Because the beaver isn't just an animal; it's an ecosystem!

The Martinez Beavers

Category: Beaver Chewing


I received an update yesterday from the hardy Judy Taylor-Atkinson of Port Moody Vancouver who is working to save the beavers at the development where she lives. She is doing a wonderful job focusing public attention on the beavers and getting the community interested in them.  In fact she’s doing SUCH a fine job that I’m pretty sure at this point our beavers are jealous.

Yesterday she wrote this:

We had our first mini crisis last week when the beavers knocked down a large unwrapped black cottonwood tree and it landed on a homeowners fence, just damaging it slightly.   I was immediately notified by people in our neighbourhood who love the beavers and I went to work posting messages on our community facebook page and notifying the city arborist, Steve,  (who actually likes the beavers) and requesting the trees in that area be wrapped.  Steve sent his two staff, Alex and Doug, who have been trained by Adrian Nelson on the proper way to wrap trees, the next day.  

My facebook post read –

“Jim just came back and Silverlining landscape have removed the top of the aspen tree and Jim advised them to leave the branches and cuttings close to the stream bank for the beavers.  We will meet with the city arborist today and wrap that stand of trees.  The beavers have been eating mostly willow, dogwood, poplar and shrubs.  Some trees will be wrapped and others will be left as food sources because there is a natural balance between beavers and trees. Beavers open up the tree canopy to let light in and smaller trees will grow.  Some species of trees, like willow, have evolved with beavers and they actually grow faster if a beaver chops them down.  The greenbelt is changing from a “stream” ecosystem to a “pond” ecosystem.” 

That post seemed to settle everyone down (Jim is my husband).  The next day, I posted a picture of Doug and Alex wrapping the trees with the post –

“Thank you to Doug and Alex for wrapping the cottonwoods this morning and to Steve (our city arborist) for his valuable knowledge about our trees along Pigeon Creek. Steve said they are busy right now removing downed trees throughout the city (due to a bad combination of drought followed by intense rain and now a cold snap).”

Thankfully, Steve, the city arborist seems to be quite supportive (and interested) in the beavers.  When the beavers first turned up a year ago Steve didn’t know anything about them and now you should hear him!   He knows what kind of trees they prefer (and why), which trees offer the most nutrition for beavers (cottonwoods, poplars) and he’s not concerned about the willows at all.   He just has to make sure the trees don’t fall on a building and now he has a plan to wrap  those trees.  He has also been along the stream and is quite sure that the trees the beavers could potentially knock down will not fall away from the stream. 

Isn’t that wonderful? She is committed to making beaver friends wherever she goes, and NOW those lucky beavers even have an arborist who  is learning to love them!  (Does Martinez even have an arborist? Or know the word?) I asked for her permission to share this because I think it is inspiring to others who are thinking of doing something similar. She and her husband are hard at work in the community encouraging, explaining and de-mystifying beaver behavior. I wish very much I could resist this little rhyme that has crept into my mind,  because she deserves so much better, but there’s no avoiding it now.

Thank heavens for Judy
On duty
In Port Moody


There’s excellent beaver management news this morning from Idaho where the watershed guardians just installed a pond leveler for veterans day. Given the hard time that many beavers face in the Gem state, these critters are lucky indeed! Great work Mike Settell and team Pocatello!

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“Thank you, Bruce, for serving on the Watershed Guardians board, providing inspiration, leadership and flatout hard work. We will honor your volunteerism by carrying on our work to help the Portneuf River Watershed, one beaver at a time!”

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Whew, I was relieved to hear that Mike Callahan (whose WIFE is a trapper) had never heard about using a cross-bow either to shoot unwanted beavers either. So that means this is just a one-off until we hear otherwise. (A horrible one-off but better than  a common occurrence.)

Meanwhile, I received a note from author Ben Goldfarb yesterday that his writing retreat is going well and that he will have the first draft of his beaver book in November! How exciting! And I heard from Tom Rusert that their home didn’t burn down, their beloved bulldog Daisy is recovering from smoke inhalation, and things are moving forward.  There was an excellent article in the East Bay Times and Fire Rescue about our good friend Luigi feeding the first responders last week, which surprises me not at all. That man has been incredibly community-oriented since before he even had a community.

