Archive for the ‘Beaver Behavior’ Category

‘Roll that Keystone Away’

Posted by heidi08 On June - 18 - 2016Comments Off on ‘Roll that Keystone Away’

Sad news yesterday in the field of ecology. Robert Paine passed away at the age of 83. If you don’t know why it matters, Paine was the one whose research originally coined the term “KEYSTONE SPECIES” in the late 60’s. Our friend the beaver would be called this without him! Thanks Robin of Napa for sending the article. I can only wonder what our bracelets would have looked like without him!

Bob Paine, ecologist who identified ‘keystone’ species, dies at 83

Bob Paine, an ecologist who conducted seminal experiments along the coast of Washington state in the 1960s, pulling starfish from the rocks and tossing them back into the ocean to demonstrate the consequences of disrupting an ecosystem with the removal of a single “keystone” species, died June 13 at a hospital in Seattle. He was 83.

Dr. Paine was regarded as one of the most significant ecologists of his era, a scientific ad­ven­turer who trekked across wave­-battered shores of the Pacific Northwest to observe, document and explain the forces that govern and sometimes upset the complex network of creatures in an ecosystem.

His concept of “keystone” species, named after the stone at the apex of an arch that supports the other blocks in the structure, refers most strictly to predators such as sea otters, wolves and lions with outsize influence on their communities. A groundbreaking idea when Dr. Paine introduced it in the late 1960s, the “keystone” species is today a fundamental of ecology textbooks.

Dr. Paine published his findings of the event, which he called a “trophic cascade,” in a now-classic article in the journal the American Naturalist, “Food Web Complexity and Species Diversity” (1966). Three years later, he introduced “keystone” species as an ecological term.

I actually had no idea that the concept of ‘trophic cascades‘ came first and from the same bright mind. Nearly everyone I meet trained recently goes out of there way to explain that the term ‘keystone species’ isn’t used much anymore and the field is more interested in ‘trophes’. Which, as it turns out, are all courtesy of Dr. Paine. Thank you so much for showing us the world and teaching us how it works!

Now I know we’re all feeling the burden of kit-season-without-kits of our own for the first time in a decade. So I thought I’d share a little Mountain House comfort with you for cheer. Caitlin was surprised that the beaver kit was out early an braver than his family, all of which Martinez has come to understand well over the years.


Godot Beaver

Posted by heidi08 On June - 17 - 2016Comments Off on Godot Beaver

Day four of “Project Habituation” and as predicted it was the most successful yet. Two beavers and several visits by dad working on the lodge. Even mom was seen (larger) shaking her head and feeding. Nothing while it was bright enough to film so mostly we were eagerly watching a bunch of this:

But still. Much better than the start and I’m sure if the project had days 5,6, and 7 we’d be happier still. Dream on! I’m just lucky I got Jon to ever agree to this brief insanity and won’t push my luck.


We were still thinking about our slow improvements and micro-curve of success when Rusty Cohn’s photos arrived from last night. Of course beavers, and of course beautiful. Talk about the grass being greener! Still scratching his mosquito bites and hunched from lack of sleep Jon cursed at the computer screen before grumbling back to bed.

“fuckingnapa fuckingtopia!

In addition to the enviable beaver photos, I particularly like that capture of the green heron doing his odd neck stretch. The birds are so twisted and stump-necked I never would have thought it possible if I hadn’t seen this a few years ago.  Apparently beaver ponds are the gift that keep on giving.

This just in: Swamps teaming with life! Who knew?

Posted by heidi08 On April - 30 - 2016Comments Off on This just in: Swamps teaming with life! Who knew?

Apart from everyone who’d ever been outside, ever, I mean. Still it’s nice to read some appreciation even if no one understand who to thank.

Dave Wolf: Wetlands are a draw for various wildlife

When I was a young man, we called them swamps.  It’s where cottontails often headed when being chased by our beagles. Years later when I moved to Potter County, they continued to be referred to as swamps. However, when I worked with the Planning Commission on zoning projects, the word “wetlands” came into play.

