Archive for the ‘Beaver Behavior’ Category

The importance of counting beavers

Posted by heidi08 On November - 22 - 2015Comments Off on The importance of counting beavers

KOLO steal

First a sorry follow up to the Sparks NV beaver story, I heard from Sherry of the Sierra Wildlife Coalition that 5 beavers were reportedly trapped over the weekend. And just for added insult the news station chose to STEAL Cheryl’s lovely photo of happy urban beaver to discuss why urban beavers couldn’t possibly be tolerated. Letters were written.

Speaking of the bumpy path of urban beavers, I was realizing that our chapter would have more weight if we could say something about how common this issue is in the country. There isn’t any data base that would possibly tell us that, but one special place that I happen to know of and have access to. I went through and did a spread sheet of all the beaver stories in or near cities I reported this year on the website. Now mind you, I don’t cover EVERY SINGLE story, but consider this a minimum. Cities all across the country, from Bakersfield CA to Ackron OH, San Marcos TX and Cumberland RI. There have been 107 so far in 38 states, with various complaints including flooding and chewing trees. The vast majority end in depredation, but it was heartening to see that a fair number ended this year in mitigation.

2015 map with wordsCalifornia and Massachusetts are apparently numbers 1 & 2 on the list, although assume some observer bias because one is the state I live in and one is the state Beaver solutions lives in. I’d love to have this data for the past 5 years, so we could spot trends and changes, but I don’t think I’m that patient. Even the states missing this year I know I’ve reported on in the past.

Well, except Hawaii.

This was a lot of work, so now a treat from the Cheyenne Zoo via LK. Heartening to see Ginger doing what she can do, regardless of the odds.

Plant it, and they will come?

Posted by heidi08 On November - 15 - 2015Comments Off on Plant it, and they will come?

waterboardsOnce upon a time, lo these many months ago, the SF waterboard decided to help Martinez with some tree planting for beavers. It invited me out to present in December and got so inspired about beavers it decided to share its Watershed Stewards Program Interns from Americorp to help.

(Stop me if you’ve heard this story before.)

LoadedSo Corie and Rebecca came out for a meeting with Worth A Dam and the city engineer, then obtained a permit to take willow cuttings from wildcat canyon, then came to Martinez for a day of planting. Cheryl, Lory and Jon showed up for a day of hard work at the end of March. Is this ringing any bells?

So they spent a day planting and Jon spent the evening wrapping trees and the beavewillowrs gazed wistfully at the forbidden fruit like children eyeing their presents under the tree, and life was good. The planting was even on channel 7 news.

Then guess what? Funny story. (Not really).

Public works got a divine inspiration (or a phone call from you-know-who) and ripped every planted stake out. They piled them to one side by the road. Jon just happened to notice as he drove by.  I called the engineer in a panic to ask WTF and he called the foot soldiers who had done the dirty work and by evening these poor stakes were all back in the ground. No kidding. Shades of Alice in Wonderland painting the roses red.  Some of the trees were upside down, some barely planted, all looking the worse for wear.

It suppose it goes without saying that they all died.

IMG_0441Well, the SF Waterboard was not very happy with that. And our good friend Ann Riley swore that we would REPEAT the planting next year, this time before thanksgiving, when they’d get more water, using the help of their next intern. And these trees had better not get pulled up.

But in the meantime our beavers died or scattered to the four winds and the city launched its grand bank destabilization project, which Riley was super not happy about either, so she negotiated with the engineer that our replanting should happen exactly there, where they had pulled out all the other living things.

Riley & Cory plan the attack!

Riley & Cory plan the attack!

The new intern’s name is Brenden Martin. And he and Riley are coming friday with some helpers to replant. This time they are going to use willow cuttings from here. Meanwhile, oddly enough the film crew from Middlechild productions will be out from the UK and filming it for the part of their documentary about how cities can live with beavers. Then heading to Napa to follow up with some beaver footage.

