Archive for the ‘Beaver Behavior’ Category

Beavers make Strange Bedfellows

Posted by heidi08 On July - 27 - 20142 COMMENTS

Let’s start with a word from duck hunters. Now everyone I’ve shared this with has reacted with a “let the ducks live” remark, but you have to realize the pragmatic value of articles like this. Right now we need ALL the beaver supporters we can muster, so if people let them be because they want more fish to catch or ducks to shoot, we should realize that they’re still allies. Beavers make strange bedfellows.

Ducks in Small Places

Matt Gnatkowski

 One of the best friends of hunters who like to hunt ducks in small places is the beaver. Industrious beavers create a lot of ponds and sloughs that make for perfect out-of-the-way duck habitat. Mallards, wood ducks and black ducks like using the flooded timber created by beavers. To find these duck hotspots you need to scout constantly. Keep track of where you see beaver activity during grouse hunting trips, during the bow or rifle deer seasons or when snowmobiling, and make it a point to visit them during the waterfowl season. If ducks aren’t using the ponds when you arrive, wait until evening. Many times the birds will be off feeding elsewhere and return to roost on the pond toward evening. The sky can be full of birds as the sun slips behind the horizon.

 Wildlife biologists can steer you toward areas that have high beaver numbers. Talk to hunters, trappers and anglers who might be able to lead you to beaver ponds. If practical, you might want to even rent an airplane for a short jaunt around areas of beaver activity to pinpoint ponds. Beavers can create a lot of small-water duck havens in a short period of time. Where there was only a trickle of water today can be a pond of several acres tomorrow. And it won’t take long for the ducks to find it.

Let’s face it. Duck hunters have more powerful friends then we do. They have magazines and sponsors and legislation and fawning politicians. And would it be so horrible if more duck hunters made the intuitive leap to realize that fewer beavers mean fewer ducks? No, it would not. I realized when I read Three Against the Wilderness that wise hunters and trappers could be among our best allies -  once they got the message. And in order for that to happen we need to stop being mortified enough to talk to them.

Consider this website de-mortification training.

(It’s a strange thing to be realizing in the same day that duck hunters help beavers and the Nature Conservancy kills them. But there it is. Life is full of surprises.)

On to Whidby Island in Washington State where so many folks are fond of beavers they don’t know what to do with them.

A beaver lodge sits at the southern edge of Miller Lake, about 30 yards from a beaver dam. Lake levels are on the rise, and along with other impacts, are raising concern among South Whidbey residents.
— image credit: Justin Burnett / The Record

 Whidbey’s beaver population: residents chew on problem, seek county help

 “When there’s nature and people, you have to come up with solutions,” Kay said.

 In some cases, however, beavers have won friends. A population at Miller Lake is credited with vastly expanding the lake, but also creating water views. For Bob Olin, the edge of his backyard that borders the lake was once dominated by poplar and willow trees. They are all now long gone.

 “There were 10,000 of them right out there,” said Olin, motioning to his backyard.  “No, I’m quite happy with the beaver,” he added.

 Jamie Hartley, critical areas planner for Island County, said county code defers to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for its guidelines. The state allows residents to shoot or relocate beavers as a last resort to other types of mitigations, including the installation of culverts or beaver deceivers.

Steve Erickson, with the Whidbey Environmental Action Network, said that shooting or trapping the occasional beaver is not going to really impact the population. However, farmers need to learn to deal with changing conditions and coexist with the beaver population.

 “The idea of a pretty farm where it’s all static and never going to change is a fantasy,” Erickson said. “People are going to need to change the way they are dealing with nature and work with it.”

 And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Washington is the most beaver-intelligent state in the nation – maybe world. Apropos of nothing, the beaver friendly Whiby website “Tidallife” has our website in their blogroll and it’s how we get a significant number of visitors every month.

Now back to Devon, where musician Adrian Forester has this to say about the River Otter beavers.

