Archive for the ‘Beaver Behavior’ Category

The Un-abandoning

Posted by heidi08 On October - 18 - 2014ADD COMMENTS


The previous photo reads: In this Sept. 12, 2014, photo, a tagged young beaver explores water hole near Ellensburg, Wash., after he and his family were relocated by a team from the Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group…

I worked very hard to track down Melissa Babik after I saw this photo. Sinceher email wasn’t listed online it meant looking up the group she worked with and using their format from the listed emails to speculate about hers.  After a few false starts I cracked the code and wrote her to ask about the possibility of a leftover beaver. In the mean time, I even quarreled with beaver champion Joe Wheaton who politely admonished me for complaining about one abandoned beaver when Yakima was generally doing such a good job promoting beaver benefits. I respect Joe very much, and don’t want him to see me as some beaver-eco-terrorist – but leaving behind family is the opposite of what I want for beavers. I worried and fussed about this for more days than I will confess, thinking about the difference between what it means to be a beaver advocate (which is quite rare actually) and a “beaver benefits” advocate (which is getting to be much more common).

Then yesterday Mel wrote me back. And guess what she said? She said this photo was taken in his new location AFTER the entire family was moved. And she added:

We work hard with the best possible techniques to capture entire family units. We moved 7 beavers total in this family that would have been lethally removed. We trap for a minimum of 5 consecutive nights with no fresh activity to ensure we have the entire colony (on average this means we trap for a minimum of 2 weeks at a site but generally longer). Often we’ll go back after the sites “cools” and try again. It is sad to leave members behind and with their strong social bonds we know this limits our success.

Isn’t that GREAT news? No beavers left behind and at least 5 days of no activity before the team moves on – which often takes two weeks! I can’t remember a time I’ve been happier to be wrong, and I asked Mel for permission to share it with you so you could be happy about my wrongness too! For some reason this sound track is playing in my head.

Thanks for reading so carefully.. another misinterpretation in this generally well written article is that ~50% of our relocated beavers get preyed on our go back to their colonies. When in fact what I said was they are unaccounted for: SOME may get preyed upon (we’ve never seen evidence of this but know it happens), one we know went back to his colony, and others we are slowly finding elsewhere in the headwaters doing great things!

Again thanks for asking these questions and clearing up misconceptions! We appreciate the work you do to educate folks about beavers!


 This is all fantastic news and I couldn’t be happier!  Careful of beavers and their delicate family systems! I sent it right away to Joe who I had already repaired things with. He was thrilled to have the data to back up his positive view. This morning I will send it to everyone I contaminated with my previous gloom because they deserve to have their reputation restored. They are spreading good beaver cheer all over the country, and even if it’s not QUITE as wonderful as keeping the beavers in town, they are doing it responsibly! (I just saw an article about them yesterday in the Idaho Statesman).

I have been such a big scrooge about the Yakima good news that I feel you might deserve this clip as well. Maybe its the looming season ahead, but I can’t resist.

Beavers Far and Wee

Posted by heidi08 On October - 14 - 2014Comments Off

Beaver fence aims to stop pathway flooding in Fish Creek

A beaver appears to be missing a paw from a trapping mishap in Fish Creek Provincial Park. (Ingham Nature Photography )

A beaver appears to be missing a paw from a trapping mishap in Fish Creek Provincial Park. (Ingham Nature Photography )

Calgary officials are trying out a new way to manage beavers that are causing problems in Fish Creek Provincial Park.

The rodents keep packing mud and logs against a culvert in a city-owned storm pond. If left, the dam would cause the pond to overflow and flood a popular pathway.

In the spring, the city’s water services department is going to install something called an exclusion fence — a trapezoid shaped fence made of wire that prevents the beavers from plugging the culvert.

The city used to deal with situations like this by trapping and killing the beavers, but it reviewed that policy after an incident in July. A beaver got caught in a trap, but didn’t die and was spotted struggling to free itself.

Fish Creek Park Beavers

The area in Fish Creek Provincial Park where city officials tried to trap and kill the beaver over concerns it would flood a bike path. (Carla Beynon/CBC)

Upset animal lovers launched a petition to stop trapping in the city. That prompted the review, which revealed that debris got caught in the trap, causing it to malfunction. Since then, the city has been working with the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals to come up with non-lethal alternatives.

“We want to go a different route so we don’t actually have to kill beavers,” said water services spokesman Randy Girling. “We don’t want to be known as killers or anything like that. We want to do the best we can for the wildlife in our parks.”

Hurray for Adrien and Fur-Bearer Defenders! They managed to convince the good folk of FCPP that it was better to try something new than claw their way out of any more bad press and public wrath. Adrien says it was hard, hard work. Like pushing a grand piano through a transom. But they persevered and were granted permission to install a beaver deceiver  now. Gosh, I’m so old I can remember when Adrien installed his first leveler!