Rusty Cohn has boldly volunteered to come help Jon and Lory with the effort, and Ron will kindly take some photos for us. Oliver Smith, the assistant producer i’ve been chatting with, is probably interviewing Lara or Mark as well as interviewing me that day. The crew  arrives SFO tueday night and supposedly the gang is staying at the John Muir Lodge.

Honestly, two months ago I was feeling like if we didn’t have beavers we should cancel the planting and let the city be responsible for their own damn trees. But Jon persuaded me to be patient and now I feel differently.  Besides it’s working out well for Urban Beavers everywhere, and that makes me happy. I ask myself, if I were a beaver living in exile and saw a bunch of tasty morsels planted in my absence, wouldn’t I think about  coming home?

I certainly would.

beaver kit eats breakfast

beaver kit eats breakfast: Cheryl Reynolds

On a clear day, you can see for beavers

Posted by heidi08 On November - 12 - 2015Comments Off on On a clear day, you can see for beavers

CaptureHere’s a nice article from last month’s Freshwater Magazine. It’s a sweet piece of writing with some delicious frosting added yesterday that I’ll tell you about later. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

When a group of five scientists in the Pacific Northwest began advertising for workshops on the science of beaver restoration, they didn’t anticipate a few things.

The workshops would be filled to capacity within a week. There was so much interest they needed to increase both the workshop size and the total number of workshops offered. There would be a waitlist, followed by phone calls and emails from people clamoring to get in.

“People are starting to see the value of beaver for more than just their pelts or more than just pests, but how we can work in concert with them to fix more rivers and streams.”

Regulatory agency staff, nonprofits, tribal representatives, private landowners, members of the general public and others paid the $50 fee for one-day intensives on the science behind how beaver restore streams.

But the sharing of knowledge and best practices would live beyond the day-long events. Workshop discussions were captured in an official guidebook on beaver restoration, published this past June.

“The publication is meant to be an accessible resource for anyone using beaver to restore waterways,” said Greg Lewallen, a master’s student at Portland State University and the research assistant for the project. “With enough educational outreach, the perception of these animals will start to change. That’s why it’s critical we continue to spread the word about the large role that these animals play in ecosystems.”

This article does a great job of emphasizing how thrilled they were by the  response they got. Waiting lists are a reminder that the west was hungry for this information. You probably remember this publication from the delightful cover that featured Cheryl’s photo. People were really excited by this information. Now the crew was so estatic by the response they got that they want to work on volume II.

CaptureOnly in this second version they want to include a chapter on the topic dearest to my heart. Are you sitting down? They want to include a chapter on this:

urban beavers

Did you know that 81% of all Americans live in urban settings? So if most of us are going to deal with beavers its going to be someplace next to sidewalks and parking meters. And if the fact that they were including a chapter on the topic was all the news for this morning,  that would be enough. I’d be in heaven floating on a pink fluffy cloud.

But that is not all. No, that is not all.

Now if you want to study tortoises you go to the Galapagos, if you want to see the works  of Michaelanglo you go to Rome, and apparently if you want to learn about Urban Beavers you contact Martinez.  Greg wrote me this week and we arranged a fantastic phone call for yesterday, where I told him the long and winding story of our beavers and the tireless work the people of Martinez had done to save them.

I was so flattered to be asked, and thrilled to think that before our city the topic of Urban Beavers  was never even discussed.  (In fact the words were probably only paired as an obscure reference to leggy females that drank Manhattans and smoked black cigarettes.) But now the words actually existed. And Urban Beavers were a THING, like open space or two-way traffic. And they wanted to include them in the next edition!!!

My excitement could only be described with this video short.

So  I was as excited as little Madeline here during our conversation, and kept missing words and skipping over myself. But, since this was a story I had told a thousand times before, I found my way well enough. And before the conversation was over, a little moth of a thought started fluttering wistfully in my mind. I shushed it away many times but it came only back stronger.

What if I could be a co-author on this chapter. Was it even possible?

