Archive for the ‘Beaver Behavior’ Category

Beaver Stewards

Posted by heidi08 On July - 29 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

That lovely article is in the Santa Cruz sentinel this morning, and debuted on the front page of the Contra Costa Times yesterday, which was fun. Especially when I think about the still-unhappy beaver grumblers who do things in Martinez like tell public works to rip out willow shoots before they grow or paint over beavers in a popular mural. Ahh memories!

I thought you’d want to see this fun morning of kit wrestling from Rusty Cohn in Napa.

We’ve only seen yearlings do this, so this is fun to find.  And  you deserved to read this poem from Deidre’s friend Marcy Beck who works with Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods. (I’m thinking they need to exhibit at the beaver festival next year, by the way). Try reading it aloud because it has great sounds.

CaptureMarcy Beck


Passing the beaver-chewed baton…

Posted by heidi08 On July - 27 - 2015Comments Off

lory quizFor more years than we can count, Worth A Dam’s own Lory Bruno has been the steam engine behind the festival’s silent auction. Helped endlessly by her husband Ron, the pair have been pretty much solely responsible for its successes, which involves tagging and grouping the items, hauling and handling the display and sale, and making exchanges for late pickups after the festival.

 This year Lory officially retired her gavel and asked for some well-earned rest. We had to get several hard-working people to take her place. Deidre Martin, who arranged the amtrak journey last year, is taking on the bulk, along with the help of Napa’s Robin whoauction-pritchards-cabinet-of-curiosities[1] generously agreed to manage bid sheets, Erika, who will help with display throughout the day, and Pam from ISI who will help with sales. I, of course did my usual begging and spreadsheet and Jon will handle transport and late exchanges later.

Yesterday, Deidre, Jon and I went through the auction items and tagged and grouped them with the bid sheets. 126 items from some 40 states and 10 countries valued at 5700.00.  Here’s a look at some of the items that will be offered.  From jewelry, adventure tickets, fine dining, and paintings, books and puppets.  You won’t believe your eyes. There’s even a gift basket from a family at Pixar that will keep your children or grandchildren busy all year. wordle


One new rule this year should appeal to the affordably impatient. Find an item you LOVE and pay the full value to take it anytime during the day. Remember many of these items are unique, and one of a kind. Avoid the wait and the suspense while you donate to a great cause. Honestly, I don’t think you will find a better grouping of beaver-friendly merchandise anywhere. 

And then there were two

Posted by heidi08 On July - 24 - 2015Comments Off

Footage of second Scots beaver kit revealed

 Footage of a second beaver kit in the Knapdale Forest in Argyll has been released by the Scottish Beaver Trial.  It comes a week after a first young beaver was spotted at the trial site.  Scottish Beaver Trial (SBT) said it suspected further breeding had occurred, but had now managed to capture evidence on camera.

The trial is the first licensed reintroduction of a mammal to the UK and has brought the beaver back to Scotland after a 400-year absence.

Roisin Campbell Palmer, field operations manager for the Scottish Beaver Trial, said: “We had suspected further breeding had occurred at the site but had not managed to capture it on camera.

 ”We can now confirm two kits present at this lodge.

 ”These kits are around three months old. Having spent the first couple of months within the lodge, they are now starting to leaving the lodge and explore their surroundings.”

Further breeding?

I would blame the crazy framing on the reporter but this quote came from field manager Roisin Palmer  in the flesh. ‘More kits obviously means further breeding’, right? No, honestly. This kit is from the same lodge and the same parents. It was the same breeding that did the trick. It took place about 107 days before the kits were born and won’t take place again until next year. See beavers are like dogs and cats and have what’s known as a “litter”. It just takes a while to see them all because they don’t all mature at the same rate. Keep watching. There might be three in the camera next time!

Still Same Breeding. (Wow, you really haven’t had beavers for 400 years have you?)

I’m totally loving that little hippity hop hop at the end. It starts at 35 seconds. You can tell it looks unusual because mom reacts with surprise. What is that child of mine doing NOW? It immediately reminded me of rabbits, which oddly made me think of a Pablo Neruda poem.

EL pie del niño aún no sabe que es pie,
y quiere ser mariposa o manzana.

Which basically translates to “The foot of a child, doesn’t yet know it’s a foot, and wants to be a butterfly or an apple.” Which is perdy. Now because it’s Neruda it goes on to talk about the worker’s boot that a capitalist society will force that little foot into eventually, but the first two lines are the most famous.

After seeing that video, I’m sure the castor version goes something like “the foot of the beaver doesn’t yet know it’s kit, and wants to be a rabbit or a bird.”

foot underwaterstony footprints1

Dam Builders: A review

Posted by heidi08 On July - 19 - 2015Comments Off

51imI+jikBL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_It took longer to arrive than I had hoped. The publication was delayed several times and is still expected to be another 6 weeks for American readers. But this weighty record showing 30 years of beaver watching is definitely worth the wait.

I received my courtesy copy from the publisher Fitzhenry & Whiteside Ltd. last week, and have been engrossed ever since. Everything about this book is impressive: its stunning photographs, gripping account of little known beaver details, and its truly classy lay out, right down to the beaver silhouetted page number in the corner. (I had a good friend who was a copy editor at Random House and I know how much work pulling these details together can be.) I had prepared myself to be impressed, and was not disappointed.

