Archive for the ‘Beaver Behavior’ Category

Beaver Steals Booze

Posted by heidi08 On April - 10 - 2014Comments Off

‘Beaver’ tries to steal drink from nightclub, doesn’t do very well. The hunt is on for the Swansea beaver

(Picture: Oceana Swansea / Facebook)

Criminal mastermind this person is not. The fancy dress costume-wearing individual was captured on a nightclub’s CCTV after leaning over the bar and grabbing a bottle before making a run for it.

Unfortunately he or she only managed to escape with a bottle of blackcurrant squash worth about 60p.

For video of the escape visit here. Would a beaver steel alcohol? Not until there’s a vodka made of fermented willow!


business cardsWhen I went to the salmon conference, I brought along the new wooden business cards a friend had made for me at NightOwl Paper Goods. They were a dramatic hit and everyone was scrambling for the information to buy their own. I thought I would mention this good news to the owners of the company while unobtrusively asking for a donation to the silent auction at this years’ beaver festival. She wrote this morning with the good news!

CaptureThank you so much for your very sweet email! We appreciate your referrals tons! We’re happy to hear that your cards have been a hit and we’d be delighted to send some goodies your way for the auction.  They’ll be on the way to you shortly.

 Have a hoot at the festival!


If you’ve never seen their adorable works of art, go give yourself a treat. Thanks NightOwl!

The Straight Poop

Posted by heidi08 On April - 2 - 2014Comments Off

1969372_10152316021783276_2013453920_nPaul Scott of the free Tay beaver group found this on the bank under a willow and happily brought it home to share. Because it was dry when he found it there has been a lot of discussion on its origins. He explained that the river in question has great fluctuations so it’s possible it was ‘exited’ under water and just dried out when the level dropped. Bruce Thompson (respected environmental consultant at ecoTRACS in Wyoming) had this to say about it:

“The usual diagnostics — shape, color, texture, size and location — appear correct for Castor, although I cannot discern what that larger light-colored content is — a leaf? The late and great Olaus Murie refused to claim 100% certainty with scat ID unless he personally saw it exit — I love that man! — but using the process of elimination (sorry) to remove other competing identities (at least in North America), and based on past collections of Castor canadensis specimens, I’m better than 90% confident that it’s beaver.”

Obviously we’re not talking North America here. And since this is Scotland its from Castor Fiber, not Castor Canadensis, but I don’t think they look all that different.  Paul explained the ‘leaf’ saying

Was fairly confident of what it was when I first spotted it but it’s always nice to have it confirmed. The small leaf shaped object is fragment of wood which still shows the tooth groove down the middle. The 3ft mentioned in the original post is actually 3ft above the water as opposed to inland. The scat was found on the top of a horizontal Willow trunk, so could have been dropped there by a Fox or a Heron who picked it up thinking it was something tasty. The area is also prone to sever fluctuations in water level, so the original deposit could well have been made in water given that the high level would have submerged the spot. Two other samples were found a few feet away in a beaver dug canal but would have instantly disintegrated had they been handled. Sadly, I’ve been searching for a good example for a few years now. Happily, I can stop now.

And before you question what kind of man looks for beaver poo and happily saves it in tupperware, remember that it could easily be the first wild beaver poo collected from the county in 400 years, and maybe that will explain the fascination. Remember, that beavers were extinct for a long, long time in the United Kingdom.Would you take home dinosaur poo?

Like all beavers in Scotland, this one clearly has a very high castor-fiber diet!


Oh and Owyhee in Nevada (not too far from the Elko River where Carol Evans of the BLM has documented compelling beaver magic)  congratulates this years’ winners of the science fair, in which students Richard Pete and Indira Modesto took third place for “Beaver Pond Ecology.”

To which I can only reply: “Third?”

From the “say anything” beaver files…

Posted by heidi08 On March - 30 - 2014Comments Off

There were no news stories this morning about beaver so I went surfing the internet(s). I found a very inviting looking blog called “Natural Wild Life” and thought I’d settle in for a nice read about beavers with this lead photo. Wow, was I in for a surprise! The photos and content get even more surprising farther down the page.