All through the hour long conversation I waived the fluttering thought away and tried to imagine whether I was qualified for such an auspicious venture. It’s true I had already co-authored two papers on beavers that were published in scientific journals. And a few in my trained field of psychology, where I had even been sole author. So maybe it wasn’t a crazy idea. But was it impossible? This was NOAA, Fish and Wildlife and the USFS; did my scrabbling, back room beaver-tactics really belong there?

Well, some dreams never see the light of day, and some apples fall to the ground before they ripen.We can never know what would have happened if I had summoned the courage to ask Greg if I could be a co-author of the chapter.


Guess what I answered. Go ahead, guess, I can wait.


Painting the town – er trunk, in Fargo

Posted by heidi08 On November - 8 - 2015Comments Off on Painting the town – er trunk, in Fargo

Beaver Backers paint trees in Fargo to protect furry friends

Thief River Falls resident Nina Berg, a member of the Beaver Backers organization that sprung up to defend the Fargo beavers, said the large-scale tree painting Saturday will hopefully spare the beavers.

The board voted to cull beavers after hearing concerns from residents and staff about the animals destroying trees and costing the city thousands of dollars. Park District officials said later they were open to non-leathal options.

The painting is a solution that will appease beaver backers and those concerned with the trees, Berg said.

“(The mixture) will be very unappealing to the beavers, and they will avoid those trees that we’re trying to protect,” Berg said.

The group spent several hours on Saturday painting more than 1,300 trees on the Fargo side of the river. The group will paint about 75 percent of the trees in the park and save 25 percent of the trees for the beavers to munch on and build dams

Hurray for the sensible, compassionate folks of Fargo who held a kickstarter to raise funds for the project and got 30 volunteers out in November to sand paint trees! 1300 is A LOT of trees. They are officially the tree-painting capital of the world now. I’m thrilled that this was able to happen, but still a little confused about the color choice.? Why not match the trunk? We’ve certainly marched into Home Depot with willow branches for them to match. But heck, maybe mint green was on sale.

Michelle Peterson said the painting will save beavers and the trees and hopefully sway the Park District to allow the beavers stays of execution. “If they come out here and see that it’s working, then hopefully they’ll let us keep coming out and doing this every year,” Berg said, adding that the group had permission from the Park District to paint the trees.

Nina and Michelle ROCK! They got tons of media for this project and volunteer support. Fingers crossed they used enough mason sand to really discourage those beavers. Jon always found that by the end he was using his hands to really get the sand to stick.

And because remarkable stories like this deserve a treat, I’m sharing the stunning photo found by Ann Cameron Siegal on Creative Commons. It was taken by Elizabeth Haslam and posted yesterday on the US Fish and Wildlife Facebook page. And some lovely human said, “I just saw this fantastic documentary on all the great things beavers do”.

Guess what the nation’s wildlife experts commented. Go ahead, guess.

great mother kit beaver

Elizabeth Haslam: Creative Commons

“Awesome! Do you remember what it’s called? In case folks are interested.”

That’s right, even though all of America and parts of Canada watched Jari Osborne’s incredible documentary in 2014, and all of Canada watched it in 2013, even though it had the highest ratings of any Nature program on Public television that year and was the one that PBS sent for Emmy consideration, the experts at fish and wildlife didn’t even know about it. Because, I guess, busman’s holiday. They already know it all. Why learn more?

If they wanted to learn more they should come to the beaver festival this year. I spent yesterday finishing the grant application for this year’s children’s activity. It details how Mike at Wildbryde will design charms shaped like rail cars to for children to fashion into a bracelet. I can’t help being a little proud of this.

all aboard


Missing beavers report

Posted by heidi08 On November - 2 - 2015Comments Off on Missing beavers report

Devon is worried. They haven’t seen their famously uninvited beavers since September. (Well, neither have we.) Hopefully they’ll be lucky and they’ve just moved downstream or are taking a vacation. But surely  there are as many people who want them dead in Devon as there are in Martinez.

Maybe even more?