More new words followed, such as flood zones and flood insurance, after a few horrendous hurricanes. Today, planners struggle to keep buildings off of those old swamps. Both commercial and private housing developments are brought before planners, and unfortunately those swamps are filled in with rock and dirt.

As we learn more about wetlands, we realize they are extremely beneficial to both man and wildlife. Wetlands act as a sponge, and filter out all those impurities that would flow into our streams, rivers, bays and beyond.

But wildlife thrives in what we would consider harsh environments. I had my best day of photography in years when I visited a nearby “swamp.” In four hours, I photographed a female mallard and her ducklings, Canada geese parents and their young, a half dozen wood duck pairs, green and blue winged teal, and a good number of great egrets.

I was smiling from ear to ear, thinking, what else could I possibly see? I missed getting a good shot of a muskrat that swam by, but I spotted something in the reeds across from me. I was totally shocked to see one huge beaver! To make matters better, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw a young beaver swimming toward me. Now, I was nearly trembling.

Now you can guess exactly what I was thinking when I saw this photo, and it starts with an ‘m’ and ends with a ‘t’. I wrote Dave this morning about my thoughts and he wrote back ASSURING me that it was a beaver, and when I pressed said that he got a look at the tail.  I remain censorious. My doubts can be summed up with three points.

  1. face looks little like and pinched like a muskrat
  2. fur is sooo dark and wet. Beaver fur is better groomed and almost always dryer,
  3. The bottom of this animal rides low in water.

Also this article is from Harrisburg PA and it is wayyyy to early for that region to have young beaver.  It is wayy to early for US to have a young beaver, but what do I know? We are still VERY HAPPY that he takes joy in a wetland and appreciates the wildlife it holds. For those of you wanting a refresher course on telling beaver and muskrat apart, here’s the beginners and the advanced course.

Here’s something very exciting jon photographed yesterday morning. This is far down stream, almost to the train bridge. I’m absolutely certain its not a muskrat making this:


New website and old complaints

Posted by heidi08 On April - 29 - 20162 COMMENTS

From the ridiculous to the sublime. Let’s start the day with the appropriate mocking of Mr.  Settlemeyer of Bladen County North Carolina. And believe me, his complaint is a doozy.

Carver’s Creek running over with beavers

Settlemeyer said when he first saw beavers on his land back in the 1970’s he thought the critters were kind of cool. “The first time I saw a beaver I said, ‘Oh man this is wonderful, we got beavers!’” Settlemeyer said.

But that opinion quickly changed when he said the rodents took over. In fact, Settlemeyer said if he were to guess he’d say there are about 200 of them on his property. “It’s good for the ducks, good for the turtles, but it’s not good for your timber,” Settlemeyer said.

He said some of his roads have been washed away because beaver dams prevent water from flowing the way it naturally would. He said there is little he can do to stop them.

“Back before 9/11 we could go buy dynamite. We dynamited the beavers. We’ve got heavy equipment and dug the dams out, we’ve trapped, we’ve shot them, but they’re so prolific we’re not gaining any ground,” Settlemeyer said. “It’s an aggravating problem. They’re like fire ants and coyotes, they’re here to stay. I don’t know what kind of alternative we have.”

He said almost every stream in the Carver’s Creek community has a beaver dam in it and it’s causing big changes to the ecology of the area.

Just for clarification, Bladen county is in the lower right corner of the state with 874 sq miles of land and 13 sq miles of water. Even assuming his property runs that entire length of the creek, and allowing 7 beavers to a colony, he is alleging he has  a beaver family every .15 miles of water, which, if it were true, would deserve a federally funded research project and a documentary. It is far more likely that he found 10 dams on is land and just calculated in his folksy way that there were about 20 beavers to a dam, don’t you think?

Love the part where he blames 9/11 for keeping him from blowing them up though. I guess they’re right, every great tragedy still has a silver lining.

On to the sublime. Let’s welcome our friends at Sierra Wildlife Coalition to the beaver website neighborhood! They just launched a very lovely new sight with excellent info and Sheri Hartstein’s fantastic photos. Take them for a test drive and enjoy the view. Click below to visit their site and help them establish some links, but don’t get so dazzled you forget who sent you there. (Remember to notice who is listed as the FIRST resource on their contact page.) Ahem.