CaptureI’m trying a new spam filter on comments this morning, and it appears to be working. Every day we get about 20 comments that I have to weed through from spam-bots telling me to buy sexual aids or that my site could get more hits if I did X.

Help me try it out by leaving a comment, will you?

Saving beavers: A Change for the Better.

Posted by heidi08 On July - 25 - 2014Comments Off

Build the Beaver Deceiver

So the folks on the Feather River Land Trust have learned from Brock Dolman that there are many good reasons to live with beaver, and they’re aiming to do just that by raising funds to install a flow device on the Feather River. (They mistakenly call it a beaver deceiver, when the project isn’t intended to protect a culvert, but their efforts are laudable anyway.) I wrote that Worth A Dam would help with a scholarship for materials if they contacted us through the website, so we’ll see what happens.

Ranching and farming is a fundamental part of the Feather River Region–and we are working hard to keep it that way. But sometimes land management practices, like removing beaver dams (and trapping beaver!) don’t jive with current science. Recently, the Feather River Land Trust has found itself in this predicament. A busy beaver on one of our Outdoor Education sites has built a series of dams, creating great habitat and backing up the creek. But our downstream neighbor has some thirsty cattle and a backhoe…

This leads us to our project: help us build a beaver deceiver!

Speaking of beavers with sucessful homes, this is a heart-warming story from the beaver-luvin’ Aspen Wildlife Sanctuary

Westy and Prez – Aspen’s Manitoba beavers

So what do you do when a beaver in Manitoba needs a home? Call Aspen. [Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Ontario]

 At least that was the solution for a second time this year when no facility in the prairie province was equipped to house an orphaned beaver kit.

 Beaver kits must spend two years being cared for, mimicking the two years they would spend with their parents in the wild, in order to survive when released.

 Last year, a lonely kit was found on a Manitoba trail, umbilical cord still attached, and rescued. Eventually, through the generosity of President Air Charter, the kit was shuttled to Ontario and spent the winter at Aspen. Prez remains at Aspen, growing and thriving with another beaver kit, and will overwinter once again before returning to Manitoba for release.

Aspen is fortunate to be among few wildlife rehabilitation centres equipped to care for beaver kits for these two-year periods. Thanks to donors, we have a series of enclosed pools to accommodate a few each year. Of course, there are limits, and a more modern system of pools and pumps would allow staff and volunteers to care for a greater number of these fascinating animals, while spending less time on the daily emptying and refilling of their swimming tanks – a time-consuming task with our current system

Just remember that. It’s TWO years to rehabilitate a kit. Shorter periods are not a favor to anyone. And places that received adorable kits as orphans, and keep them alive for a few fund- raising photo shoots before sticking them in a zoo or abandoning them to their fate are NOT in my good graces.

Just sayin’.

Beaver Beatitudes

Posted by heidi08 On July - 21 - 20145 COMMENTS

Let’s start Monday right with some good news for a change. How about this story from Oregon of a culvert repaired to allow salmon passage. Don’t worry, it gets more interesting.

Easier migration for salmon in east Multnomah County’s Beaver Creek: $500,000 fix for troublesome culverts

A coho salmon nears the end of its life’s journey in the spawning gravel of Eagle Creek, a tributary of the Columbia River in Oregon. Salmon and steelhead trout have trouble reaching their historic spawning grounds in Beaver Creek because of a culvert that makes it difficult for fish to swim or jump upstream. (The Oregonian file photo)

Culverts are box- or pipe-shaped openings that roadbuilders install to allow streams to pass underneath, but often their configuration makes it difficult for fish to swim or jump upstream. Fish ladders built into culverts to help can break over the years.

Metro awarded the county a $579,500 Nature in Neighborhoods grant July 10 to replace a culvert under Cochran Road with a bridge, allowing fish to more easily reach areas upstream from Mt. Hood Community College’s Gresham campus.

Roy Iwai, the county’s water quality manager, said a variety of local government and nonprofit groups are working together to make the creek more hospitable to its 13 species of native fish.

