Archive for the ‘Beaver Behavior’ Category

Best Beaver Day Ever?

Posted by heidi08 On June - 25 - 20152 COMMENTS

So yesterday morning, former Martinez resident LB sent me this story from an elementary school right outside Seattle trying to get rid of its beaver. Apparently the state with the smartest beaver management in the nation has  a few large pockets of ignorance.

Wash. school district looking to get rid of pesky beaver

On an elementary school campus? With kids who love the beavers and parents who care? In Washington? So LB and I wrote the principal and media spokesperson for the district, and I posted  about it on facebook. Mind you, this is in Kings county which had one of the only websites about flow devices when we were looking for answers back in 2007. Shouldn’t they, of all places, know better?

I learned that in addition to being worried that ‘the beaver” would attack the students,  one of the concerns was about the Lake Forest Park Stewardship Foundation which had just worked with students to hatch and release salmon eggs in the creek, and wouldn’t the beaver dam ruin everything?

No kidding. 12 miles from Michael Pollock’s office.

So I made sure everyone had a crash course in beavers and salmon and sent the salmon film and flow device information, and I added the LFPSF to the list of people I included in the little impromptu seminar. I sent along the kids power point presentation that I made for teachers to use in Contra Costa County and encouraged them to look at teacher materials on our website. And when I posted about this on the beaver management page several bold people actually CALLED the school to ask what the heck they were thinking-including an elementary school science teacher in WA who said he would love beavers on his campus to use in education!

And guess what? By midday the school had backed down and the traps were removed. Let me say that again. By midday the school had backed down and the traps were removed. The principal said he was  happy to know about flow devices. And this morning the director of LFPSF wrote to thank me for the all the information and said he was thrilled that when the reporters called this morning they knew much more than they did before about beavers and salmon and how to prevent flooding.

I think that makes yesterday the single most successful day we’ve ever seen on this website. I am so grateful so many people spoke up and they agreed to do the right thing. I have to admit I felt a little powerful yesterday. As if I had finally been doing this work long enough to make a difference.

ZUBR Beavers from Platige Image on Vimeo.

But that’s kind of silly. Honestly, I guess if you can’t save beavers near an elementary school just outside Seattle, you’re probably in the wrong line of work.

(H/T to RC from Napa for the ZUBR comercial. Which, in case you didn’t guess already,  is polish for Bison.)

Correcting the 400 year-old mistake!

Posted by heidi08 On June - 24 - 20152 COMMENTS

Watch Britain’s first wild beaver kits for 400 years take a dip

The first breeding colony of wild beavers to live in the UK for over 400 years has produced kits.

The birth of the babies was announced by the Devon Wildlife Trust and footage of the beavers was captured on camera by local filmographer Tom Buckley. It shows the babies taking their first swimming lesson and being helped through the water by their mother.

 ”My first sighting of this year’s new born kits was when I saw their mother swimming with one of them in her mouth to an area nearby where their father was waiting to greet them,” said Buckley. “One of the kits, however, seemed extremely unhappy to be out in the big wide world and as soon as its mother let it go it rushed back to its burrow. This was possibly their first experience of what lies outside of their burrow.”

Knowledge of the beaver colony’s presence in the Otter River in Devon first spread in February 2014. Several months later the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said that it intended to remove the beavers due to the potential disease risk, but the Devon Wildlife Trust intervened, acquiring a license for the beavers to stay in January 2015. The creatures are now part of a wild beaver monitoring trial run by the Trust in conjunction with the University of Exeter, Clinton Devon Estates and the Derek Gow Partnership.

Watch it all the way to the end where that adorable little tail curls up. That is amazing footage by a man who obviously laid patiently in wait for a long time. Although this is running on literally every paper in england, youtube says it only has gotten around 275 hits because they’re all hosting it on their own sites. Let’s see if we can fix that shall we?

The exact location on the river where the kits are situated has not been disclosed, as the Devon Wildlife Trust wants to ensure the colony is left alone to raise its newest members. “The beavers have proved enormously popular with local people and we understand that many will now want to see the kits for themselves. But like all new parents, the beavers will need a bit space and peace at this time. So we ask that visitors take care not to disturb them. This means remaining on public footpaths, keeping a respectful distance from them, and keeping dogs under close control especially when near the river,” says Elliot.

This is a good idea, especially  when you consider what a hard time England had giving up the habit of swiping unhatched bird eggs for their collections. Watching that video I think mum had her own plans to keep their location secret. She’s obviously moving them from one den to the next, which is a very protective behavior that our new mother beaver has done every year, and our old mom never bothered with.