Natural Wild Life | Beaver | The beaver (genus Castor) is a primarily nocturnal, large, semi-aquatic rodent. Beavers are most well known for their distinctive home-building that can be seen in rivers and streams. The beavers dam is built from twigs, sticks, leaves and mud and are surprisingly strong. Here the beavers can catch their fish and swim in the water.


I’ll grant that there are plenty of people taking up space on the planet that learned from some cartoon that beavers live in the dam. But how many will say aloud that they catch fish? Or write about  it on a nature website which they have maintained for 3 years? I wonder if all the other articles are as interesting. This a good opportunity to revisit an old post on beaver myths. There are several posts on the subject – but this has to be my favorite. It’s from July 2008, (which reminds us all that I have been doing this for a dam long time).

Beaver myths throughout the ages

Quia cum vena torem se insequentem conovit, morsu testiculos sibi abscidit, et in faciem vena toris eos proicit et sic fugiens evadit

Turns out that complete misunderstanding of beaver behavior is nothing new. In fact the poor beaver has been miserably misunderstood since the middle ages and beyond. The above auspicious slander is taken from the Aberdeen Bestiary, which is a work documenting real and fictional creatures and their moral significance.The Bestiary goes back as far as the fourth century, although the addition of European animals like the beaver were added later.

To be fair, the bestiary was never intended as a “National Geographic of the Middle Ages”. It was a religious rather than a zoological text. But its pernicious misrepresentation of beavers lasted woefully to the Victorian era. Read for yourself:

Of the beaver There is an animal called the beaver, which is extremely gentle; its testicles are are highly suitable for medicine. Physiologus says of it that, when it knows that a hunter is pursuing it, it bites off its testicles and throws them in the hunter’s face and, taking flight, escapes.

So the story goes that the beaver is hunted for its castorum and decides to bite off its own testicles and throw them to the hunter rather than be killed. Check out the illustration of the same: (Yes that longlegged dog-looking thing is supposed to be a beaver)

This all comes about from mistaken entomology in which it is assumed that the beavers latin name (castor) is related to the root of castrate, and whimsy just takes over from there. The misconnection is untangled here.

Now I don’t know much about bestiaries and the middle ages, but I can only assume that every male of every species that has ever existed is partial to his own testicles and therefore unlikely to sacrifice them in favor of a protected aquatic life. I can’t fathom that anyone ever believed this, and can’t believe that it is quoted all the way up to 2008. Still the story served a particular need of a society that wanted to benefit from castoreum and fur and didn’t much care about accuracy. People were able to ignore their own perceptions and experience of the world in order to see the impossible story that fit their needs.

I sure am glad that doesn’t happen any more.

Oh and the blog post also says the Canadian beaver is the “most common” which makes me very curious indeed. What other beavers might there be in his neighborhood? As far as I know there are three species of beavers in the entire world, one basically extinct in Mongolia, castor Fiber in Europe and Castor Canadensis in North America.  I’d love to hear about the other ones the author is familiar with.

Alberta and Saskatchewan have at least two of the smartest beaver researchers in the world, massive collective beaver intelligence, and easily the most beaver-dissertations generated anywhere. Still they hate beavers with a fiery passion. I’m not sure why. Maybe there was a nasty voyageur incident in their past. But Dr. Hood can prove that beavers dams are the only areas that have water during drought, Dr. Westbrook can prove that beaver dams are the only areas that don’t flood in heavy storms, and a student can film beavers tap dancing to the hallelujah chorus, and it doesn’t matter. Alberta and Saskatchewan still hate beavers.

 Look to the beaver for flood prevention

When the rain hit Kananaskis Country, Alta., last June, unleashing a torrent of water and flooding dozens of communities, it washed out a large beaver dam being monitored down in the valley.

 But several others remained intact and even stored water.

 ”For the majority of the event, we actually had a lot of storage in the system,” said Cherie Westbrook, an associate professor in wetland ecohydrology at the University of Saskatchewan who’s been studying beavers in the Sibbald area of Kananaskis since 2006. “There was actually quite a lot of ability to retain the flood waters and slow them down as they were moving down the valley bottom.”

 Her team, including some university students, ended up getting trapped in the field when the deluge hit. But they learned a lot about how beavers could help in a flood.

