Archive for the ‘Beaver Behavior’ Category


Posted by heidi08 On March - 26 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

Finally! The article about our beaver tenure came out! Of course it arrived the moment after I posted yesterday, but it’s perfect for our only-good-news-Sunday. It’s also a well written article  by Martinez resident Sam Richards. (Turns out he lives next-door to the house where I grew up – because Martinez!)  It is accompanied by Susan Pollard’s wonderful photos and I don’t sound as horrible as I was worried might happen, but I’m never happy when Luigi talks about feeding beavers with a stick. If you want to see the video where I look positively slagged you are going to have to click on the link to find it yourself. I manage one good line at the end, anyway.

A decade of beavers (mostly) in Martinez

MARTINEZ — It started in 2007, when downtown Martinez citizens noticed Alhambra Creek was flowing slow, and that trees along the banks had been gnawed down to little points. The furry, buoyant culprits were elusive at first, but their first dam of sticks, leaves and mud near Marina Vista Avenue told the, er, tail.

After winning an early fight over their very lives, given concerns about downtown flooding, the beavers went from cause celebre to cause for adoration. There were (and are) “Martinez Beavers” T-shirts and bumper stickers, and the 10th annual Beaver Festival will take place in August.

“Who had even heard of beavers in town before?” said Heidi Perryman, president of the nonprofit Worth a Dam group. Someone she met literally walking down the street told her that beavers lived a few blocks from her Martinez home.

“It’s actually pretty common, it turns out, but I didn’t know it then,” said Perryman, whose preservation efforts have helped give the local beavers a dash of national notoriety, and even some international interest, given the recently rejuvenated efforts to reintroduce Eurasian beavers in England, where they had been extinct since the 1500s, killed for their pelts (and as an acceptable edible substitute for fish during Lent).

“It’s been both a feel-good and a do-good story for Martinez,” said City Councilman Mark Ross, an early champion of the beavers. The rodents themselves have, by and large, done well in the creek; the creek’s ecology has indeed improved, say environmentalists who credit the beavers; and Martinez has become known for something beyond Joe DiMaggio, John Muir and the Shell oil refinery.

A feel good story for Martinez! Thank you for that quote Mr. Ross, I think I’ll put it in my city grant application. It’s nice to see the story remembered in such detail. I sent the reporter a copy of our newsletter which prompted him to think about it. Like pretty much everyone, he had no idea ten years had passed already.

At Luigi’s Deli, about a block from Alhambra Creek, a wall is packed with photos of people owner Luigi Daberdaku has met over the years. Most of them, he said, came downtown to find the beavers.

It didn’t take long for the beavers to win his and others’ hearts. Daberdaku fed them apple pieces — on a long stick. “I saw what the teeth did to the trees; what could they do to my hand?”

At a November 2007 meeting at Alhambra High School, David Frey of Pleasant Hill, a maritme consultant, suggested Martinez city engineers build a diversion around the beaver dam so the beavers don’t have to be relocated. The “beaver deceiver” built the next year accomplished just that. Dan Rosenstrauch/Staff archives

Daberdaku didn’t support downtown property owners who initially wanted the beavers gone. Neither did most who spoke at a rowdy November 2007 City Council meeting at Alhambra High School, where everything from moving the beavers to embracing their tourism potential to renaming the high school sports teams from the Bulldogs to the Beavers was discussed. Many invoked the name of a famous environmentalist son: “What would John Muir do?” One woman said, “We don’t want to be known as a refinery town that kills beavers, right?”

Former Martinez mayor Harriett Burt said learning the science of the beavers changed her mind. “It raised awareness about the creek environment in general,” she said recently, “and it’s been a good thing.”

Good Harriet! And Bad Luigi! I remember the night we caught him feeding apples with a stick and told him to stop. I hoped that was the only time. But that’s what happens when an entire city raises beavers. Not everyone is a good parent. The reporter even talked to Skip, which I’m sure amused him.

