water,” said Runtz.

It’s a good article and with only a few things that I’m not sure I’d agree with, you should go read the whole thing and when his book comes out we’ll all be first in line!


Yesterday was an upsetting day at the Napa beaver pond, which Rusty happened to catch on film. One of the beavers appeared to drown, which I wouldn’t have thought possible but seems to be the case. Cheryl went by in the evening and they saw three strong beavers at once, which they never did before. So there is still more of the family (and hopefully mom) to carry on. The whole thing is very mysterious and we’re going to have to wait or do without answers. In the interest of study and understanding, assuming you are the kind of person who wants to see, click on the gate. And if you are  not that kind of person (And I’m talking to you, Jean), do NOT click on the gate. Really.

black gate

I leave you in Rusty’s capable hands tomorrow. Lots of life to see still at the beaver dams in Napa. I’ll be getting up before the sun to drive to Auburn for the SARSAS talk. Wish beavers luck!

A much better story from Newton, CT

Posted by heidi08 On April - 25 - 2015Comments Off

This is from the news roundup today “The top of the hill” in the Newtown Bee. Another wayward disperser, this time with a happy ending.

The Kneen family found quite a surprise in their garage, Tuesday morning: a large beaver. “We’re baffled where he came from,” said Liz Kneen. The family lives near Hattertown Pond, and she hates to think another territorial beaver booted “Mr B” out, but there he was, hiding in her garage, scared and confused. (As were they, initially!) She suspects Mr B wandered in when the garage door was left open earlier in the morning.


Adorable as he looks, a garage is hardly a good environment for a beaver. Several phone calls later, Liz found someone to set up a Hav-A-Hart trap in the evening, baited with luscious lettuce. By then, says Liz, Mr B had fallen asleep in the garage, using their lawn mower for a pillow.

Some people get all the luck! I’m sure we all want a beaver in our garage. But the Kneens were gracious hosts, and did everything right for this furry fugitive. Remember that dispersal is the most dangerous time in a beavers life. No family, no shelter, and often no food. And if Mom and Dad are downstream and another big beaver family is upstream there is only one direction to go: over land. And no beaver knows where that might take them.

During the night, sure enough, they heard a racket and ran down, expecting to find Mr B in the trap. But no. Instead, he was chewing on the garage cable. “I opened the garage door then, and he must have scooted out later in the night, because he was gone in the morning,” she says. The Kneens are positive that Mr B left, and was not hiding elsewhere in the garage. They had put a line of flour just outside the garage door, and tracks led away into the woods. At least he left with a full stomach.

“He ate all the lettuce around the trap, but didn’t go in,” says Liz.

I love this story with a fiery passion. And it is so very plucky of the little wanderer to take full advantage of the lettuce while never triggering the trap. You can practically hear him, picking his way past the springs to forage for the greens. “Nasty metal thing, but shame to let all this delicious lettuce go to waste”.

This rivals but does not beat my favorite disperser photo. The Dallas family was not nearly so kind to the visitor, but the picture is priceless:

beaver pool2Speaking of precious photos, guess when the Milford Daily News fixed their stolen lead problem yesterday? Never! The reporter got in touch and said the photo had run in 2012 in their paper. I pointed out that just because they had stolen it earlier did not make it there’s. The office assured me it would be changed. But it never was and now never will be. Grr.

I was so busy fussing about their robbery that I never got a chance to share this photo with you, taken by Lewis Kemper of two beavers grooming on the American River in Sacramento. It’s definitely something special.

11123773_488002488017382_1387794097_nGood excuse to re-post this. Footage by Moses Silva. Once upon a time it was set to Ella Fitzgerald washing that man outta her hair, but youtube couldn’t tolerate the infraction.

I love how there is really not distinction made between grooming one’s self and grooming your sibling.  To a beaver, either one feels terrific.