 ”Beaver ponds were pretty empty prior to the event happening,” Westbrook said. “The larger one, the one most downstream, became overwhelmed with water and it ended up blowing a 10-metre section of it out so we had some flooding, but not massive flooding.” Flooding was much worse in other southern Alberta areas, making the 2013 event the worst natural disaster in Canadian history.

 Oh my goodness, the area  has been the site of research that proves beavers mitigate flooding AND drought. Hmm, the two things that we know will happen as our climate changes. I wonder if they’ll start to look at beaver differently – this multipurpose solution with paws. Will there be “Come to beavers” meeting soon?

Don’t hold your breath.

As the Alberta government looks at ways to mitigate against future floods, focusing on infrastructure such as diversion canals and dry dams, scientists suggest the province should also consider nature’s top engineer: the beaver.

 But Nikki Booth, a spokeswoman for Alberta Environment, says the province isn’t considering any natural solutions.

 ”We’ve been focused on flood mitigation through infrastructure,” she said. “The nature piece and beavers specifically have not come up.”

No No No, says the minister of the environment. We don’t need beavers. We need bigger drains! Wider gutters! More concrete! Beavers are icky.

I’m starting to think we don’t need any more scientists or research to prove that beavers are good for water or salmon or birds. It’s been done. Well done. Stick-a-fork-in-it done. What we need is more ‘convincers’. People who can change minds one argument at a time, neighbor by neighbor by neighbor, fisherman by fisherman, one service club after another.

What we need is  a million Worth A Dams.

Three restoration

A tail in two cities

Posted by heidi08 On March - 15 - 2014Comments Off

Okay, there’s some significant beaver challenge to talk about this morning from Maryland, but before we brace ourselves for that bitter pill, here’s some ambrosia to start our mission.

The Awesome Things These 6 Cities Are Doing for Wildlife

With little effort, conservationists argue, cities can provide habitat for birds, butterflies, pollinators, and other creatures great and small.

When conservationists worry about the prospect of a world without wildlife, they often focus on two related developments: the sprawling growth of crowded cities and suburbs and the push to farm more land, and farm it more intensively, to feed those cities. Together, these two forces have worn the natural world down to tattered remnants.

 So it may seem contradictory to suggest that cities can also be part of the solution. But conservationists, who used to focus on protecting landscapes that were pristine and full of wildlife, now often work instead to improve the margins—to make roadsides, backyards, idle fields, and working waterfronts wildlife-friendly. They argue that with a little effort, cities can provide habitat for birds, butterflies, pollinators, and other creatures great and small. According to this line of thinking, re-wilding the cities will be better not just for wildlife but for the cities. The idea is that the metropolis is a far richer place to live—more magical even—to the extent that it is also a zoopolis.

Really! A zoopolis! Imagine how he’d feel if he walked into our festival? And  wait until you see his favorite example:

(Photo: Robert McGouey/Getty Images)

My favorite case study is New York City’s Bronx River. For much of the rest of the 20th century, the Bronx River {was} a ruin of rusting bedsprings and junked cars, along with sewage and industrial pollution. But an extensive cleanup effort by the Bronx River Alliance and other groups has restored the eight-mile-long lower river, with turtles, alewives, glass eels, great blue herons, and other species back at home there. Beavers returned in 2007—after an absence of several hundred years. City programs now focus on making the river a source of green pleasure for neighboring residents, many of them, like my great-grandfather, immigrants.

 The restored habitat is providing homes for wildlife—but it’s no doubt also producing new stories to entertain children, and to be passed down for generations. That makes the city a much richer and more magical place for everyone.

Isn’t that lovely? Richard Conniff is the author of The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth, which has been talked about everywhere including the Smithsonian. He also maintains the blog “Strange Behaviors“. He may not realize it yet but he SO needs to visit Martinez. Thanks Richard for a great look at how cities can contribute.

Now it’s off to Maryland, where contributing to wildlife is the very LAST thing on their mind.

“What they’re doing is taking what has been a public park for 77 years and turning it into a wildlife preserve,” Baker said. “You don’t allow wildlife to proliferate in your backyard. Why would you allow it in a public park?”