The water upstream from the culverts also includes plenty of natural dams from the creek’s namesake beavers, but those are passable for fish and beaver ponds provide ideal rearing habitat for young coho salmon, Iwai said.

Ohhh Oregon! You are so much smarter than most. We are all inspired to see Mr. Iwai understanding the importance of beavers to salmon. From scientist to city worker, you know that beavers are Worth A Dam. It’s so impressive. California can only hope to get there one day. Well done Beaver State!

Now we’re moving East towards Montana where they are getting a bit smarter as well.

Animal Wonders is a fully licensed and insured educational outreach organization. We provide educational presentations with live exotic animals for schools, summer camps, community events, birthday parties, and other special occasions. We travel to your location with some of our very special animal ambassadors to teach about wildlife, conservation, and a love of nature.

As you may have guessed, I am not a huge fan of slick operations that bring live animals to elementary school auditoriums to teach them an “appreciation of Nature”. I think children (and animals) are better served when  we open our front doors and let them go see for themselves – say by standing on the footbridge and watching the Martinez Beavers. (Of course it helps if folks don’t kill everything that wanders into their town so there’s things to see.) But this video,  SciShow made by Animal Wonders (because the young people like those abbrevs). isn’t bad. In fact it doesn’t have one fact I disagree with.

Just two photos. (See if you can play “Spot the Nutria”.)

Well? Did you find them? I can only hope they bring the right animal for their costly presentations! I wrote them about the mistake and said if they re-edit to include how important beavers are to fish, water and birds, we will give them amazing photos of actual beavers for free! (If you’re still puzzled, look for stiff white whiskers and narrow eyes.)

Last night our kit was up early, and out at the secondary on his own for a while doing very beavery things. Several people got to see him, including visitors from Golden Gate Audubon that missed the Wednesday walk but wanted to see for themselves. Dad beaver even showed up to take the little one past the secondary and down to where he was chewing willow. He swam along side adorably and even rode on his back for moments. Then let Dad go on his own and came back upstream to forage.

We thought how heartening it is to see Dad be so nurturing after at least seven years of kits. Apparently he still feels paternal even after all these years and 20 youngsters.

Oh we also thought it was great to see the new kit embracing prohibition and rejecting the wicked influences of alcohol.

2014 baby

2014 Kit – Heidi Perryman

Goofus and Gallant – Beaver Version

Posted by heidi08 On July - 18 - 2014Comments Off

Do you remember those days at the dentist reading Highlights as a kid? There was a cartoon describing a boy who did things right, and one who got everything wrong? (Before you ask, there were no girls at all, because we obviously weren’t important enough to have moral development).

I couldn’t help but think of that looking at this mornings beaver news from Canada. Let’s start with Goofus from (where else) Saskatchewan.

Red Willow Run and the need for beaver management

A combination of excess rains and beaver dams letting go led to a large mass of water flowing through the Red Willow Run in the northeast of Moose Mountain Provincial Park territory, which affected not only parkland but farmland and roads further down the run in the R.M. of Wawken.

Weatherald says there used to be trappers in the area who dealt with beaver east of Hwy 9 for the park, but that beaver management in this area hasn’t been a priority lately. The trappers who used to work in this area are mostly too old for the work and younger generations are not picking it up, which seems to be a trend in trapping.

Not only are those poor trappers too old to work. They are obviously  too old to LEARN. Just a thousand miles west they are a a lot smarter about beaver management.

Trying to get along with neighbours

Not far from a spot where a beaver toppled a tree on to a power line, sparking a brush fire last summer, four volunteers work to ensure the industrious rodents can’t chew through another pine.

They’ve spent the morning behind a townhouse complex which abuts Kanaka Creek wrapping trees with wire to protect them from a family of beavers.

“Coexistence is the new strategy,” says Leslie Fox, the executive director of the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals.

 The “Fur Bearer Defenders” were called in after several trees nibbled by the semi-aquatic animals fell on to townhouses.