Calif. deli owner feeds first responders in Calif. wildfires Capture

MARTINEZ, Calif. —Luigi Daberdaku has been making sandwiches at his downtown deli for years, but never this many all at once.

Since Thursday, there’s been an assembly line set up in his shop, right near the shelves with the specialty sodas. “Cutting the meat, cheese, lettuce, onions, cucumbers, I need volunteers… plus I need more meat; we ran out of meat today after 275 sandwiches,” Daberdaku said Monday.

By that afternoon, as he prepared to make his fifth delivery trip, he and his assembled teams had made almost 1,500 sandwiches. It started Thursday, Oct. 12, when he and volunteers made 150 sandwiches by midday. He took them to Fairfield that first day for further distribution; since then, he has gone straight to the hard-hit areas, mostly in Napa, himself.

Dear, sweet Luigi, you deserve all the credit you get. I recall he had barely set up shop downtown at the November 2007 beaver meeting ten years ago, when he stood up with his very thick Albanian accent and said “When I first come to Martinez there was no one downtown. It was like a ghost town! And now that the beavers have come there are many, many people every day!” He has been our friend since the beginning, and his wonderful daughter Louisa planted trees, worked the festival and brought us sandwiches every year.  Helping first responders is just the kind of thing he’d do.

(Let’s hope that sweet steady rain we got last night helped them too.)

Yesterday the National Geographic Blog called Cool Green Science decided that beavers deserve a little credit also. Of course they couldn’t resist reminiscing on Idaho throwing them from planes – but this is a pretty nice summary. Watch the video all the way through.

Restoring Beavers by Plane and Automobile

“Beavers are really nature’s engineers and they do a really good job at what they do,” says James Brower, Idaho Department of Fish and Game volunteer services coordinator. “We love beaver and we love what beaver do.”

“We really want them to set up shop and transform that habitat and make it a little better for everything,” Brower says. “Beaver create habitat for not only fish but also for deer, elk, moose and bear. Pretty much everything needs water and places to drink. There’s no doubt in my mind this benefits everybody.”

I like what Mr. Brower has to say. I think I will try and make contact. But I’m never a fan of the beaver-flinging story – as I’m sure you all know by now.

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RZAD7WN7JI3W7PY4JS7RUGZ2UAYesterday and last night were not as bad as they feared. There was even a FB update from Safari West at 8:30 pm saying they spent the day feeding the animals and shoring up defenses. I can’t imagine how they’re survived because on the Cal-fire map there is just a huge red cloud from Healsburg to Santa Rosa. But somehow they persisted. The parts of Napa that were expecting to be told to evacuate didn’t have to because the fire turned a little. Which means our Tulocay beavers  are okay. I read a story this morning about a 70 year old couple from Santa Rosa that survived by submerging for 6 hours in their neighbor’s pool while everything burned around them – hiding like beavers below the water until they needed to breathe. They made it through the night and are miraculously not among the 31 dead.

Speaking of beavers and resilience I wanted to share the wonderful letter I received Monday from Judy in Port Moody BC. .

Hello from Canada

I am writing from Port Moody, British Columbia, and I have been following your website for years.   I am a member, and former board member, of The Fur Bearer Defenders.   Last year two beavers moved into a creek just a few minutes from our home and I have been dedicated to making sure this family survives. 

Pigeon Creek is a small stream located in the middle of the Klahanie development on Murray Street, Port Moody.   The creek is part of a green easement that runs between two low rise condominiums.   The population of Klahanie is about 2000. 

The creek was originally landscaped by Polygon development but has slowly been overgrown by several invasive species including Japanese knotweed, Himalayan blackberry and some smaller plants such as bittersweet nightshade.  However there is still a preponderance of Dogwood, Willow, Aspen and a large stand of mature Cottonwood trees.  

In November, 2016, my husband, Jim, and I discovered the start of a small beaver dam.  We are familiar with the activities of beavers because Jim has volunteered to help Adrian Nelson, the wildlife conflict specialist with The Fur Bearers,  install beaver flow devices throughout the lower mainland and up along the Sunshine Coast to help mitigate the effects of flooding from beaver activities.  

You can imagine how hooked and fascinated I was at this point. A knowledgeable beaver advocate in the making! With a husband who helped Adrian install flow devices! And who had followed our website for years! Be still my heart.