Sniff, they grow up so fast.

Speaking of the long arm of beaver defenders, I got an invitation this morning to present at the San Pedro Valley Park in Pacifica on beavers. A month after I’ll be talking in Auburn. That’s 133 miles apart for beaver defense. 1670 if you count Utah and Oregon. And Cheryl just visited Big Break in Brentwood where she snapped these videos of our work at the visitors venter!

Pretty cool to be long-range beaver preachers!

The Trail from Utah to Martinez

Posted by heidi08 On October - 13 - 2014Comments Off

Hot of the presses I just got word from Mary Obrien that the BRAT (Beaver Restoration Assessment Tool) has just been completed for the entire state of Utah. The complete report and maps are here and I will put a permanent link on the margin alongside the last amazing thing Utah did for beavers, (and the one before that). Here’s a little excerpt  from the executive summary.

This report presents the development and application of the Beaver Restoration Assessment Tool (BRAT), a decision support and planning tool for beaver management, to analyze all perennial rivers and streams in Utah. The backbone to BRAT is a capacity model developed to assess the upper limits of riverscapes to support beaver dam – building activities. Both existing and historic capacity were estimated with readily available spatial datasets to evaluate five key lines of evidence: 1) a  perennial water source, 2) availability of dam building materials, 3) ability to build a dam at baseflow, 4) likelihood of dams to withstand a typical flood , and 5) likelihood that stream gradient would limit or completely eliminate dam building by beaver. Fuzzy inference systems were used to combine these lines of evidence while accounting for uncertainty.

CaptureWith this announcement came a note from Mary that two stalwart Utah beaver champions are coming out to San Rafael for the annual Bioneers conference this month. They are going to a soils workshop and would like to meet Worth A Dam and the beavers if at all possible. For the past 5 years they’ve been hard at work letting beavers turn the tiny incised trickle on their land into this beauty. Their beavers have survived  the last 5 years on mostly cattails because there are no trees to speak of!




P1090548And speaking of beavers eating cattails, here’s a video Rusty sent this morning of  a Napa beaver doing just that. The green water is pond weed/algae and don’t worry, I just read this morning that  cattails are VERY nutritious.

50 states of beaver

Posted by heidi08 On October - 12 - 2014Comments Off

Old Fort fifth-graders learn all about water-dwelling rodent

 It isn’t every day that Old Fort fifth-grader Makayla Evans gets to dress up like a beaver.

 Garbed in goggles, a blanket, sound-proof headphones, a trash bag and a pair of gloves, the fifth-grader stood in front of her classmates wearing items that represented different traits the rodent found all across North Carolina possesses.

 “I’m going to hand Makayla this small canister of oil,” said Lake James State Park Ranger Kevin Bischof. “Can anyone guess what that represents on a beaver?”

 “It’s what keeps their coat waterproof,” said one student as Bischof continued handing Evans more items to go with her makeshift costume.

 Bischof’s presentation was part of an hour-long lesson in Joanna Graham’s science class at Old Fort Elementary, which was designed to help students better understand the American beaver.

Now we’re all read about the park system educational brilliance where they dress a kid in a fur coat and put on flippers and say ‘you’re a beaver’. But mind you this is North Carolina, which (if we’re being kind) has a fairly conflicted relationship with beavers, so we are really haooy 5th graders get beaver ed. But this blew me away:

“The beaver is a keystone species,” said Bischof. “If you remove them from an environment, it drastically changes. It takes constant maintenance to keep up a dam, and if a beaver is removed from the area then their dams will eventually deteriorate and change everything in the area where they’ve been.”

You can almost here the unspoken message “So tell you’re dad if he blows up that beaver dam it will be bad for everything”, can’t you? Of course I wrote Kevin right away. And our beaver friends in North Carolina to introduce them. Every now and then I start to think the landscape for beavers is changing all over the united states. Which is a pretty nice thought to have. Oh, and I sent along these:

archbrochurecharm 008


Researchers Say Beavers Are More Than Simple Pests

Yakima beaver relocation was on Scott Simon yesterday of NPR. More good promotion of beaver benefits, although I hate the headline. It reminds me of that scene in Tolkein’s the Two Towers, where the hobbits stumble on the oldest forest.

” What a pity! This shaggy old forest looked so different in the sunlight. I almost felt I liked the place.
‘Almost felt you liked the Forest! That’s good! That’s uncommonly kind of you,’ said a
strange voice. ‘Turn round and let me have a look at your faces. I almost feel that I dislike you both, but do not let us be hasty. Turn around!’ “

In addition to the usual beaver beatitudes there are a few choice quotes that I will offer without comment.