Man hasn’t seen beavers in Devon for two months

Fears are growing for a family of England’s only wild beavers – which haven’t been spotted for nearly TWO months. Researchers monitoring the group are growing concerned after one of the families went missing – believed to have been scared off by dog walkers.

The 10-strong collection of beavers, discovered by amateur wildlife cameraman Tom Buckley, are the first breeding wild-beavers in Britain since the 17th century. Initially it was feared they would damage the environment around their home, but a license was eventually granted to a research group to monitor their progress. But now the group from the Devon Wildlife Trust are growing concerned after cameraman Tom reported that one of the three families has disappeared.

Tom has been by the beavers side since he first spotted them in February 2014. But he now fears for one family of beavers, after they went missing in September from their burrow close to a public footpath.

I’m sorry for Tom, because worrying about beavers is very hard work. And  would be troubled by that odd headline if the first comment hadn’t clarified its purpose, but allow me to say, as a woman who has watched beavers fairly steadily for nearly 9 years, they are harder to see in the winter months. They always area. Even our friends in Napatopia have been complaining lately. This is partly because they have longer hours without daylight and more options – which means they choose not to come out when folks are around. If you check our sightings pages for the past few Novembers and Decembers you will see barely two sightings per month, although of course there are exceptions.

All I’m saying is don’t panic, but keep looking, because beavers are good at surprising you.

Here’s what I worked on yesterday, which seems appropriate for Devon now too. A friend sent me the idea about rabbits and thought it would be better with beavers. (Well, isn’t everything?) I am very proud. Especially of the toes.

more beaver water

“Quick! To the Batmobile! Beavers are sounding too good!”

Posted by heidi08 On October - 29 - 2015Comments Off on “Quick! To the Batmobile! Beavers are sounding too good!”

I am certain now, that somewhere there in a highrise in Stockholm or Chicago is a beaver war-room where authorities with clipboards are watching a multitude of screens – dismayed as news promotes beavers as good for water storage and nitrogen removal – so that whenever the news gets too alarmingly positive this secret cabal of beaver-blockers activate their many lobbyists and researchers and make sure headlines like these dominate the news cycle until the coast is clear.

What, you think I’m being paranoid?

A potential downside to the beaver’s comeback

While the structures are marvels of natural construction, they also change the chemistry of the water they’re in. They affect the sediments, water flow, oxygen content and temperature, creating conditions that help convert mercury into methylmercury. A few studies have suggested dams can boost levels of this form of mercury, which can cause developmental and neurological problems in animals and people. Oded Lavnoni, Frauke Ecke and colleagues wanted to take a closer look.

Beavers are wreaking havoc across Europe, scientists warn

Methylmercury, converted from regular mercury, forms as beaver dams alter the sediments, water flow, dissolved oxygen concentration and temperature of the water.

Over a two-year study period, researchers sampled water downstream from 12 new beaver dams and found that methylmercury levels were 3.5 times higher than the water upstream.

Oh my goodness, how terrifying!

Hey public, you know all those toxins we poured into the streams years ago? When we told you they were harmless and good for you, while they helped us get filthy rich – but actually turned out to be pretty dire? Well, after all those years of birth defects and cancer, they got covered up with mud in the streams, thank heavens.

And now those rotten beavers are digging some of them UP! Isn’t that terrifying?

The truly funny part of this ‘discovery’ is that it is being reported by “The Chemical Society”, who kindly  brought beavers the mercury in the first place, so they should really know.

Duncan Haley, the esteemed beaver researcher in Norway, had this to say about the headlines:

So far as I know the paper on this isn’t out yet. I’d guess that on a few dams levels will have been raised from very, very trivial from a health viewpoint, to very trivial. Journalists love scary headlines.

 So for the meantime we’re not going to be alarmed by this ‘chemical society’ news. Yes, people are and have been worried that beavers dig up mercury. They have worried about this for 50 years. No one bothers to report that if they hadn’t poured mercury into the streams to squeeze every last ounce of gold from the rocks in the forst place  there wouldn’t be anything for them to dig up. (At least that’s why we have it in California. I’m not sure about all of Europe.) I’m sure its greed-based.