We soon spotted what appeared to be two juvenile beavers working to dam a portion of the creek.   The work continued throughout the winter and the two beavers seemed to become more comfortable in their new environment and were seen by the residents on a more regular basis.  

By April we were only seeing one beaver and assumed, rightly as it turned out, that the female may have been pregnant.   During gestation the male built a separate bank den.

During this time I was approached by the new General Manager for the Environment with the city of Port Moody, who told me she wanted to relocate the beavers.   I knew that the province of British Columbia was not issuing relocation permits and that her intention was to trap and kill the beavers.   Adrian Nelson, Jim and I met with her and convinced her to  take a different approach and manage the beavers “in place”.   

Although we have an understanding with this General Manager, I am cautious and am taking every step to ensure that these beavers remain undisturbed.   It has been very stressful for me because she has given me misinformation about the beavers that has led me to believe she is not knowledgeable about them.

Oh, yes the old “We want to relocate these beavers” trick.  If we’ve heard it once we’ve heard it a thousand times. ‘You’re puppy went to live on the farm’. It’s a fairly common ploy (or maybe not a ploy). Maybe folks really think it’s possible until they start making the phone calls and then they just let the story cover their tracks.

We finally got the first glimpse of the two new kits, late in the summer,  when they were about 8 weeks old, now weaned and starting to eat leaves.  

What I find so remarkable about this entire storyline is how the residents of Klahanie have responded to this new family in their midst.   We have a community face book page here, for residents only, and people are constantly posting pictures, videos, drawings and even hosting contests to name the beavers.   The male is named “Brewster” and the two kits are called “Woody” and “Chip”.

Jim and I have been wrapping trees to protect them from beaver damage, tracking what they are eating and I am providing educational posts on the face book page.  I have invited a local biologist to give an evening Wildlife Talk  and we had a good turn out for that event. 

I would never have guessed, when we first spotted the beaver dam, that this pair of beavers would turn out to be such an attraction in our community.  Every day there are people who come to watch for the beavers and the easy viewing location and accessibility provides everyone with a window into the lives of these animals.   Beavers are not common in Port Moody and this is the first one in the city for almost a decade.  Our viewing area is similar to yours, a pedestrian walkway on the bridge over the creek.

My very favorite parts are in bold because I just LOVE the idea of beavers enlivening  and educating the community and attracting attention. Just like they did in Martinez.  Urban wildlife helps neighbors talk to each other. Especially beavers. It’s as simple as that.

I am including a link to a new you tube video that a resident of Port Moody just made about our beavers.

Turn your sound up for this, the train reminds me so much of Martinez!

Judy! We are so impressed by your letter and heartfelt interest in these beavers. We love the video. We think those beavers are enormously lucky to have you and your husband in their corner. Communities that watch beavers are the best kind of protection against over-eager general managers. I wrote her yesterday with lots of ideas and this website has a host of resources for folks wanting to keep beavers safe and energize the public.  I also suggested she might want to sign up for the webinar I’ll be giving this month about how Martinez saved our beavers, and I’ll say more about that later.

Thanks Judy for writing and telling us this fantastic story.

urban beavers

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One of my favorite segments of Sesame Street when I was a child wasn’t cookie monster or oscar the grouch. It was the silly attention Bert paid to pigeons, treating them as if they mattered and were worth attending to.  He collected jokes and stories about them and even watched a favorite media segment called in an echoing broadcaster voice saying “Pigeons In The News!“.

I can’t imagine why that pops into my head now.

There’s local beaver business to report first. Our two little dams near Susanna Street were ripped out last week by Wednesday morning. I’m not sure by whom, but Moses left a note on my door when we got home from vacation, and when we went to look it was sure enough torn out, although not by heavy equipment. No word on what happened to our beavers but I have contacted folks to find out.

Stay Tuned!

Also I got an email from our old friend Glenn Hori who used to photograph the Martinez Beavers and spied a beaver dam in Concord near 680 and Willow Pass Rd. He couldn’t get a glimpse of actual beavers last night but that lovely dam isn’t maintaining itself.

FullSizeRender
Concord Beaver Dam: Photo By Glenn Hori

This is right near the Willows so one images the name might have attracted them?

Meanwhile newslines are abuzz this morning with the story of valiant beavers being brought in to save English cities from flooding. I always get nervous when beaver promises are made, but we better just enjoy this while it lasts.

