Archive for the ‘Beaver Behavior’ Category

Beaver Resilience

Posted by heidi08 On September - 21 - 2014Comments Off

Dry Guadlupe River: Roger Castillo

So this is what most of the Guadelupe River looks like this summer. Too bad for the remaining fish and definitely too bad for the thirsty wildlife. You’ll remember there were three beavers on the creek in 2013, and they made an historic splash. One was seen with a packing strip trapped around her waist and she was rescued so it could be removed and released to the exact same spot.

Not surprisingly, those beavers never showed their faces again. Although sometimes they still see sign of them.


Beaver chewed tree on the Guadelupe River: Steve Holmes

On Friday I got several very distressed emails from the friends of Los Gatos Creeks that they had discovered a beaver in great despair, living under a pipe in the dry river. They were ready to call in rescue to get him out. And what did I think? Later emails said he was ‘living in a pile of his own feces’ and was obviously sick. I was able to piece together that he was living under a culvert with a tiny leak and trying to use that water. And Greg Kerekes of urban wildlife took this photo.

Beavers using culvert in drought

Beaver in the Guadelupe: Greg Kerekes

This photo made me happier than any I’ve seen recently. Look at what that resilient beaver decided to do with the tiny drip! Waste not: want not. He has made a dam to keep the water inside the pipe since it won’t soak up the water, and if he needs water to drink or eliminate, there it is. In a few weeks it will be deep enough to hide him from unfriendly eyes. Remember that beavers are herbivores so even if he was in a puddle of his own ‘sawdust’ it wouldn’t be cause for alarm. But when I talked more to Roger Castillo about what he saw I realized the ‘filth’ he had seen the beaver sitting on was a scent mound that he was making to mark his ‘home sweet home’. Even though this looks alarming to us, he’s fiercely proud of his ingenuity and doesn’t want to share!

He’s sleeping to the right beside his accomplishment, in a little bed of reeds during the day. CaptureHis hidden stash of water means coyotes or bobcats are unlikely to come and get a drink, and he seems ready for the long haul. Who knows? Maybe he’ll even get company? A beaver pioneer in the dry Guadelupe river. How different would California look during a drought if we had millions more like him?

stickerYou’ll remember that beavers were one of the first species back after Mt. St. Helen’s errupted. And were among the first to reclaim the land in Chernobyl after the nuclear reactor disaster. Here’s Leonard Houston’s opening remarks from the 2013 State of the beaver conference.

“Within this strangely pastoral setting the animals go about their business, sometimes finding uses for what we’ve left behind. The wolves rise up on their hind legs to peer through the windows of houses, looking for routes to the rooftops, which they use as observation posts for hunting. Eagles build nests in fire towers. Deer, elk, bison and wild horses flourish in abandoned farm fields.

 As to the beavers, they have shown an amazing resiliency to some of the worlds most cataclysmic events, in large surpassing sciences understanding of what we call sustainable habitat. Beavers, forced out decades ago when the landscape was engineered for collective agriculture, have already undone much of man’s work converting polluted swamps to free flowing rivers and restoring one of central Europe’s great marshlands.”

So I wouldn’t worry about that little pioneer beaver. He’s doing just what he’s supposed to – what we all should, really.  How careful would we all be of water if we didn’t think any more was coming? I mean out of the sky, out of the tap, out of the bottle – ever. Wouldn’t we all build little dams around every drop to eek it along?


Last night we saw some very lucky beavers expanding their territory to Ward Street. I thought you’d like this footage of dad and the new kit.

Best Onion Ever

Posted by heidi08 On September - 17 - 2014Comments Off

the onion

A few folks yesterday sent me this column from the Onion in 2006. It made me smile, but I honestly am so DEEP in the story I hardly get the humor. Of course beavers plan their work and some of them overthink. Remember Reed who only built with tule? Even though Dad wanted him to use branches? He had definitely had a firm artistic style all his own.

HUNTSVILLE, ONTARIO—Local beaver Dennis Messner is spending an inordinate amount of time and effort in the planning and construction phases of building his dam, according to neighbors close to the project.

 In the past four months, Messner, 4, has visited hundreds of other dams and drawn up detailed and extensive blueprints. He has researched topics ranging from advanced dome acoustics to the near-extinction of the North American beaver in the early 20th century, and plans to incorporate much of his research into his design.