800px-Skip_Lisle_Preparing_to_install_flow_device_on_Alhambra_CreekBut the beavers’ real stay of execution may have been the “beaver deceiver,” a water bypass pipe under a dam, installed by Vermonter Skip Lisle in 2008. Designed to fool beavers into thinking they’re successfully damming a waterway, the pipe “secretly” carries water under the dam to prevent flooding.

Lisle still marvels at his Martinez assignment. “I was building a beaver deceiver, and there were throngs of people there, media, and helicopters overhead. It was unique.”

Perryman and the Worth a Dam group have kept beavers in the public eye, even when they were absent from Alhambra Creek. Beavers’ images adorn downtown murals at one creek crossing, and on a “tile bridge” downstream with children’s depictions of the beavers. The Martinez Beaver Festival, an intimate gathering at its 2008 beginning, now draws hundreds to the small patch near the Amtrak station that some call “Beaver Park.” For two years, a group from Oakland led by a city environmental stewardship analyst took the train to Martinez for lessons on how beavers renew urban streams.

Worth a Dam has also inspired other beaver champions. Caitlin McCombs found that group’s work while looking for help saving beavers near her home in Mountain House, near Tracy. McCoCAITLINmbs then started the MH Beavers preservation group.

“I never knew before that beavers serve as a vital keystone, and that they promote an overall healthier environment,” said McCombs.

Caitlin! What a wonderful quote! We are so proud to have been part of your V.I.B.E. (Very Important Beaver Education). She won’t be joining us for earth day this year because she has a conference to attend for college, and we will miss her. But I feel that we helped her raise the awareness in Mountain House and she will think differently about beavers for her entire life. That makes me entirely happy.

By October 2015, the beavers were no longer deceived by the black pipe and built new dams downstream before leaving altogether soon after that. Some of the 24 Martinez kits had died, and others moved on. The original mother beaver, with a new younger mate, left, too.

But Perryman and others were overjoyed when, on March 5, a beaver was seen in the creek near downtown. It’s been seen at least twice since, and photographed at least once.

Does this mean they’re back? With three verified sightings, Perryman says yes.

Then again, were they ever really “gone?” While registering for a marathon recently, Councilman Ross said he was from Martinez. “The guy … said to me, ‘How are those beavers?’ Everywhere you go, the legacy of the beavers remains.”

Beaver legacy! That’s what we have. Of course., I’d rather have the actual beavers, but hey, it’s way more than most cities ever get.  Thank you Sam for another fine reminder the beavers promote a city’s good nature. And thank the beavers for being such great sports for a decade even though the city installed a wall of metal through their lodge. What a crazy, beautiful way to spend a decade of your life!

CaptureTime for some lovely donations to the silent auction. This week’s treasures come from Litographs in Cambridge Massachusetts. They are a remarkable business I happen to love because they turn favorite literature into wearable art. Literally. The entire text of a beloved book becomes a shirt, card, poster, tote or scarf. Catcher in the Rye, Scarlet Letter, Jane Eyre, Hamlet, The Princess Bride, classic or contemporary.

We founded Litographs because we had a vision of bringing our favorite literature off the page, onto your walls, and into your wardrobe. We believe in sharing the power of books with more people.

This is the entire text of Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” which they generously gave beautifully matted and ready for framing.

moby dickLong ago I had a conversation with owner Danny Fein about possibly working with the now-public-domain text “In Beaver World” by Enos Mills. While he wasn’t sure this was a project they would tackle any time soon, he personally made this for our event. Look closely because that is the entire book. Thank you Danny and friends at Litographs! For this beautiful addition to our silent auction.


Because why not Blame the Beaver?

Posted by heidi08 On March - 24 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

Oh those crazy beavers with their penchant for sinkholes and collapsed roads! When are they going to stop harassing us with their rodent ways and let us live peacefully. On ALLIGATOR lake.Capture

Beavers the culprit in 30A road collapse

“We’ve always had problems with beavers where we don’t have a bridge,” said Chance Powell, an engineer for Walton County

One of the great mysteries early Thursday morning was solved after it was determined that beavers were the most likely culprit for the sinkhole that has closed Walton County Road 30A near County Road 283.