Those headlines are all thunder and no rain, so I think we should focus our energy on a much better one.

Can Beavers Help Save Los Angeles From Drought and Floods??

Years of drought have plagued California, and though rains are supposedly on the way, they might pose their own problems, like mudslides and flooding. Offering a possible solution to issues of both too much and not enough water is Britt Sheflin, a private chef who has applied for a $100,000 grant from LA2050 and the Goldhirsch Foundation to “Strategically reintroduce native beaver populations back into the dwindling watersheds around LA County,” using techniques that would have the beavers “trained” to build their trademark dams where they’re needed, while keeping them from being destructive.

The return of the beaver, Sheflin argues, could help mitigate drought (like the one California is in now) and erosion, plus help cut back on flash floods (which Los Angeles might be having more of if the predicted El Niño shows up). Sound too good to be true? Sheflin says it’s been tried and it’s worked in Canada, Nevada, and elsewhere in California, though she notes that Los Angeles would be “the first major metropolitan area to embrace this cost-effective solution.” There’s more here on how beavers can help out in a drought—researchers in Canada have found that “Even during drought, where beaver were present, there was 60 per cent more open water than those same areas during previous drought periods when beaver were absent.”

Don’t you love that cool beaver in shades? There are five days left to vote, and the LAist contacted Britt yesterday, so this is getting some great attention. Let’s just cross our fingers and hope that this will, even if it doesn’t win, raise enough awareness to start a murmur across the land that sounds something like,

“why the hell aren’t we doing this?”

Aerial Beaver Flinging

Posted by heidi08 On October - 25 - 2015Comments Off on Aerial Beaver Flinging

You cannot imagine with what glee the media is joyfully spreading the beaver-flinging story. It is in every conceivable paper and news station including CBS, Time, the CBC and the Guardian.  I am not very surprised that beaver-haters find it amusing. But I am a little disturbed by the sporty good humor of the beaver crowd themselves reacting to this tale with [boyish] thigh-slapping hoots. They see humor where I see horror. I can’t be the only one, surely? Their response suggests I’m an animal-hugging worrywart who never has any real fun. There have even been hinted arguments on the beaver management forum about what a noble beaver-centric act this was, by good people who genuinely understood the value of beaver on the landscape.beaver_4_fish_and_game

Okay. History in every state is full of fish and game wardens who recognized almost too late that beaver matter on the landscape. This does not surprise me. To be clear, I am not questioning their motivations. They may have had the very best dam motives on the planet. I am reacting to their implementation. Which was barbarically ruthless and wasteful.  The report points cheerfully to only ONE death by the beaver that leaped out of his box in mid air. But we know full well that even the very responsible Methow project says beaver relocation by LAND is only 50% successful – so what are the realistic possible numbers for flinging?

Tell me honestly now, do you think this story of beaver reintroductions would have gotten HALF the media attention without the bizarre cruelty? Beaver reintroduction in the twenties and thirties was happening all over California, not to mention all over the country. Have you ever seen a single news story about it?

I don’t know about you, but I got very distinct strains of the Laika story in this feverish beaver-flinging glee. There was a lot of humor when Russians shot the dog into space too, and some alarm from the hopelessly compassionate Brits which was to be expected.

Laika: The cosmonaut dog in 1957.

What if the newly recovered footage showed tossing wolves over Yellowstone? Or mountain lions over Yosemite? Then could you reasonably expect advocates to object? I’m going to guess that this footage was buried for a reason, and that even in Idaho people didn’t want to see beavers be flung from great heights and realize taxpayers paid for the trip.

Anyway they’re wrong about me not having a sense of humor. I have a robust one. Because I just found this very pastoral clip from Idaho public radio and even as I type I’m  entertaining some most amusing ideas about what to do with the audio.


Long-Lost Parachuting Beaver Footage



Here’s an alternate reintroduction strategy that produces slightly less alarm.