 Instead of calling a trapper, the strata opted for a more humane approach. “I think trapping’s days are numbered,” said Fox.  “One of the things we’ve noticed with trapping is the conflict it causes in the urban environment.

“What ends up happening is people’s pets get caught. It doesn’t solve the problem and it creates a danger for people who live near [the traps].”

But maybe you’re thinking, sure that’s fine for protecting trees. But what about the real problems beavers cause? Like flooding and blocked culverts?

Mission, like many other municipalities, had a long history of manually breaking apart dams, as well as trapping and killing beavers.

 But since last year, Mission has embraced methods that prevent beavers from building a dam in the first place.

 Besides tree cages and pipes in dams, Mission has also been building wire fences around culvert intakes, to interrupt the beavers’ natural instinct to build where there’s current and the sound of flowing water.

 Dale Vinnish, the public works operations supervisor told Black Press last year, the devices “work awesome.”

 “We don’t have to trap beavers. They moved elsewhere. They’re not causing a problem,” Vinnish said.

 The “beaver deceivers,” at $400-$600 apiece and built in one day, save the District of Mission thousands of dollars, because workers no longer have to pull apart dams.

 Previously, the municipality would break down two to three dams daily, several days a week, in addition to paying for the capturing and killing of about a dozen beavers annually.

And that’t the beaver version of Goofus and Gallant, which if you’re lucky is coming to a country near you soon. For our readers following along at home, which story do you like better? Who do you think is doing better  on the graph below?learning curve


Three New Obstacles to DEFRA’s Plan

Posted by heidi08 On July - 16 - 2014Comments Off


Wild beaver kits born in Devon’s River Otter

 A wild beaver which is due to be taken into captivity has given birth to three young. Two adult beavers, one juvenile and the three young, known as kits, are now believed to be living on the River Otter in Devon.

 The government had said the beavers would be rehomed, as they could be carrying a disease.

 But wildlife campaigners said they hoped to get permission for them to stay. Sightings of the animals in the River Otter were believed to be the first of their kind for centuries.

 What great timing! This whole escapade has a perfectly timed campaign-air to it. First make international news everywhere by getting a farmer to film beavers for the first time in centuries and then – just when DEFRA has argued that they need to be taken to the zoo, release video of the new KITS. Which will go viral very quickly. I can’t embed it but click on the photo to go to the BBC site and see for yourself.

I feel like this could mean something – not for DEFRA obviously because they’re soulless badger killers, but for the public campaign to tie DEFRA’s hands.  If I were an English beaver supporter I’d put this footage EVERYWHERE and install 5 more cameras to get more adorable glimpses into beaver life.

I think at the moment the scoreboard looks like this.


Seems DEFRA hasn’t forgotten it’s sinister lines yet…

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs said the animals could be carrying a disease “not currently present in the UK”.

 ”We are taking precautionary action by testing the beavers,” a spokesman said.

 ”This will be done with their welfare in mind.”

 He added the department would wait until the kits were a suitable age before testing them.

Ask the Experts

Posted by heidi08 On July - 9 - 20141 COMMENT

Beaver proves to be nuisance neighbour for Bathurst-area man

Hazen McCrea wants the province to deal with beaver dam blocking a culvert for fears of flooding

Beaver dam blocks culvert by Hazen McCrea’s home

A beaver dam is blocking the culvert that drains Hazen McCrea’s property and he’s worried about flooding if the provincial government doesn’t do something to help. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

The structure is starting to interfere with proper drainage of the 81-hectare property and if the beaver continues construction, McCrea worries about where all the water will go.

A beaver dam is blocking the culvert that drains Hazen McCrea’s property and he’s worried about flooding if the provincial government doesn’t do something to help. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

But he says every time he calls the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, he gets the run around.

Department officials told CBC News the beaver dam is not in the department’s right-of-way and suggested contacting the Department of Natural Resources.