Beavers? Beavers!

The Walton County Sheriff’s Office received a call just after 5 a.m. Thursday about a sinkhole on 30A at Alligator Lake.

According to County Commissioner Tony Anderson, who was present as county crews began to fill the extensive hole, a GMC pickup was crossing the section of road when the asphalt began to cave in. The vehicle made it across, but the pickup was damaged and the man driving it was taken to Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast with minor injuries, said Walton County Public Works Manager Wilmer Stafford.

“The water that flows under the road became too heavy on one side and caused it to fall in,” said Stafford, who also was at the scene later in the morning.

 The section of CR 30A surrounding the collapse site has been closed until the road can be repaired.

On the surface, the hole appears to be about 4 feet wide and takes up three-quarters of the road in front of Alligator Lake. But officials calculate that crew must deal with a much larger area of damage under the road.

But wait, how do the beavers make the sink hole exactly? Are you saying they tunneled under the asphalt to get away from the alligators, or chew holes in the road with their huge incisors, or that maybe the road was stuffed with willow and they ate it? The article is a little vague on the actual mechanics of destruction.  But I’m sure they’re telling the truth, right? People would never blame a rodent for something just to explain away a problem that their carelessness caused in the first place.

I guess it will stay a mystery, like how beavers live near ALLIGATOR lake in the first place.


Come to think of it, maybe they can sign up for the flow device WEBINAR coming soon from our friends at Furbearer Defenders and Cows and Fish. It will be taught by Adrien Nelson and Norine Ambrose and you are ALL invited. It’s a bargain at 5 dollars. Make sure to save your space now.

Learn how to successfully implement flow devices for beaver management in your community with our upcoming webinar, Beaver Flow Devices for Managers.

On April 6, 2017 at 3:30 pm EDT / 1:30 pm MDT / 12:30 pm PDT, Adrian Nelson of The Fur-Bearers, and Norine Ambrose from Cows and Fish will co-host this engaging webinar that will focus on the “whys” and “wheres” of implementing these devices. Managers and supervisors from a range of backgrounds will learn to better understand the applicability of these devices, as well as analyze sites requiring beaver management, and address which type of flow devices are most appropriate. 

Adrian will walk through the different types of devices, and how to make each one successful, as well as various obstacles and needs that may need to be addressed before deployment. The presentation will also touch briefly on ordering and supplies to ensure teams have the right materials for success.

Norine will tell participants of her first-hand experience in learning about and installing these devices in Alberta, and let participants know about the broader beaver collaborative work on education, social science, and management Cows and Fish is involved with the Miistakis Institute, local partners, and support from The Fur-Bearers.

Participants will come away with a better understanding of flow devices, but more importantly why they are useful to successfully co-exist with beavers. A question and answer period will follow.

I actually didn’t know these good folks knew each other, so I might watch just to learn more about their interaction. We will definitely learn things!

Anything’s better than yesterday

Posted by heidi08 On March - 21 - 2017Comments Off on Anything’s better than yesterday

There’s a nice mention of our urban beaver friends in the Bronx River in a different episode of the Chicago program I showed you with Riley earlier. I can’t believe they’re doing a whole program on urban wildlife without mention US but go figure. We definitely are there in spirit. Go here, to watch the whole thing.Capture

Thriving ‘Urban Nature’ in Three American Cities

Urban Nature takes a look at both unmediated ecosystems and places where humans are stepping in to save nature that is threatened by urban development. Host Marcus Kronforst catches a glimpse of San Francisco as it appeared before human settlement by venturing into a redwood forest in Oakland and by hiking through the Presidio, where a rocky outcropping shelters a shrub that’s the last of its kind in the wild. He encounters endangered birds in the salt marshes of Brooklyn’s Jamaica Bay, and canoes down the Bronx River to spot eels, herons, and beavers.

The Bronx River Bounces Back | New York


I sent yesterday’s horror story to every one I could think of that might ‘pitch’ some grief for the beaver-killing monsters at the golf course in Alabama. I managed to get a new friend who’s in charge of watersheds for 8 southern states very interested, and an author researching a ‘beaver book’.