But first wild beaver born in 400 years? That seems questionable. What about last year’s kits? Weren’t they wild? A more accurate headline would read “First officially sanctioned wild kits” born in 400 years. Which is pretty awesome.

And just to remind you of the ever contrarian research-repellant voices, the fishermen chime in on the BBC article.

Mark Owen, from the Angling Trust, said the fact the young beavers would not be tagged or tracked meant the trial lacked any “scientific credibility”.

‘Irresponsible programme’

 ”There is an increasing prospect of a population explosion that could do considerable harm to other wildlife through the uncontrolled damming up of watercourses which can, among other things, prevent fish from reaching their spawning grounds,” he said.

First of all, that beaver has tags in BOTH ears. Second of all, fish DO reach their spawning grounds you big whiney fish-baby. And third of all. Mr. Owen’s obviously can’t spell: “programme?”

The BBC article has even more lovely footage if you’re interested. Congratulations Devon!

Wild beaver gives birth in England

Cotton Farmers with a Tail

Posted by heidi08 On June - 23 - 2015Comments Off

The Wonders Of Chemistry: Beavers, Beetles, And Cottonwoods


In the great stands of old cottonwood trees along prairie rivers, chemical skirmishes are taking place between beavers, cottonwoods, and a certain species of beetle. Beavers gnaw on the trees; the trees fight back with toxic compounds; and the beetles move in to feast on the toxins. But in this apparent conflict, all three species benefit.

The great stands of old cottonwood trees along the prairie rivers are called “gallery” forests, which aptly describes their spacious coolness and towering branches.  Beaver favor cottonwoods for food and building material for their lodges. When beaver fell cottonwood trees, the roots often re-sprout, establishing clones of young trees from the same parent. Although this is another way for the cottonwoods to regenerate, these sprouts rarely do well enough to grow into large gallery forests.

Now we get to the subtle intrigue. Tom Whittam, an ecologist in Arizona, discovered that cutting and foraging by beaver induce young cottonwood sprouts to produce large amounts of salicins and salicortins – toxic compounds that deter many animals and insects from feeding on the sprouts. 

 Beaver also accumulate these compounds in their castoreum, a stinky musk beavers use for scent marking and, incidentally, perfumers traditionally used in colognes. The salicin compounds in the castoreum help the beaver attract a mate, like adding a little extra spice to the beaver’s own cologne.

So by pruning the cottonwood beavers actually cultivate their ideal target crop. Isn’t that just what you’d expect from beavers?  They’re like farmers cultivating the perfect harvest. Since salicin is a main ingredient of Aspirin I bet it also helps with all those toothaches beavers must get on the job! I sure would like to see a gallery forest of cottonwood. It must sound amazing! (I used to call them ‘whispery trees‘.)

Here’s our farmer harvesting a little willow last night. Also rich in salicin by the way.

That’s a nice story of species coexistence. Just in time for another rabid beaver story. It’s officially summer you know.

Person bitten by suspected rabid beaver in Northern Harford, others may be exposed, health officials warn

Harford County health officials say a suspected rabid beaver bit a county resident on Friday afternoon in the Deer Creek Conservation Area off Sandy Hook Road in the Street area of Northern Harford.

 Although the victim is receiving the appropriate post-exposure rabies treatments, health officials say they remain concerned that the beaver came into contact with at least one dog that belongs to another person, and they are trying to find the dog’s owner who may have also been exposed.

 After biting the victim, the beaver quickly returned to the woods but might also have had contact around the same time of the other incident with a dog, believed to be a husky-chow mix, owned by another visitor to the park, the Health Department said.

I’m expecting this to blanket the news for the coming week. So the beaver wasn’t killed outright? That’s too bad because it means officials will just parole the area and kill every one  they find. I’m never comfortable with these stories because they seem to coincide so much with kit time. I guess if rabies incubation is 3-6 weeks, and the beaver was bit by a rabid dog when protecting the lodge because the kits were just born, the timing is about right for the west. Not really for Connecticut though.

Here’s mom beaver last night with a willow bouquet. Definitely not rabid.


Wilow Bouquet: Photo by Cheryl Reynolds


Beaver wanderer

Posted by heidi08 On June - 18 - 2015Comments Off

Dispersal is so harrowing. Maybe that’s why our 2014 kits decided to stick around.