Beaver War Room

Posted by heidi08 On April - 23 - 2015Comments Off

Yesterday was supposed to be a languid Wednesday where I sat around and practiced my talk for SARSAS on Monday. Instead my little desk exploded into beaver central around 1 when someone who had been referred by Brock Dolman wrote me from Winters that they were trying to save a rare piebald beaver that was living in a section of creek going to be destroyed in the name of progress.

I assume you are like me and had never really heard the word “piebald” before, so you might need a short refresher course.  The Dictionary definition is “Spotted or patched, especially in black and Piebaldwhite.” A pinto horse is piebald. Rarely a hunter will get lucky enough to shoot a piebald deer. And very very rarely we have stories of piebald beaver.

Remember that before the fur trade we used to have all colorations of beaver. Blonde beaver. Redhead beaver. And Piebald beaver. After the population was nearly destroyed that variation vanished. Well almost vanished. Because apparently there is at least one colored beaver left in California.

CaptureAnd, there’s something else you shouldn’t wait to see, if you can see it at all. I’m outing a secret, and am gambling on the goodwill of humanity against stupidity (a big gamble, I know): There’s an extremely rare piebald beaver that frequents this area. Local nature photographer and wildlife expert, Alejandro Garcia, camped out for hours just to get a photo of it, which I’ve seen, and it’s pretty darn amazing. It’s a regular brown beaver in all ways, with a thick white stripe in its midsection like an ice cream sandwich.

 Alejandro told me there are only a handful of piebald beaver in existence. I googled it, and aside from some horrific trapping sites based in Arkansas, the only information I could find was from a book written in 1876 by John J. Bowman, entitled, “The Emigrant and Sportsman in Canada — Some Experiences of an Old Country Setter.” Bowman merely says, in a story about his experiences with wild beaver, “I saw one piebald beaver; his back was black, his sides white, and belly reddish.”

 That’s it. The sum total of all the information about piebald beavers, almost as rare as a dodo, and, by a miracle of nature, there’s one living in a little pocket of natural habitat along Putah Creek in Winters. What a great mascot this animal could be for our little creekside town. But no. We’re glibly forcing it to “move on.” If you want to get a glimpse of it before it’s gone, don’t wait. The bulldozers are coming.

An ice cream sandwich beaver! How could I not come to full attention! I conferred with the author, contacted some professors at UC Davis to see if we could get some interest,  swapped emails with Beth to see if there was anything that National Wildlife Federation could do, called Sarah Koenisberg to see if she might want to film it for her upcoming documentary, and talked with the director I knew at Fish and Game. He pointed me to his counterpart in Winters who, like everyone I talked to, was very interested but wasn’t sure that a beaver could be protected just for its coloration. I reminded him that it was kit season and that there was a good chance that at least one of the kits would have some coloration too. (OMG) And he was more interested.

Now here’s where the story gets very very fascinating.

In our amiable chat he reminded me that beaver were depredation-able and nuisance permits could be issued for their death. I said I understood that very well, and that in fact there were  no limits on how many beaver could be written into the permit for depredation. He said, that’s not true. And with no hesitation at all I said come on! I just reviewed all the permits in California for the last two years an there were 51 unlimited permits issued!

‘And he agreed that used to be true but two months ago there had been a meeting and they were told not to issue unlimited permits — then he stopped talking abruptly surprised  — maybe that was because of you!

I have zero idea whether it was because of me, but I do know that a third of the permits we reviewed were written for ‘unlimited’ numbers of beavers, and now according to him, none will be. NONE.

I was so focused on finding a way to save that piebald beaver it really didn’t sink in until later. No unlimited permits! I wish I’d asked about that meeting where they were told not to do it. Was it regional? Or with a higher up? Was it time limited? Was there any push back about it?

Of course there were more people to call about piebald beaver, so I had to stop feeling surprised and just feel like I might be able to help. Then there were several forwards about the Fargo beavers and the war room had to redirect. It’s always good to know your work matters. I did what I could for Piebald beaver. And maybe some one will share a photo soon.

Now it’s off to Fargo!