I’d like to think of it as my “Fly my pretties” moment. But we’ll see what

Make way for Beavers!

Posted by heidi08 On March - 19 - 2017Comments Off on Make way for Beavers!

It’s Sunday. All the cut-outs are done for the “Martinez-Loves-Beavers” art project at Earth Day. And we may well have beavers in Martinez. That all sounds like good news to me. But maybe you need some more, just to make sure. How about the appearance of our good friend Ann Riley on Chicago Public Television talking about why WILLOW is especially important to creeks. Ahem.


The Streams Below Our Streets | San Francisco

Cities once converted streams into sewers to make room for development. But now there’s a growing movement to unearth these buried waterways.

They flow beneath city streets, sidewalks, and even homes: creeks and streams across the United States were once forced underground into sewers, drainpipes, and culverts to make way for urban development.

For more than 30 years, efforts have been made in and around the Berkeley, California area to uncover—or “daylight”—the area’s buried waterways. The term daylighting was coined here in the 1980s, to describe efforts to bring Strawberry Creek back aboveground.

In 1903, a four-acre section of Strawberry Creek had been led into a culvert to allow construction of a Santa Fe Railway right-of-way. When Santa Fe abandoned the property in the early 1980s, the land was acquired by the city, and a park was proposed for the site.

As part of the park’s development, the Berkeley Parks and Recreation Commission planned to remove the 300-foot concrete pipe and expose the enclosed section of water. Although the idea was initially rejected by the city as too expensive and dangerous, the commission eventually implemented the plan. Activists argued that the transformation of the site from a derelict railroad right-of-way to a natural waterway would provide stormwater relief, and create heightened awareness about the ecology of streams.

The groundbreaking project represented the first time a culvert had been dug up and re-created in a channel, and helped pave the way for the formation of the Berkeley-based Urban Creeks Council in 1982. Co-founded by Dr. Ann L. Riley, the Urban Creeks Council was established to foster the preservation, protection, restoration, and management of natural waterways in urban environments. In addition, the non-profit organization works to educate the public on the ecological, aesthetic, and recreational values of restored urban streams.

Riley was introduced to urban stream restoration while she was training in the academic field of fluvial geomorphology with scientist Luna Leopold—who Riley called “the father of modern-day river restoration.” Fluvial geomorphology is the study of how water forms the earth.

Riley shows jon what to do

Riley shows jon what to do

Riley & Cory plan the attack!

Riley & Cory plan the attack!


Just in case you don’t remember Riley, she’s the awesome beaver supporter and author who helped Worth A Dam plant willow for the last three years which our very schizophrenic city helped her do and then promptly pulled up. Ahh, memories. Sometimes she obviously has much better luck. If you didn’t watch the video, go watch now. It’s really well done and we are SO lucky she’s on our side.

ann teaching

Our donation this week for the silent auction is an watercolor painting that comes from artist Patricia Manning in Tonawanda New York. When she’s not busy crafting, sewing dollhouse clothing or raising her two girls, she likes to paint the natural world she sees. So obviously she chose our favorite subject. What got my attention first about this painting was the striking rings of water, which is something I’ve come to associate so intimately with watching beaver activity. They write everything they do on the water surface, which is lovely to see. Thanks Pamela for your generous donation! We’ll make sure to find it a good home!


Cree “Beaver Bird”

Posted by heidi08 On March - 18 - 2017Comments Off on Cree “Beaver Bird”

Gentlemen may prefer blonds, but we prefer beaver ponds…

Beaver Bird: The Adaptable Hooded Merganser

Mergansers are expert divers. Swimming serenely, they suddenly disappear, leaving barely a ripple, and can remain submerged for up to two minutes. All birds have a nictitating membrane, a transparent extra eyelid; for mergansers, this serves as a diving mask that allows them to keep their eyes open underwater where they swim gracefully with webbed feet. Using wings to steer, they appear to fly through a liquid sky.