Click to Listen

We try to catch the whole colony because beavers have incredibly intense family social bonds. So without taking the whole family colony, they’re more likely to go right back to where they once were caught in searching for their family members.

[Regarding their naming of beavers] It helps us bring light to sometimes sad instances where family members may have gotten lost behind.



And now that we’re back from vacation I’m starting to think about Halloween decorations. We’re so lucky we may have just the thing! What do you think, too scary?



Vær så god

Posted by heidi08 On October - 8 - 2014Comments Off

The Yakima “happily ever after” beaver story made the rounds yesterday, on ABC, Fox, Yahoo and the Huffington Post.  I am thrilled that the story of beavers doing environmental work is having a news cycle. I am less thrilled that the meme of relocating beavers is getting thrown about and teaching the world to solve problems by moving them.

(And I’m jealous.)

I received some awesome news from very close to home that I am forbidden to share yet. So I will give you some great news from rather far a field instead.  This is being described as the longest beaver population study ever, and they have the publishing record to prove it. One of the researches, Christian Andre Robstad posted on it on the Beaver Management Forum.

I wasn’t exactly sure what they were studying, and Christian sent me this. I’m imaging some Google translate may have been involved?

Main research questions

Why are some individuals more successful in surviving and reproducing than others?
What affects the temporal and spatial variations in the landscapes of fear, nutrition, and fitness?
How do variations in territoriality affect the mating system and individual fitness?
What is the role of chemical signals in territorial defense, recognition and discrimination?
How do humans and their activities (e.g. hunting, climatic change) affect the fitness (i.e. survival and reproduction) of wild animal populations?
The scientific backdrop for LEBE! is provided by the Scandinavian Brown Bear Research Project and the Norwegian Beaver Project (NBP). The SBBRP is one of the world’s largest and longest ongoing large mammal projects (1984-today), with a very high scientific output (>180 publications in international peer-reviewed journals, including Nature and Science). An individual-based long-term data set of >800 captured bears, biometric measurements as well as genetic and physiological samples from >2000 captures, > 2million re-locations of radio-collared bears, and data from >2500 shot bears form the basis of the SBBRP. Assoc. Prof. Andreas Zedrosser is one of the lead scientists of the SBBRP, as well as a member of its steering committee.

The NBP is one of the world’s largest and longest ongoing large rodent projects (1997- today), with a very high scientific output (>80 publications in international peer-reviewed journals). An individual-based long-term data set of >400 captured beavers, biometric measurements as well as genetic and chemical samples from >1000 captures form the basis of the NBP. The NBP is unique in Europe, as it is one of very few projects carrying out behavioral experiments with large wild mammals. Prof. Frank Rosell is the leader of the NBP.

Both projects provide long-term individual-based data sets unique in a world-wide context, which are explored in relation to the main research questions in LEBE! The main model species in LEBE! are the brown bear and the Eurasian beaver. The majority of our research and publications deal with these species and will continue to do so in the future. However, in addition we also work with other species as well, such as dogs, marmots, badgers, brown trout, ground squirrels, root voles, Mediterranean monk seals, and chamois.

Central research disciplines

Evolutionary ecology
Behavioral ecology
Laboratory members

Heads of laboratory

Encounter Account

Posted by heidi08 On October - 5 - 2014Comments Off

shutterstock110473913This was a fun report from the NY news site “PressConnects.” It’s a fun account of beaver watching in the woods, where it sounds like he was treated to a real show. I am mystified by his decisions to make political puns and the writing is a little off-putting, (as if he hasn’t been allowed to use similies since graduate school and is just dusting them off.) But its a fun read.

Marsi: Beavers throw an open house for canoeists

It turned out to be what political aides call a photo opportunity. In the spotlight: an obliging band of beavers, rodent hams of the first magnitude.

Perhaps these beavers were so friendly because beavers, like politicians, must stand periodically for re-election. That would explain why they cut all those trees — stumping for the “poplar” vote.

 See what I mean? Get it? Poplar vote!

Then came a loud crack, a frying pan slap not 10 feet from the canoe. Beaver number one had emerged from the lodge, discovered observers and whacked its tail on the surface, sounding an alarm. After slapping the water, the beaver arched its back, did a shallow surface dive and disappeared.

Whap. Another alarm and another beaver. Whap. A third, fourth and fifth slap followed. Suddenly we found ourselves surrounded by the entire clan: four kits and a parent three or four times their size.

The young beavers had grown well since their birth in early spring. Swimming strongly, their dark brown guard hairs matted in shiny clumps, they looked to weigh around 10 pounds. Bypassing the canoe, they closed ranks in deeper water, joined their parent and paddled toward the opposite shore.

We followed, fishing rods aside, cameras ready.