Fit for a Prince [Island]

Posted by heidi08 On April - 6 - 20162 COMMENTS

Prince Island in Calgary AB Canada sits smack in the middle of the Bow river which starts in the Rockies and ultimately empties in the Hudson Bay. It is a treasured slice of nature in the middle of the city and the site of many festivals and events. It also a roadstop along the highway for many a dispersing beaver when winter thaws enough to let them be on their way. In 2013 the area suffered such dramatic flooding that no one was worrying about beavers. Now, they have found the time.

Beavers causing Calgary tree troubles

“We’re trying to determine how many are out there,” said Tanya Hope, parks ecologist with the City of Calgary. What has definitely changed as a result of the 2013 flood is how Calgary’s rivers flow and where the beavers are congregating as a result of fast and slow sections of the Bow and Elbow.

This year, wildlife experts say the water-loving animals are far more concentrated than before, and appear to be hoarding themselves in different areas of the city than before the flood, which basically wiped the river map clean. “The lodges are much closer and they seem to be clumping together,” said Hope.

“On Prince’s Island, for example, where we used to have just one beaver lodge we now have three.” That means up to 18 beavers — including adults, older offspring and kits — can potentially be found gnawing down trees in the area.

That’s a lot of teeth — and because many of the areas impacted have no prior history of beavers, there’s no wire in place to protect the trees from this post-flood population, which if its anything like the beaver community prior to 2013, could number in the 200 range.

The result is extensive devastation, with reports being filed with Calgary 311 of up to 20 and 30 trees being felled in a given area.

So they think all that flooding flooded the beaver population too, because now new lodges are cropping up everywhere and more trees are getting eaten. I mean supposedly more. I haven’t seen an actual graph of how many trees usually get felled in the spring. (I mean these are government employees, they could do that.) But the article begs the question, does flooding make beavers breed more, or tolerate neighbors more?

Dr. Science says ‘no’.

Then how do you explain the new lodges? Appearing in clusters around the river. Apparently there used to be just one on the island and now there are three!

Dr. Science crosses his legs and gets ready for a long answer.  “New lodges don’t mean new beavers.” He explains. “Just because a new lodge appears doesn’t mean a new family has moved in. Just like a new home on the block doesn’t mean the neighborhood has increased. Families move from one home to another just like humans do. Especially after huge flooding events that can fill a lodge with mud or parasites. Also, teenagers  sometimes build ‘frat houses’ where they can live on their own but still close enough to mom and dad to get rescued when they need it.”

In the bad old days, the city might have tried to protect the trees by eradicating the buck-toothed pests, but in this enlightened age, Calgary does what it can to live with the animals, destructive trapping being a last resort for forests in danger of being ruined forever.

Beavers are now understood to be a healthy part of an ecosystem, and their activities can help humans too — such as the dam at Prince’s lsland, that helped protect a storm water pond from being swept away during the big flood.

Instead of a beaver cull, trees are wrapped with wire, pipes are built under known dams so the city doesn’t have to knock them down, and Calgary is currently testing a new beaver-deterrent spray that can be applied to a lot of trees in a very short time.

And on Tuesday, the city released a video for private property owners along the rivers, showing them how to wrap their trees to prevent loss to the roving rodents, which include so-called “transient beavers” which are just passing through the city via the rivers.

To keep the beavers from starving, the city only protects 80% of trees in a healthy forest, leaving easily replaced and regrown timber for food and rodent construction projects. Those landscape-altering endeavours are what made Hope go from just studying Calgary’s beaver population, to really admiring the animals for their cleverness and ingenuity.

“I think beavers are amazing, and they are the only species apart from humans that can completely change the landscape around them,” she said.

“We definitely want to work to keep them here in Calgary.”

smileagainDr. Science is happy about that.

It’s all fun and games until somebody loses a beaver

Posted by heidi08 On April - 2 - 2016Comments Off on It’s all fun and games until somebody loses a beaver

LEAVE IT TO BEAVER – St. Albert resident and owner of Mission: Fun and Games John Engel had a run-in with a beaver late Tuesday night, which sent him to the hospital for stitches.