“They’re a cool bird to watch,” said Dr. Kevin McGowan at Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology, “popping up in little ponds—very similar to wood duck nesting habitat. In fact, they often share the same pond, but hooded mergansers dive underwater to find their food, while wood ducks feed on the surface.”

“Between the 1980 and 2000 Breeding Bird Atlas surveys in New York,” said McGowan, “the occurrence of hooded mergansers more than doubled. They like beaver ponds, and there are more beavers now than there have been for a long time. Their breeding range has also moved south, probably due to reforestation over the past 100 years, which has improved their habitat.” The occurrence of breeding hooded mergansers nearly tripled in Vermont between 1981-2007, according to findings of the first and second Vermont Breeding Bird Atlas, edited by the Vermont Center for Ecostudies.

National Audubon predicts that, as the climate warms, hooded mergansers will significantly expand their winter ranges northward and live year-round where they are currently found just during the breeding season. Researchers in Manitoba discovered that, in 2001 hooded mergansers were returning to their breeding grounds 32 days earlier than they had been returning in 1939.

Despite its ever-changing environment, the endearing, diminutive waterfowl that is known to the Cree as the “beaver duck” is doing just swimmingly.

The beaver duck! Isn’t that wonderful? All these years I’ve been talking how hooded mergansers showed up in our beaver pond and Napa’s beaver pond, and I thought I was on to something but I wasn’t sure. Now I’m sure.  This makes me happy. The Cree are one of the largest tribes of first nations in North America and extended across the middle band of Canada. The definitely knew their beaver because the Cree was one of the most important nations for the Fur Trade in the Hudson Bay Company of early Canada. When I gave a talk to the waterboard one fish scientist asked whether our mergansers eat themselves out of house and home, because they were such voracious fish eaters.

I’m just glad that these birds and beavers get along.

Mr and Mrs HM

Rusty Cohn

The Sound and the Parry

Posted by heidi08 On March - 13 - 20172 COMMENTS

Parry Sound is in Ontario Canada directly north of New York. It is famous for having the deepest freshwater seaport in the world and various hockey achievements. This morning it has decided to offer a pleasingly accurate beaver article with some very nice photos. Enjoy!

The industrious beaver is not afraid of hard work during the winter

PARRY SOUND SIDEROADS AND SHORELINES — Winter is the time of year when many wild animals living in the Parry Sound area have adapted to escape and wait out the heavy snowfalls and dropping temperatures. Bears hibernate in cosy dens, squirrels have built nests and stashed food away, and frogs have dug into the lake bottoms and drastically reduced their temperature. But the industrious beaver continues to be quite active during winter until the lakes freeze over completely, and even then this animal can be seen busily repairing any damage to its lodge or dam.

Beavers are completely adapted to an aquatic existence and look quite awkward when slowly waddling on land where they are vulnerable to coyotes and other predators. Their front paws contain claws that can easily manipulate twigs to chew the inner bark of branches – their primary food source. In the Parry Sound area, their favourite wood is the aspen tree but they will also eat ferns, mosses, dandelions, dogwood, and aquatic plants, to name a few. 

The resulting dam sets in motion an entire alteration to the ecosystem. Hence, beavers are considered a “keystone species” (one that plays a unique and crucial role in the way an ecosystem functions. Without keystone species, the ecosystem would be dramatically different or cease to exist altogether). The building of dams modifies and creates a dramatic change to the surrounding environment. The backwater flooding from the dam floods the lowland near the creek; trees die creating an opening in the forest canopy; aquatic plants and shrubs soon develop, making a favourable habitat for waterfowl, herons, moose, amphibians, fish, insects, muskrats, otters and a score of bird species. Their activity purifies water and prevents large-scale flooding.

Over a period of time the food source runs out and the beavers move on; the dam breaks and eventually a meadow forms, creating habitat for an entirely new group of species. And thus, the vital chain of evolution around a beaver pond continues.

A few years ago, the television program The Nature of Things featured a show entitled “The Beaver Whisperer” outlining the efforts of a few Canadians who have studied and/or worked with beavers, giving an in-depth account of the beaver.  The Parry Sound area is home to many beavers and if you are lucky enough to see one around twilight, watch and observe the complex behaviour of this fascinating animal. 