The adult beaver wasted no time ascending the bank and waddling into the woods. Within seconds, a rhythmic crunching sound – teeth gouging sapwood every second or so — rang the death knell for an 8-inch poplar, or trembling aspen.

The young beavers contented themselves with chores of lesser magnitude. As the canoe crept closer, they joined forces on the lakeshore, chewing branches they had cut in the woods. Holding the branches in their front paws, turning them slowly, the beavers mewed constantly. The canoe crept closer, stopping 10 feet away. Chomp went non-stop incisors. Click went camera shutters.

Are you jealous yet? 4 kits chewing and mewing away and he’s in a canoe snapping photos. I don’t know why we don’t get to see those pictures with this article – shutter stock instead. (Sure looks like one of Cheryl’s but I suppose its possible they didn’t steal it.) But  he got to hear mewing and see several tail slaps. It sounds like a fun time was had!

In fact I had fun just reading this article. Even if I’m not sure of the slapping sound a frying pan makes or if beavers have quarter-sized ears but still it was fun. Go read the whole thing.

A few minutes later, commotion forgotten, the bark eaters were back in place, chewing and mewing. We ran out of film at sunset (yes, film). This served as a signal to back the canoe quietly from its berth among floating logs and let gnawing ensue in the dark.

Marsi is a freelance writer from Vestal. Email him at rmarsi@stn


Beaver Resilience

Posted by heidi08 On September - 21 - 2014Comments Off

Dry Guadlupe River: Roger Castillo

So this is what most of the Guadelupe River looks like this summer. Too bad for the remaining fish and definitely too bad for the thirsty wildlife. You’ll remember there were three beavers on the creek in 2013, and they made an historic splash. One was seen with a packing strip trapped around her waist and she was rescued so it could be removed and released to the exact same spot.

Not surprisingly, those beavers never showed their faces again. Although sometimes they still see sign of them.


Beaver chewed tree on the Guadelupe River: Steve Holmes

On Friday I got several very distressed emails from the friends of Los Gatos Creeks that they had discovered a beaver in great despair, living under a pipe in the dry river. They were ready to call in rescue to get him out. And what did I think? Later emails said he was ‘living in a pile of his own feces’ and was obviously sick. I was able to piece together that he was living under a culvert with a tiny leak and trying to use that water. And Greg Kerekes of urban wildlife took this photo.

Beavers using culvert in drought

Beaver in the Guadelupe: Greg Kerekes

This photo made me happier than any I’ve seen recently. Look at what that resilient beaver decided to do with the tiny drip! Waste not: want not. He has made a dam to keep the water inside the pipe since it won’t soak up the water, and if he needs water to drink or eliminate, there it is. In a few weeks it will be deep enough to hide him from unfriendly eyes. Remember that beavers are herbivores so even if he was in a puddle of his own ‘sawdust’ it wouldn’t be cause for alarm. But when I talked more to Roger Castillo about what he saw I realized the ‘filth’ he had seen the beaver sitting on was a scent mound that he was making to mark his ‘home sweet home’. Even though this looks alarming to us, he’s fiercely proud of his ingenuity and doesn’t want to share!

He’s sleeping to the right beside his accomplishment, in a little bed of reeds during the day. CaptureHis hidden stash of water means coyotes or bobcats are unlikely to come and get a drink, and he seems ready for the long haul. Who knows? Maybe he’ll even get company? A beaver pioneer in the dry Guadelupe river. How different would California look during a drought if we had millions more like him?

stickerYou’ll remember that beavers were one of the first species back after Mt. St. Helen’s errupted. And were among the first to reclaim the land in Chernobyl after the nuclear reactor disaster. Here’s Leonard Houston’s opening remarks from the 2013 State of the beaver conference.

“Within this strangely pastoral setting the animals go about their business, sometimes finding uses for what we’ve left behind. The wolves rise up on their hind legs to peer through the windows of houses, looking for routes to the rooftops, which they use as observation posts for hunting. Eagles build nests in fire towers. Deer, elk, bison and wild horses flourish in abandoned farm fields.

 As to the beavers, they have shown an amazing resiliency to some of the worlds most cataclysmic events, in large surpassing sciences understanding of what we call sustainable habitat. Beavers, forced out decades ago when the landscape was engineered for collective agriculture, have already undone much of man’s work converting polluted swamps to free flowing rivers and restoring one of central Europe’s great marshlands.”

So I wouldn’t worry about that little pioneer beaver. He’s doing just what he’s supposed to – what we all should, really.  How careful would we all be of water if we didn’t think any more was coming? I mean out of the sky, out of the tap, out of the bottle – ever. Wouldn’t we all build little dams around every drop to eek it along?


Last night we saw some very lucky beavers expanding their territory to Ward Street. I thought you’d like this footage of dad and the new kit.