Dennis Messner

 “There are two primary schools of thought on dam building: the instinctive school and the adaptive school,” Messner said, studying the river’s current. “I’m more of an integration-minded postmodernist. I don’t believe that form should follow function, like most of my colleagues do. On the other hand, a dam is a celebration of beaver culture, and that is what it should reflect.”

Never mind that the column features a photo of a groundhog. It’s still a smart bit of writing and makes such perfect sense to me I almost couldn’t laugh.

It reminded me of years ago I showed the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip on the “Duplicator self” to a young patient because they were operating with several personalities at the time and they were getting into all kinds of trouble. I had thought it would help us talk about duality – what happens when, for instance, one self is doing class work and another is scrawling the principals name with a word that rhymes with ‘duck’ in the yard in black marker.

The thoughtful child just read it soberly without the faintest trace of humor, but deep, deep understanding. They weren’t even surprised to read something that so described their life  so clearly, but rather, confused why I would be showing them something that in their mind was so obvious. I realized then that like every child in the world they thought everyone lived that way and had absolutely no idea why the comic was funny.

Obviously I felt the same way reading this column. Why is it humorous  to imagine beavers thinking about their impact on the ecosystem?

Messner rejected the criticism. “Not everyone in this area cares or is even aware of how dam building alters an ecosystem,” Messner said. “But I am, and, yes, I do wonder what kind of impact my dam will have on the environment. How can I make this the most positive experience possible, while still minimizing adverse impact on the wetlands? What kind of beaver would I be if I didn’t take erosion science into consideration?” To that end, Messner has reached out to the local otter, fish, and waterfowl communities, and has incorporated their input into his design.

Go read the whole thing. It’s definitely worth it. Oh and how did you do on the quiz below? 10/10?

The new ‘Lily pond’ story

Posted by heidi08 On September - 16 - 2014Comments Off

Beavers invade Chico backyard, damage property


The funny thing is that I met a woman on the Butte county environmental team involved with this case on Sunday at the Optics Faire. She sent me the report and I tried to track down Mr.Barker through facebook. I suggested the best way to get rid of these beavers is to temporarily drain the pond and said if he does it without hurting them Worth A Dam will buy that chewed table to sell at the festival. It terrifies me to think of beavers wadering through the dry suburbs of Chico looking for a new home, but they did it once and it’s definitely better than their odds if USDA comes to the homeowners rescue. And who on EARTH said that beavers mate in September?

Stay tuned.

Yesterday I got some VERY VERY good news, that if it actually happens will be the coolest thing ever. I’ll let you know more when its firm. Fingers crossed.

Plot Thickener

Posted by heidi08 On September - 9 - 2014Comments Off

We haven’t heard much from Devon lately on the  great beaver trapping from DEFRA. If you’ll remember, a slew of citizens and farmers came to the meeting asking that they be allowed to remain.

DEFRA took this opportunity to blow off the meeting and pick up the traps instead. We heard they haven’t been too successful at catching any quarry, and it is  looking like the good guys were winning this round. At least by default.

I guess DEFRA thought it was time for this.

Don’t allow beavers to upset our freshwater ecosystem

 There seems to be a movement in this country to re-introduce species that have long been extinct, of which the beaver is one of many. These people will support their argument by declaring the beaver has only been extinct for 200-300 years. Not so. It became extinct in this country in the 12th century. As Derek Gow says they are great engineers building dams and constructing homes in rivers and streams from trees they have felled. Derek says they create wetlands. I do not think so. The likely outcome is more floods. Surely we have had enough floods in the last two years without additional problems caused by beavers.

 Do not upset the status quo – the freshwater habitat in this country is a fragile ecosystem. Much damage can be done by reintroducing an alien species which the beaver is.  We as humans do not have to feel guilty just because we were instrumental in the destruction of the beaver all those years ago. The world has moved on, so has our country and our rivers.

 The beaver should be considered an alien in this country just like the grey squirrel, coypus, mink and Japanese knotweed. The damage they can do is too great to take the chance.

 Those who put these animals in the River Otter should help the Environment Agency trap them – act now before it is too late.