Beaver versus bike

After a long day at Mission: Fun and Games, Engel was cycling home along his usual route on the Red Willow Trail system. He reached the underpass for the Perron Street bridge around 11:30 p.m. when something bolted out of the shadows and across his path.

“It was under my tire almost immediately,” said Engel.

The wheel went left; Engel went right, falling hard on his elbow.

Cursing, the business owner spotted a large dark mammal on the pavement next to him. It was that bucktooth symbol of Canadiana – the beaver – that had wedged itself under the front tire of Engel’s bike.

Stunned, Engel watched the animal pick itself up, and once again bolt – this time down the embankment and into the Sturgeon.

“I heard the splash into the river and I knew it must have been a beaver,” he said. It appeared unhurt as it swam away.

When he went to check in at the Sturgeon Hospital’s emergency department, he told the triage nurse that he had a collision with a beaver on his bike.

The nurse turned to Engel’s wife with a smile: “What did he say?”

“A beaver,” said his wife.

The triage nurse then asked Engel if he’d been drinking or if he was taking any medication.


It’s not bad enough that dispersing beavers have to contend with cars, mounties and drunken Belarusians trying to pick them up for a photo,  now they have to worry about the whizzing cyclists too! I guess if you’re biking home beside a waterway, you should keep the potential for a beaver collision somewhere in mind.  Which reminds me, Jon crossed paths with Bob Rust (maker of the wattle beaver, the giant inflatable beaver, and other wild inspirations) and he’s working on a beaver-cycle for this years festival.

I can’t even imagine.

beaver bike

www: Wetlands Work Wonders

Posted by heidi08 On March - 17 - 2016Comments Off on www: Wetlands Work Wonders

beaver physWetland enhancement in Midwest could help reduce catastrophic floods of the future .

According to a new study from Oregon State University, restoration of wetlands in the Midwest has the potential to significantly reduce peak river flows during floods—not only now, but also in the future if heavy rains continue to increase in intensity.

Wetland restoration could also provide a small step toward a hydrologic regime in this region that more closely resembles its historic nature, before roads and cities were constructed, forests were lost, and millions of acres tile-drained to increase agricultural production.

An evaluation of potential wetlands in one watershed in central Indiana found that if just 1.5 percent of the land were used for wetlands, the peak flow of the overall watershed could be reduced by up to 17.5 percent. Also of importance, researchers said, is that expansion of wetlands appears to provide significant benefits across a wide range of possible climate scenarios. The study was published in Ecological Engineering, in work supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“Flood management in the Midwest is now almost entirely concentrated on use of dams and levees,” said Meghna Babbar-Sebens, an assistant professor of civil engineering in the College of Engineering, and the Eric H.I. and Janice Hoffman Faculty Scholar at OSU.

reading beaver“Wetland construction or restoration could provide a natural and ecological option to help with flood concerns, and serve as an additional tool for flood management. Greater investments in this approach, or similar approaches that increase storage of water in the upper landscape of a watershed, should be seriously considered.”


What was that? More wetlands in the midwest could reduce flooding and improve water quality? Get out! If only there was some crazy way the farmers could have those wetlands for free – providing a buffer for their crops and absorbing all those harmful nitrates. The article says there isn’t much funding for wetland restoration. Isn’t there anyway this could get done without a lot of money?

Wetlands help reduce some of these flooding problems by storing water away from stream channels and releasing it more slowly, while also improving water quality and providing wildlife habitat. Other studies have shown that wetland construction in the Mississippi-Ohio-Missouri river basins could also significantly reduce nitrogen loads in the rivers, which has led to an enormous “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico.

beaver housingRobin Ellison just sent this perfect addition!

 Old kit Rusty

Rusty Cohn

Speaking of wetland restoration and Napa, Rusty took this last night at Tulocay pond in Napa when he was lucky enough to see FOUR beavers. Oh, I love the breathless anticipation of  this time of year, or I would if we had any beavers still in Martinez.



Lory sent this funny. Thanks!