What I hadn’t prepared for was to be surprised.

After nearly 10 years in the beaver biz, reading and writing about them daily, and viewing them regularly at very close quarters, I pretty much thought I had heard and seen it all. Michael Runtz michael-runtzbook was still filled with gloriously unexpected treasures. From the amazing photograph of a beaver floating on its back (yes you read that right, not a sea otter, I swear, he speculates he might be picking a splinter from its teeth with its rear toe) to the exciting collection of facts about their lives, (did you know that when beavers breathe they replaces a whopping 75% of the oxygen in their lungs? Compared to the paltry human rate of 15%!) or that beaver tails in colder climates actually look different in the fall than the spring, depending on how much fat content they’ve lost from it over the winter? Something we’ll never see here in Martinez.

If some of the photos seem vaguely familiar they should, Runtz supplied his stills to Jari Osborne’s Beaver Documentary (Beaver Whisperer in Canada, and Nature’s “Leave it to Beaver” in America). My favorite chapters were those documenting beaver effects. First a lovely one showing the biodiversity that blooms in beaver ponds, with beautiful macro photography of gnats, insects,  dragonflies, to featherlight photos of birds and water fowl, to richly-textured images of otter and moose you can practically feel.  Then a beautifully solemn one about what happens to the trees beavers kill by flooding. (Showing excellent homes for a variety of woodpeckers, wood duck and blue heron). And finally a chapter on the pond’s “afterlife”, what happens when the pond silts up and beavers move on, as the flora take over and the fauna shift accordingly with the flourishing nutrient exchange. Honestly, I was almost in tears through these sections, feeling that they showed better than I ever could hope to explain how powerfully beavers impact biodiversity.

(I wanted to sit every contractor,  public works crew, and politician down at the table and force them to look at every page. But that’s just me.)

190318-57321_ContentUnlike this website, Runtz doesn’t “preach” the beaver gospel. He simply shows it and waits for readers to get the message. There is a short section covering beaver baffles,  which is the Canadian flow device that has had good success. He doesn’t talk about the beaver deceiver or its offspring, but I was happy to see him acknowledge problems and explain their solution. A memorable passage describes the anticipation of sitting at a beaver pond before dawn and listening as it comes to life, comparing it to hearing a truly impressive symphony warm up in the darkness before a performance.

With over 200 pages containing stunning photos from one end to the other, this is a book you will look at again and again. I anticipated and missed a forward from some smart researcher like Glynnis Hood or Dietland Muller-Swarze, talking about why his photos are invaluable, but maybe this book isn’t trying to prove that beavers have value. It just shows you that they’re ‘worth a dam’ without ever saying it.

I was especially struck by the final paragraph, when he comments on how children’s minds would be enlivened by a beaver pond, if they could just put down their electronics long enough to get there. It made me think of these 100+ year-old words from my hero Enos Mills in his last chapter of “In Beaver World” where he calls beaver “the original conservationist”.

The works of the beaver have ever interested, the human mind. Beaver work may do for children what schools, sermons, companions and even home sometimes fail to do, – develop the power to think. No boy or girl can become intimately acquainted with the ways and works of these primitive folk without having the eyes of observation opened, and acquiring a permanent interest in the wide world in which we live.

The American version of this unforgettable book won’t be available until (hopefully) mid-september. If you can’t wait, there will be two copies available in the silent auction at our beaver festival. As far as I know they will be the only two copies on American soil in the entire country. I’m guessing that they will be very popular items, so get ready for the bidding war.

In Beaver Wake

Posted by heidi08 On July - 9 - 20151 COMMENT

UPDATE: 10:30 – Napatopia’s fish and Wildlife spoke with the CDFW  lab investgations unit who does want a necropsy but wants the experts at UCD to do it. She told me to get water samples with the creek. And they would cover costs. So Jean’s picking up the kit now, jon got samples and we’ll leave move things to UCD capable hands. More later.


Nae man can tether time nor tide 
Robert Burns

The critical tide that ravaged the beaver habitat last night in Alhambra Creek came with awful word that another kit was sick. This one was picked up in beaver park a little after five, where he climbed up staggering. An unknown kindly soul took the beaver to Lindsay which was standing by since we had gotten a tip earlier. The kit was so weak he was easily picked up and handled as you can see in the photos here from an onlooker’s cell phone.

kitwatchThis morning Lindsay will find out if Fish and Game wants a necropsy, which they would handle themselves, or if we need to bring it to UC Davis and pay for it. Jean has nobly offered to drive the sad miles and take care of it if she can. Last night we had an unexpected beaver wake at the water’s edge, Cheryl, Lory, Jon and myself watching to see what others survived. Moses came down for a while. We saw healthy two year olds and Junior, and maybe dad, but no sign of kits or mom. Meanwhile the tide covered the old dam, the bank, the walls, making our familiar pond seem suddely strange and menacing.

We were a somber group.

Later that night I thought of how happy we were to have four kits such a short time ago, and what a freakish blessing it had seemed.  I thought of the distance we had traveled from giddy delight to grim realism to panic.  And I thought of our lovely beavers and how much hope and joy they had given us over the years.

I have written everyone I can think of asking for help. Maybe you can think of some others.

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