Alien beavers! Thank goodness the West Morning news printed this ANONYMOUS letter before it was too late! I wonder who penned this thoughtful treatise? (Mr. George Eustice, don’t be so modest!) You should go read the whole thing because it contains a lovely passage from HBN Hynes which makes beaver restoration sound very heroic – and then argues ‘we can’t STAND this much repair in our rivers’! I especially like how it warns us of what’s to come and ends with the recognition that the government trappers have absolutely no idea what they’re doing and need assistance.

(The good news is that I see this morning another very popular badger cull is coming so they’ll have something else to keep them busy for a while.)

Your pro-beaver comment is needed now. I’m particularly of mine.


 And just so you know not all of Europe is ignorant of beavers, I got this from Duncan Haley this morning.Capture

 The Voronezhsky Biosphere Reserve is pleased to invite you to take part in 7-th International Beaver Symposium! The symposium will take place in Russia, Voronezh, September 14-17, 2015

Organizers of symposium:


Department of State Policy on Environmental Protection
Voronezh Region Government
Russian Research Institute of Game Management and Fur Farming
Voronezhsky Biosphere Reserve

The seventh symposium! And before you start thinking this event is exactly as old as our beaver festival, it’s actually much older, since it’s held every two years. You might remember back when Skip Lisle was invited to the one in Lithuania and our beaver friend Alex Hiller met him there.

Can’t wait to see the lineup for this one!

Our Hero Returns

Posted by heidi08 On September - 5 - 2014Comments Off

The light video is obviously our runaway tyke, the second is harder to tell except for the very beginning. Look at that floaty little body above the water. I had an awesome day yesterday because I was feeling lighter in spirit and a DVD was on my porch when I got home. Hurray!

I think I’ll call him “Lightfoot”.

Oh, and in the shadow of our tickertape parade, I’ll mention that there’s another beaver attack. Brace yourselves for an exciting news cycle. This one happened in Nova Scotia and they have NO IDEA WHY because they were just swimming over the lodge with a big dog and snorkling equipment?

Angry beaver attacks man on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore

There’s a vicious beaver on the Eastern Shore. To make matters worse, the giant rodent has a taste for human blood.

“Maybe it was just one angry beaver, or maybe it thought I was a big human-sized log in a black wetsuit,” Jeremy McNaughton said Thursday.

 “It makes me feel better to say I was bit by a bucktoothed, flat-tailed shark.”

McNaughton, Peter Murphy and Paul Skerry were minding their own business at Spanish Ship Bay on the Eastern Shore last week. The three buddies were snorkeling about a kilometre from shore in water two metres deep on Aug. 27.

 “The beaver just sort of assaulted us for no apparent reason,” said Skerry, 66, on Thursday.

 Cue the Jaws music.

 McNaughton, 23, saw a dark shadow move beneath him.

 “I’m used to swimming with all kinds of marine life so I just thought it was neat, and I yelled to Paul that there was a sea otter or something.”

 Then it began circling Murphy, who spotted the menacing black tail of the fearsome herbivore.

 “It was quite a large beaver — big enough to be a seal,” said McNaughton.

 “Then it started circling a bit too close for comfort so I gave it a little kick away with my flipper.”

 Alas, beavers also have flippers on their hind feet. Their front feet are reserved for claws.

 As McNaughton lifted his head from the water to call over to Skerry, the Castor canadensis struck.

 “It was very sneaky; it definitely knew I wasn’t looking,” said McNaughton.

 “It felt like something hit me in the side real hard. … I looked down and I saw its little T-rex arms. I pushed it away and it was gone.”

T-rex arms? Jaws music? Fearesome Herbivore? Front paws are reserved for claws? Did you run out of hyperbolic alarmist exaggerations? Or do you still have more?

Oh good, the reporter has more.

Those fangs grow continuously throughout a beaver’s 24-year life expectancy and are only kept in check by their penchant for gnawing down trees.

I hate the beaver attack stories of summer. And I hate the beaver flooding stories of fall. And the beaver washout stories of spring. Come to think of it I think winter is the best beaver season. Everyone’s too busy shoveling show to complain about beavers.

Beavers: The cure for what ails you.

Posted by heidi08 On August - 13 - 2014Comments Off


At-Risk Columbia Spotted Frogs: Factors Influencing Conservation

Robert S. Arkle USGS

USGS researchers, including scientist Robert Arkle, examined existing data on spotted frog occurrence, abundance and habitat to understand factors influencing habitat quality, habitat connectivity and climate suitability in the Great Basin. Preliminary results suggest that the area of the Great Basin with suitable climates for spotted frogs has already decreased over the past 100 years and will continue to decrease substantially over the next 100 years. Genetic research suggests connectivity between adjacent occupied sites is currently low, while sub-populations are isolated from one another.