Beaver blocks entrance to Chick-fil-A, gets courtesy ride from police

Beavers may be great architects, but perhaps they aren’t the best with directions. Bellevue police helped one such beaver Monday evening after it found its way into the Chick-fil-A parking lot, and had difficulty making its way back home.

“The beaver somehow got himself on the sidewalk in front of the entrance to Chick-fil-A and there was lot of traffic there,” said Amanda Jensen with the Bellevue Police Department.

“He seemed disoriented,” she said. “They were just concerned about him getting hit.” The other concern was the line of cars waiting to enter the fast food restaurant. Bellevue’s new Chick-fil-A location has become renowned for causing heavy traffic as patrons drive through.

Being a good neighbor, a Bellevue police officer gave the little guy a ride home, or at least to the front door of the nearby pond where he has taken up residence.

“The officers used a dog catching pole and wrangled him into the car,” Jensen said. “And they brought him to a pond area where it is known that beavers are.”

After hopping in, a short ride, and hopping back out, it was dam-sweet-dam for the clever rodent.

There’s nothing more embarrassing than being brought home in a police car after your first night out. But it could have been much worse. He could have hit by a car, mauled by a dog or remained at Chic-fil-A.

Martinez Beaver Festival promo 2015 from Tensegrity Productions on Vimeo.

/a>New promo thanks to Sarah Koenisberg who was kind enough to update her last one. Hopefully it will run on the Martinez channel soon. Feel free to pass it on!


Beavers: the Unowners manual

Posted by heidi08 On June - 16 - 2015Comments Off

 Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.

John Muir

Go see the beavers.
Heidi Perryman


On the Trails: Outdoor therapy

One day recently, I was feeling quite grumpy, disgusted, annoyed, and getting down-hearted, so I decided to cheer myself up by thinking about ‘a few of my favorite things’ that happened in the past couple of weeks.

The beavers seem to have returned to Steep Creek, after an absence of several years. We had seen beavers visiting the lower ponds, but this time it looks more serious. The broken dams have been rebuilt and a friend watched a beaver collect a huge mouthful of grass and carry it toward the old lodge. This made me wonder if the grass might be bedding for a young family. There is hope, then, that the beavers may restore the upper dams as well, creating ponds that trap sediment, provide fine rearing habitat for juvenile coho and dolly varden, and good foraging habitat for birds. In the past, the sockeye and coho salmon that spawn in this stream proved themselves quite able to surmount the previous dams, and there were good populations of both species in the creek.

There, that’s a list of good things observed. Thinking about all that, I found that I was still grumpy, disgusted, and annoyed — oh yes — but it no longer got me down-hearted. Good stuff! — simple things for a simple mind, maybe, but equanimity was restored!

 • Mary F. Willson is a retired professor of ecology

Ahh Mary. How many bleary mornings or crabby evenings have been brightened for me by beavers! I couldn’t agree more. Mary is the author of the book on the left margin, and one of the beaver protectors of the Mendenhall Glacier.

Of course getting away in the middle of town is harder than it used to be. Alhambra Creek is no Walden pond.  Apparently the front page Napa story drew lots of people to Tulocay creek last night. Rusty chatted with an observer from Novato who says he reads this website every day! (Hi beaver reader!) It made me remember the old days in Martinez when the beavers were first making a commotion. I remember being so divided, first joyful that other people were enjoying what I had cherished alone for so long, and then annoyed, encroached and irritated that people were crowding out “my” beavers.

Eventually I noticed three very important things that changed my perspective forever.

1)   I was alone in the morning, and encroached in the evening. I adjusted my filming and sleep habits accordingly. I was never bothered by onlookers in the wee hours.  (At this time of year I still wake up at 5 whether I go see beavers or not. Maybe I always will.)

2)   Every single person gathered there in the evenings, excitedly explaining them to their mother or brother-in-law, wondering all the wrong things, if they ate fish or patted mud with their tails, all felt as if they were “their” beavers.

3)   This misplaced sense of ownership we all shared is the only reason why the beavers survived at all when the city decided to kill them.

Of course they aren’t my beavers, or your beavers. They are their own beavers. Living their own lives independent of us. And maybe the beavers themselves are like a mirror, reflecting back the beholder for the moment but happy enough to reflect the next person that comes along. That would explain why the good people liked them and wanted to save them. And why our most hard-hearted citizens disliked them and thought they were a disaster. They saw twisted reflections of  their nasty little selves.

A furry Rorschach, if you will.