‘Is this the only way?’: Fargo Parks beaver cull draws criticism

Megan Bartholomay, an opponent of the Fargo Park Board’s decision to cull the beaver population to prevent damage to trees, stands near the Red River in Fargo. David Samson / The Forum

 FARGO—A growing chorus of animal rights supporters wants the Fargo Park Board to reconsider its plan to trap and kill beavers in city parks along the Red River.

 One of the leading voices is Megan Bartholomay, a 38-year-old Fargo resident who believes the board’s plan is barbaric.

 ”We’re a civilized community living in 2015,” she said. “Is this the only way? What else have we tried?”

One supporter of Megan tracked down Carol Evans from the PBS documentary (it’s always easier to find the emails of government employee!) and she forwarded it to me to see if I could help. I gave lots of thoughts and resources and am eager to see what happens in Fargo. It’s not an impossible battle because there is already lots of beaver intelligence in the state. Just look at this comment I highlighted in 2012 in Fargo from Game and Fish!

“Probably the most economical way of dealing with beaver is wrapping the trees, probably a couple three feet up as high as a beaver can stand off the ground, with chicken wire or some kind of wire mesh to keep the beavers in, they’ll leave it alone.” says Doug Leier with North Dakota Game and Fish.

Go team Fargo! It’s up to you now.

“The quality of beavers is twice-blessed”

Posted by heidi08 On April - 16 - 2015Comments Off

Major beaver victory in Ontario, Canada this morning:

Hamilton Conservation Authority creates new protocol to let Fifty Point beavers be

A new protocol for dealing with wildlife conflicts at local conservation areas will leave beavers at Fifty Point alone unless they wreak major havoc.

 Set to go to Hamilton Conservation Authority directors for approval in May, the protocol only allows lethal trapping as a last resort in cases where beavers are a significant threat to health and safety, property or the natural environment.

 Directors placed a moratorium on lethal trapping last May after a Fifty Point neighbour’s discovery of a dead muskrat and injured snapping turtle in two beaver traps in the park’s trout pond created a public outcry.

He said if beavers aren’t creating an immediate flood risk, park staff will simply monitor their impact and if necessary consider habitat modifications, like fencing trees and modifying culverts so they can’t be blocked.

 If beavers have built a dam that is a flood threat, depending on the situation the authority may remove it or try less intrusive measures, like installing a flow device to restore normal water levels, the told the authority’s conservation advisory board.

 “Humane, lethal trapping is the last resort if you’ve got acute significant issues and the other approaches you’ve tried are not successful,” Stone said. “Generally, our preference is to leave wildlife alone.”

Go Hamilton! Fifty Point is an actual place, for a while I was reading this headline as if it meant fifty beavers at point! I had to hunt all over to find who’s responsible for this bit of beaver magic, but it turns out Hamilton is the home town of the Digital Director of content and the voice behind the radio at Fur Bearer Defenders, Michael Howie. So I’m not at all surprised they could will this into happening. Here’s their article on the victory.

The issue arose last year when a resident was out for a walk and came across a muskrat and an at-risk snapping turtle in beaver traps. The Fur-Bearers (and our wonderful supporters) spoke with the media, the Conservation Authority, and local politicians about non-lethal solutions following that news; it would appear the decision makers liked what they heard.

image1Last night I received the completely unexpected request for photo use from Demitrios Kouzios, a dedicated Cubs fan from Chicago who said he tweeted a beaver picture from our website and wanted to pay for its use. The photo was this, (hahaha) which I replied wasn’t ours, wasn’t a beaver and wasn’t even alive. Which he was thrilled to hear. He thanked me heartily and this morning donated $100 to Worth A Dam! Go Cubs!

Then Robin of Napa pointed me to  me this article on wildlife and traffic in the chronicle, reporting a study by the very group we featured this week. It also tells you where the danger spots are here in the Bay Area.

Mapping roadkill hot spots across a bloody state

Californians, with their famous love of the highway, tend to run over a lot of animals — raccoons, deer, desert iguana. But the danger for road-crossing critters may be rising with the drought.