New Brunswick is on the other side of Maine located about 500 miles from the inventor of the beaver deceiver which protects culverts (Skip Lisle in Vermont).  I’m not clear why New Brunswick is so totally unprepared for beavers, except that its very near PEI which is NOTORIOUS in dealing with beavers. Maybe all that helplessness and beaver stupid  floated in with the tides?

anne-trapping(Indulgent aside: This is one of my first and favorite graphics in the history of my beaver life. I couldn’t find it at first in my files – but no worries. I just googled PEI Beavers and it was the first image that came up.

Hahaha. I must be very popular in the region.)

beaver taking bath

Lory sent this photo the other day and it deserves our adoring attention. It also reminds us that it’s kit season and well-meaning rehabbers from  Calgary to Kentucky are inheriting the orphaned beavers of a trap-happy world. It turns out taking care of kits is a lot more complicated than most people realize. I do all I can to funnel information to our good friend and adviser Cher Button-Dobmeier of the Abbe-freeland Animal Sanctuary. She has rehabbed thousands of beavers and realizes the mistakes folks are most likely to make.


Cheryl and I have been begging her to write something for the rehab section, but she is resistant. “Every kit is different” she says. “And I don’t want people to feel like they are confident in what to do. I want people to ASK and keep asking, so that we can spot the problems before they become un-fixably fatal.”

It’s hard to argue with that.

Cher Button-Dobmeier, Director
Abbe-Freeland Animal Sanctuary, Inc.
8104 Terwilliger Rd.
Angelica, NY 14709

Muskrat love?

Posted by heidi08 On July - 8 - 2014Comments Off

Mary Sonis: Muskrat love: An expose

The muskrat is a prolific water rodent that can be found in most slow creeks and ponds throughout North America. Romance in early spring is not characterized by candlelight and dancing (and yes, those are actual lyrics) but by the bloodbath that occurs between males fighting for territory and breeding rights.

 Muskrats are feisty, and will often fight to the death before breeding begins. Generally, the females are not involved in this fray, but they do wander the pond in breeding season, emitting small squeaks that advertise their availability. Once the female has found a mate, it is a fairly monogamous relationship, and she will often produce as many as three litters in a season. A typical litter will average six kits, primarily cared for by their mother. She raises them in a den that is a loosely built mound of grasses set high to avoid spring floods.

This is a cute article about an oft-overlooked species, but I’m not sure about the word bloodbath? We haven’t seen tons of suffering males in our creek? I remember one muskrat years ago that looked like it had a bight taken out of its side, but the teeth marks were way bigger than a muskrat. More like dog.

Blood bath?

The coolest footage I ever saw of a muskrat was on Moses’ camera. A mated pair  worked together to chase a hungry mink away from their nest. Muskrats at war, popping up out of the water all over squeaking furiously until that mink threw in the towel and swam away! It was so brave!

Of course in 8 years of observation I’ve  admittedly never seen this….

It is a disaster for any photographer when a muskrat appears on the scene. Ever alert, the muskrat will thwack its tail on the water, darting in circles of alarm, causing all nearby wildlife to flee.

What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just enjoy a nice cheerful muskrat article without thinking the author is insane? Or mixing up species? Of course I went looking for more references to muskrats sounding the alarm by smacking their tails. Maybe they’re just lazy in Martinez? What do I know? You can guess how many other references I found to these muskrat security services. It’s a round number.

Well, I did find this one from Harper’s magazine in 1919 by Walter Pritchard Eaton called “Little folks who gnaw”. Which is also a cute article. And similarly colorful.

CaptureAnd there you have it. This clearly happened once upon a time 100 years ago, maybe her bloodthirsty muskrats are just behind the times? Rip Van Muskrat?

Or maybe I’m just wrong and missing something. It happens. Write me your own sightings of muskrat tail-thumping and set me straight? Footage would be awesome. I know beaver and muskrats learn a lot from each other.

One last complaint: who in their right mind would name this adorable baby “pickles”?

Pickles the beaver is one of many wildlife orphans who has been helped by Critter Care wildlife rehabilitation centre in South Langley. The organization holds its annual open house on Saturday and Sunday.
— image credit: Contributed photo