Guide to creeks and kits

Posted by heidi08 On June - 11 - 2015Comments Off

Looks like the students in Imlay Michigan are studying the creek and getting an indirect lesson in what happens when beaver dams are removed.

Go with the flow

They dip a plastic spoon into the tub and come up with yet another discovery.

 ”We’ve found a water mite, a leech, black fly larvae, and a crayfish with only one pincher,” Angelika says, while another classmate—Daniel Felix—picks up the squirming crayfish to take a closer look.

 The young scientists are in the fifth year of a collaborative project with Seven Ponds Nature Center naturalists and Imlay City Middle School. They’ll spend two days studying the Belle River as it runs through Imlay City’s backyard, and their findings will become part of a statewide study of the watershed.

“This year some changes were made at the headwaters,” Kent says. “A beaver dam was removed sometime between this year and last year”. Young scientist Ivan Sanchez makes his decision early on. Ivan participates in soccer practices at Lions Park, so he’s noticed a big difference in what the river looks like since the beaver dam has been removed.

 ”It was so beautiful last season and now it looks a lot different, there’s a lot of sediment that wasn’t there before,” Ivan says.

That’s right children. Because beaver dams make creeks beautiful, alive and ecologically diverse. And removing them makes things ugly and dead and sterile. That should be the most important lesson you take from this experiment.

11407257_10204660346094839_5486973697332726838_nI had fun last night taking a ‘will you stop watering your lawn’ telephone poll, because after I waded through all the somewhats, mostlys and not verys I got to give a comment about what California should do to save water, and GUESS what I said??? I’ll give you a hint. It’s the kind of hint you should take with you to the store.

Yesterdays anomaly rain actually filled the dam to bursting but it was still holding when Jon checked last night. Rusty and Robin are having great fun documenting their beavers even if we aren’t lucky yet in Martinez. Tomorrow I will leave you in Rusty’s capable hands because I’ll be away. But stay tuned, because I know he will have your attention with photos like these:

kit with tripod

Kit in Tulocay Creek praying – Rusty Cohn

For her part, Robin made sure that the unverified kit who hightails it to the dam each night instead of posing with his siblings, was documented as an actual kit.

Isn’t this lovely? For those new to the kit vs adult ID game clues are

  1. How he floats (entirely above the waterline while with adults usually swim with just their head is visible)
  2. The relative head size to body (about a third, when adults is a fifth or more)
  3. And of course the fact that it’s adorable. Which  should be a dead giveaway.

His relative speed indicates he is a little frightened of this wide world, even though he’s heading off to play with the big beavers.  Who knows, maybe he’s braver than the others? Or maybe he’s a big scaredy-pants who always wants to be with a grown-up?   Perspective is everything.

Beavers: The future and the past

Posted by heidi08 On June - 10 - 2015Comments Off

Let’s start out with some momentous news. Last night in Napa they almost certainly saw three kits. HURRAY THREE KITS!!! One appears to charge off with the adults to feed, so missed his photo opportunity in his rush to maturity, but they are pretty sure it’s a brave little kit they’re seeing. Congratulations Napatopia, we’re excited for you!

two Rusty

Two kits – Rusty Cohn

close rusty

Close up – Rusty Cohn









Now its on to some inspiration from our great friend Camilla Fox who lent full ‘Project Coyote‘ voice recently to the Bobcat hearing in Santa Rosa. Great work team bobcat!

dubingiai-21-012Finally an update and a short poll. I know you all recognize the fellow on the left, but the gentleman on the right might be less familiar to our new readers. This is Alex Hiller a beaver supporter from Germany who once  came to america to visit a beaver family with Hope Ryden of the famed Lily Pond book. Alex was an early and dedicated supporter and attended the beaver symposium in Lithuania, shocking the heck out of Skip and Glynnis by wearing  his Worth A Dam t-shirt shown here.

I hadn’t heard from Alex in a while and I thought I’d send him the Geo article in case he hadn’t seen it and wanted to help with a translate. This morning he wrote back sighting an old German saying, “Some people you assume to have perished only got married.” He announced that he met and married a wonderful woman from Sri Lanka who was passionate about elephants so they were focusing their energies there for the time being. How cool is that? Congratulations Alex! We wishing you every happiness but we will miss our reliable foreign correspondent!

Lastly. if we were offering recycled bags for sale at the festival would you prefer a green bag with a logo or a khaki bag with this in brown? I like them both so you’re vote is needed. Let me know here. Thanks!

 logo bag Circle khaki