A UC Davis study released Wednesday, which seeks to promote safety for both wildlife and motorists, identifies stretches of California asphalt where the most animals have been hit — and where more are likely to die in the baking sun as they extend their ranges in search of water.

CaptureFinally, in case you forgot to watch Nature last night there was unbelievably adorable footage of beaver kits in the lodge in winter. You will miss out on something truly special if you don’t go watch it right now. Beavers appear at the beginning and the end (the Alpha and the Omega as it were) but it’s all good. Ann Prum did a great job, although not better than our friend Jari Osborne who was prescient enough to just focus on beavers! Enjoy!

The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
Merchant of Venice, ACT IV: Scene 1

Beaver message trickles East

Posted by heidi08 On April - 14 - 2015Comments Off

Busy as a beaver: unique partnership helps maintain riverside trees

UI allows the native beaver to gnaw down invasive trees, while saving protected species.  Keeping the University of Iowa campus beautiful is a full-time job. Luckily, the UI Landscape Services team gets a little assistance each year in the form of some notoriously busy helpers: the nocturnal, semi-aquatic beaver.

 Beavers, a native Iowa species, typically gnaw down trees along the UI campus riverbanks, which is fine for some tree species, but not for others. Instead of stopping the beavers’ behavior, the tree care team decided to work with the beavers’ natural talents. By wrapping valued native and planted trees with protective wire, the invasive and common native species like Boxelder, White Mulberry, Siberian Elm, Willow, Green Ash, and Silver Maple, are left for the beavers to utilize in their underwater homes for food and shelter.

It is true that beavers can be destructive if their work is not redirected; however, under the right circumstances they can be used as an effective, low-cost management tool. Next to humans, no other animal appears to do more to take care of its landscape.

“While there may be a number of trees gnawed off along the riverbanks, the beavers’ work will not kill the tree as the root system is still intact, so the tree typically will resprout. As long as they continue to do this to the invasive species, we don’t have a problem with them. They’re a spoke in the wheel of life as are the trees, as are we,” says Andy Dahl, UI arborist. “We’re happy to have them as our partners to manage the riverbanks.”

Go Andy and UI! Awesome to read that the Hawekeye State has at least an island committed to coexistence. Sometimes I get the feeling that the beaver good news is spreading so far and permeating so deep that there eventually won’t be a single state where it doesn’t exist.

Except Oklahoma. Because, you know.

“The flood recovery is helping us to clean up and better celebrate the Iowa River. Those busy beavers are helping to contribute to that effort,” says Don Guckert, associate vice president of Facilities Management.

Even in Fargo ND the attitude towards beavers is changing. Just look at this:

Beavers beware: Fargo Park Board mulls trapping, killing

FARGO—Because of tree damage caused by beavers along the Red River, the Fargo Park Board will meet tonight to consider trapping and killing the animals in hopes of reining in their population.

“We’re not trying to eliminate all the beavers,” said Dave Leker, director of parks. “We’re just trying to reduce them.”

 Leker said the district has received a number of calls from residents worried about beavers harming mature, riparian trees. He said there’s no problem with beavers using small trees for food and dam building, but the destruction of decades-old trees concerns district officials.

 Sam DeMarais, the district’s forester, said he’s counted roughly 70 trees gnawed by beavers in city parks. Many of the trees have been felled, and in other cases, beavers have chewed off the bark all the way around the lower trunk. This is known as girdling, which is a death sentence for a tree, Leker said.

“Beavers are part of the natural ecosystem, and so are trees,” he said. “It’s kind of a no-win situation. You’re going to have people that, you know, are rooting for the beavers, and you’re going to have people that are rooting for the trees.”

Hmmm Fargo hasn’t exactly exhausted their resources trying to solve this problem. But it’s still better that they don’t want to kill ALL the beavers. An inquiring mind might ask how many beaver they have? And how they’ll chose which ones to kill?   The Sophie’s choice of beavers, I guess. They are going to contact USDA next. Now how could that possibly go wrong?