Destruction wrought by beavers at Buddy Attick Park

Barbara Simon, 71, said she has lived in Greenbelt for almost her entire life. The destruction she has seen the last few months at Buddy Attick Park is unlike anything she’s witnessed in the city.

She wasn’t talk about unruly teenagers or environmentally careless residents. It’s beavers who are tearing into dozens of trees and collapsing them in their wake. Simon said she and her husband, Tom, walk around the park every day and are dismayed by damage they’ve seen.

 “We’ve always had a few beavers in years’ past,” Simon said, “but I don’t remember the beavers ever being this bad.”

Yes, those wanton detructo-beavers, ruthlessly chewing down trees just so they have something to eat in the winter months. I don’t know how you can stand it. Certainly it’s not like you can wrap the trees and protect them, or paint them with sand. Or wait for them to coppice. Or plant more.

She said they volunteered with the city’s Public Works department to put bands around trees. That may have protected some trees, but dozens — maybe a hundred — have been felled.

 City Administrator Michael McLaughlin said that last fall, the Department of Public Works met with Peter Bendel, a wildlife response manager for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, to evaluate the spike in beaver activity.

 According to a report provided to the City Council, Bendel said a second, younger beaver colony at the park is likely the cause of the increased activity — due both to its proximity to the first colony, which is unusual, and to the beavers’ inexperience.

Those young beaver thugs! Moving in and chewing everything in sight. Funny how the older beaver tolerate them, I mean because beaver are territorial and all and generally kick out anyone that’s not a family member…Ohhhh. You mean these young beaver are yearlings? Living a little apart on their own before seeking their own fortune? Exactly like ours do? And chewing more and bigger trees than they need because they are teenager who want to show off? Ohh that almost never always happens.

In February, volunteers and members of Greenbelt Public Works put wire fences around trees in beaver-threatened areas. Alex Palmer, a volunteer coordinator with the Greenbelt-based environmental nonprofit Chesapeake Education, Arts and Research Society, said approximately 250 trees were caged.

 Resident Justin Baker said the city needs to do more than place wire cages around trees. Baker declined to make any specific suggestions, but said the city needs to do something to curb the beavers’ appetites.

Force the beavers to go on a diet? How do you do that? Oh I get it. The LAST diet. The one where you never, ever eat food again, and you’re sure to loose weight every single day. Well, except for maybe the first 1 or 2 where you’re soggy from being trapped  underwater.

Maryland gets a letter.

Oh and speaking of wildlife preserves, Jon saw three beavers this morning and a little skunk in the annex so it seems a great time to re-post this.

Beaver Ecology Program in Minnesota?

Posted by heidi08 On March - 13 - 2014Comments Off

 Beaver ecology program at Elk’s Nature Center Saturday

 Join the Minneopa Area Naturalist Scott Kudelka for an interpretive program on Beaver Ecology at 1 p.m. March 15 the Elk’s Nature Center in Mankato’s Rasmussen Park.  This aquatic mammal spends a great amount of time in the water and has the ability to change its environment by building a dam on a river or stream. Humans are the only animal capable of doing this.

As the largest rodent in North America, the beaver has had a major effect on the continent’s history. In this program we will learn what makes this animal special and show off some of its unique characteristics by dressing one lucky person up as a beaver.

In addition, we will also cover the ecology of beavers and some of its physical adaptations.

Where’s the part about beavers restoring streams? And beavers helping fish? And beaver chewed trees coppicing to help birds? And macroinvertebrate biodiversity?  I’m assuming Minnesota knows the definition of the word ECOLOGY, right? As in the way different species affect and interact and affect each other? As in beavers are a KEYSTONE species that improve conditions for fish, birds, wildlife, and every species that needs fresh water. Websters tells me a second definition of ecology involves the political movement that seeks to protect the environment. But apparently in Minnesota, the state which pays to introduce trout by hand while ripping out beaver dams who “ruin the water by raising its temperature” Beaver ecology might mean a story like “Trapping opened the west and beavers have flat tails.”

Here’s what I said about Minnesota and beavers in May of last year:

There are beaver myths that I can argue again and again without losing my temper. There are misunderstandings where I can genuinely see that the right information will make things clearer. There are chuckle-worthy half-hearted attempts to confuse the masses that will unhappily crumble in the face of data. But the determined, malicious, and federally funded scatology arguing that beaver dams kill fish by raising pond temperatures I have NO patience for. Among other things, it is a transparent attempt to exonerate our damn pollutions by blaming the dam beaver instead!