USGS research suggests that management tools, such as beaver reintroduction, grazing management and non-native trout control efforts may promote conservation of the Columbia spotted frog in the Great Basin.

So NOAA, USFS, and USGS think beaver reintroduction is a good idea to increase habitat for threatened aquatic species. While USDA and CDFG merrily continue to kill them, ignoring the trickle down effect that eliminating each beaver dam will have on a rapidly drying planet. How long does it take for such simple wisdom to pass through government bureaucracy?

Let’s just say I wouldn’t want to be a columbia spotted frog.

stickerWord this morning is that Utah is truly having another beaver festival, and they’re paying for me to come talk about our beavers in Martinez. It’s in Cedar City and I’ll tell you more details when I know them. The event is organized, of course, by the Mary Obrien and the Grand Canyon Trust where practically all good news about beavers originate. Considering Mary was the inspiring voice in the wilderness a million years ago when this all started, and now she wants me to come speak, I’m pretty honored.

Mary O'brien

A Dissertation of Death

Posted by heidi08 On August - 10 - 2014Comments Off

CaptureSo yesterday morning our Napa Beaver friend RE sent me the results of her public records request from Fish and Game. She was trying to figure out if any depredation permits had been taken in Napa County, but of course that’s not the way bureaucracy works. So they gave her a pile of all the depredation permits in the state of California from 1-2013 to 8-8-2014. They are actually organized unhelpfully by the last name of the person who obtained the permit.

Robin, Jon and I spent yesterday going through the records and making a spread sheet so that we could see what was issued where, by whom, for how many beavers, and because of what problem. It was a horrible, grisly, unpleasant day, so you have to forgive me if I am more sarcastic than usual. Remember that Depredation permits can be issued for 1-2 beavers or for an unlimited number, for a few weeks or for the whole year or more. But what we learned is that the VAST majority are issued for an unlimited number of beavers to be taken during the span of an entire year. I’m putting the finished list online here by county.

Counties in CA by Number of Depredation Permits Given 1-01-13 to 8-8-14

Alpine 4
Amador 1
Butte 8
Calaveras 1
Colusa 6
Contra Costa 18
El Dorado 9
Glenn 4
Lake 2
Lassen 5
Merced 13
Modoc 6
Napa 2
Nevada 7
Placer 50
Plumas 8
Sacramento 30
San Joaquin 8
Shasta 12
Sierra County 3
Solano 7
Sonoma 3
Stanislaus 3
Sutter 13
Tehama 5
Yolo 19
Yuba 7
Total 254

Before you turn your head away in horror, pause for a moment at the staggering number of permits issued in Placer county: FIFTY in all, each for a year and only 9 of which had any limit at all to the number of beavers that could be taken. This, for a county which is only 1500 square miles – fewer than 100 of which are water.How could this be?

I have a theory.

Remember that the county seat of Placer county is Auburn, where our long standing nemesis recently gave her umpteenth presentation on how bad beavers are – I’m referring of course to Mary Tappel who long ago took time out of her busy beaver-killing schedule to come all this way to try and get Martinez to kill ours. I know she recently presented at the Salmon meeting because someone from Fish and Wildlife who was there wrote me and said in disbelief, wow, there was this woman there who was soooo negative about beavers!  And when I looked at the schedule I knew who it was. I’m thinking Mary’s done many presentations in Placer county and her icy fingers have pushed the kill permits for thousands of beavers.

August 26, SARSAS 2013, Beaver Specialist Mary Tappel, “Beaver Management in the Age of Salmonid Restoration with Focus on Beavers in Auburn Ravine”

In case your a visual person, here’s the county count. There were no permits issued for Southern California in the records we received, but the woman who released the data did say that the department is in the process of transitioning to electronic files, so some lovingly hand-written death warrants may not be included. I’m sure Fresno killed some beavers. They always do, so maybe they aren’t using computers yet?

by county


Wow. Since the highest number of specified beavers issued in a permit was 50, that must mean UNLIMITED is >50. So if the total number of beavers listed to be killed is added up with that change the number for just Northern CA is at least 7958.