Nice to read that Jari Osborne’s great documentary is still making an impact! (Although it was called the Beaver Whisperers as in more than ONE). And nice to see even a brief discussion of beaver benefits from that neck of the woods.  They need all the allies they can get. I’m going to assume, that even though they’re very clever, the beaver in that photo isn’t balancing a aspen log on its back. I’m pretty sure the log is just laying in exactly the right place on the ground behind him. Although that would be quite a feat if it were possible. Think about it, how would the beaver even get the log there in the first place?

I think it’s one of those photo placement victories, like someone photographed pushing the tower of pizzaa over, or a baby holding up the moon. But it had me confused for a while, I admit. Thanks for the mystery!

Beaver Works

Posted by heidi08 On March - 11 - 2017Comments Off on Beaver Works

DSC_7580DSC_7573 IMG_1623croppedWell, we didn’t find any beavers last night. It was beautiful weather but low tide and not the best time to see a wayward beaver. We did learn a few things, though. Like the fact that beavers might have used tunnels through the mud to get to the water at low tide. Night Herons wake up when the sun goes down. And wow, sitting at the Granger’s wharf bridge is a lot prettier than sitting at the footbridge. With no trains, homeless or traffic.

We’ll be back.


In the meantime, a reporter contacted me about doing a beaver retrospective 10 years after the story broke, and we have that arranged for Monday, so it’s like old times. And there’s another fine read about Henry Morgan:

Flat tails, beaver ponds and trout streams cited

There’s an old trout pond in Marquette County said to have years back held one monster fish, a true pole bender, a devilish delight caught just after sundown on a fluffy makeshift fly cast from a canoe.

At times, the culvert is clogged with sticks and other materials put there by working beaver intent on blocking the shallow, cold creek from flowing — from singing as it tumbles downstream over the black rocks.

These beavers continue their stick, log and mud works a good deal more than a century after the death of Lewis Henry Morgan, the namesake of the creek, the pond, the land around them and a nearby residential location.

His work sought evidence that all humankind descended from a single source, determined that family and social institutional structures develop following specific patterns and viewed kinship relationships as a foundation of society.

Morgan suggested matrilineal clans, rather than families headed by a patriarch, were the earliest human domestic foundations.

Well, duh. Just look at the beavers.

In pursuit of Michigan’s beautiful brook trout, Morgan became interested in the activities of beavers. He studied them intently for several years before producing his captivating 1868 natural history volume, “The American Beaver and His Works,” a book still available in reprint.

Irene Cheng, in a 2006 piece in Cabinet Magazine, said compared to Charles Darwin’s precise bees, with their mathematically perfect hives, Morgan’s beavers appeared downright brute-like and their dams primitive.”

“Yet what Morgan admired about the beavers’ works was not the final form so much as the process of reasoning that allowed the animal architect to adapt its constructions intelligently,” Cheng wrote. “Unlike the bees, Morgan’s mutes built not out of base need, or driven by a ‘struggle for existence,’ but to further their own well-being and happiness. He believed that the beaver had a fundamental awareness of its own creation.”

Morgan wrote, When a beaver stands for a moment and looks upon his work, evidently to see whether it is right, and whether anything else is needed, he shows himself capable of holding his thoughts before his beaver mind; in other words, he is conscious of his own mental processes.

Well, I have watched enough beavers building a dam over years to know, like Enos Mills said himself, that not EVERY beaver thinks about his creation. Just like with people, there’s wit, and there’s half-wit. Some just place sticks or mud any old where and some never seem to learn from their mistakes. But SOME have a vision of how it should look. Like our father beaver who would patiently move sticks to better homes after the children put them in silly places. Or our tule artist Reed who refused to place logs on his dam at all and moved them OFF even when the patriarch put them on, preferring instead to weave his fortune with cattails.

Some beavers are listening to an inner beaver voice, and some are just dancing in the moonlight.