The elk nature center was built in 1989 with a generous donation from the Elk Club in Mankato Minnesota. I’m guessing it has lots of programs about managing the land by trapping and fishing and not so many about trophic cascades. (Which is ostensibly okay because a barely graduated student squeaked out a column for the New York Times this week that said that bunk about wolves helping rivers is untrue. Obviously he has a promising career ahead of him at Exxon or Monsanto).

Okay, maybe I’m being unfair. After all, any program about beaver ecology in Minnesota is better than NO program about beaver ecology in Minnesota, right? And the instructor has a history of being a strong advocate for river health, which I can’t imagine ignores the benefits of beavers entirely. I wish I could be there in the front row to ask plenty of questions and helpfully point out the occasional nutria in his slide show.

(But don’t feel bad, Scott. I did that for Michael Pollock of NOAA and Dr. Chris Iverson  of USFS too. And I have a feeling I may  do it again, soon.)


The Best Letter to the Editor EVER!

Posted by heidi08 On March - 12 - 2014Comments Off

Beaver Uses Laptop

Hi. I’m a pair of beavers that came up a river to a side creek to start a family. First, we built a dam, then a small house. All kinds of animals and birds came to join us and start a family: trout, coon, ducks, mink, muskrats, frogs, mosquitos, etc. The bear and deer brought their little ones down from the mountain to get a drink and look for frogs.

When a letter starts like that, you know you’re in for a treat. In seven years of reviewing beaver news I can honestly say this particular point of view is a first. I wish I could find the author and give him a hug and a t-shirt. He is obviously a beaver friend of the first order.

We could handle trappers fairly well if they were careful where they set their traps and only trapped a few of us. Then our homes could stay for many years and we supported all this other wildlife. We strengthened our dams, added to our family and expanded wildlife for many years.

Now this is getting good, he’s not just a beaver advocate, he’s a management advocate. Look what follows.

Then, in my opinion, the state Department of Environmental Conservation had too many deer killed, especially in the 1960s. The deer herd has never recovered to what it used to be. Coyotes and fisher, etc., that live on winter-kill deer – deer that die from natural causes, such as old age – are forced to find other ways to eat. They have come into towns to eat cats and deer that people are feeding in town.

Well, well, well, I guess he’s not a coyote advocate then but nothing is perfect. I guess he likes beavers more than songdogs. Apparently he thinks beaver kits got eaten. I wonder if he saw it? Or if he’s just assuming? Enos Mills saw a beaver fight off a bobcat on two occasions and WIN!

A starving coyote came to our pond and laid in the bush all day waiting for our little ones to come ashore for food, but big beavers can fight them off and make it back to the water.

 To make a long story short: Our pond and wildlife was destroyed mostly from too many coyotes and lack of monitoring deer.  I wish the DEC and state rangers would conduct a better wildlife count in West Canada and check on places that have fewer beaver and deer.

 Maybe fish and game clubs could pass this around and see what they think. 


I’ll say it again. Being a beaver defender is a HARD job. It takes all my patience and persuasive powers and is filled with inherent disappointment. But as challenging and frustrating as it is, it is still slightly easier than standing up for coyotes.  (Or demanding to restore hetch hetchy for that matter). Those are worthy missions I do not envy in the slightest! I’m just glad whatever spirit tapped me to defend beavers didn’t demand I take on those jobs!

We have a few more donations to share. The first is an unexpected gift certificate for 75 dollars from ModCloth, an  online retailer specializing in vintage, vintage-inspired and indie clothing, accessories and decor. The company is headquartered in San Francisco’s South of Market District. Its founder, Susan Gregg Koger, is one of those dorm room to 100 million dollar entrepreneurs you sometimes hear about. I saw a very cute beaver-designed purse they offered and realized that since they were local it was worth asking. I got back a very generous response with recognition that we were doing something really good for the environment. If you’ve never checked out ModCloth you really should. They offer amazing fashions and unique items for the home that you just won’t find anywhere else.