English town enlists beavers to prevent floods

In 2012, the center of Lydbrook, a village skirting the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, England, was deluged with several feet of water. The flash flooding, unleashed by torrential rainfall across the region, sparked a mandatory evacuation and left badly damaged homes and businesses in its wake.

This wasn’t the first time this bucolic burg has been devastated by rapidly rising waters. Nestled between the River Wye and one of its tributaries, the flood-prone Greathough Brook, Lydbrook and surrounding parishes in the Wye Valley have long been vulnerable to inundation. In 2015, villagers collectively breathed a sigh of relief when it was announced that a section of an aging culvert meant to tame the flow of water through the village would be replaced as part of a flood defense overhaul costing 290,000 pounds (nearly $400,000).

 Now, two years later, the Forestry Commission has decided to bring in the big guns to further prevent flooding: beavers.

As the Guardian reports, a scheme to release a family of Eurasian beavers within an enclosed area at Greathough Brook has been embraced enthusiastically by villagers and, most importantly, received a governmental go-ahead despite one report that it was blocked by a minister at the Department of Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs.

The idea is that once released, the clan of industrious semiaquatic rodents will get to work doing what they do best: constructing an intricate network of dams, ponds and canals that, in this instance, will slow the flow of Greathough Brook and prevent upwards of 6,000 cubic meters (1.6 million gallons) of water from rushing into the valley-bound village below.

While a qualified team of engineers that don’t have webbed hind feet could be brought in to dam the stream, the beaver is, well, cheaper and can get the job done in a swifter and less intrusive manner.

What’s more, there’s the chance that the beavers’ presence could be a boon for eco-tourism in the region as the animals, hunted into extinction across Britain and now being strategically released back into the wild, are still a relatively rare sight. A village that’s reintroduced beavers and put them to work to help prevent catastrophic flooding certainly could draw wildlife lovers to this sleepy northwestern section of the Forest of Dean.

Here’s a nice look at the Devon beavers from back in 2012. I shared this 5 years ago but it’s worth watching again.

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I thought I’d share a little about the odds and ends that followed my last few postings. One was about the water week events in Whatcom WA. You might remember that the paper said there’d be a showing of the film “Beavers in the Ecosystem” which I wanted to find out about. Turns out the paper got it wrong, it wasn’t actually a film but an event lead by the North Sound Baykeeper for Clean Water Services, Lee First. I got in touch with Lee through our friend Ben Dittbrenner of Beavers NorthWest. Seems Lee contacted Ben looking for properties with beavers on them that might allow a tour for his guided event and talk.

Lee impressed me right away with this response to my letter:

Hi Heidi, it’s not a film, it’s a site tour.  I’ll take photos during the tour, and I’ll probably write a little story about the tour.  I love beavers!

As far as I know there are two people in all the world who collect a city salary and love beavers. And now I know both of them! There surely aren’t any such people in Martinez.

The other follow up comes from my column on the story accusing the Welsh beavers of ruining the sequel film date. I got an email from Alicia Leow-Dyke of the Welsh Beaver Project thanking me for the graphic.

movie starThank you Heidi, that means a lot. I was so annoyed when I read the original article, beavers being blamed without any evidence! Someone has to stick up for them!  I love the graphic!! That’s brilliant! Would it be OK for me to use that graphic in our talks or on our website? I also love the beaver cushion that has been sent to you from the Ukraine. I am going to have to buy one for myself!

best baby everI told her of course she could use it, and showed her the photo of our kit where it’s from. Graphic Designer Libby Corliss didn’t work with us long, but the silhouettes she made that summer from Cheryl’s photos have been a lasting treasure I rely on again and again.

Onto the treats of the day, this time Parks and Recreation Department of Calgary, which is about 400 miles north of Montana across the Canadian border. Seems they just updated their beaver webpage and WOW they did an amazing job. Even when I read it the third time this morning, I was still surprised and impressed.

BeaversCapture

Beavers have found an inviting home in Calgary, with its two rivers, abundant green space, and lack of predators. In recent years, their population has grown, with lodges in various locations along the Bow and Elbow rivers, in storm water ponds and wetlands.

Beavers are good for our environment

Beavers play an important ecological role in Calgary’s waterways. Their dams can create ponds that provide habitat for other wildlife and help surrounding vegetation to flourish. The ponds and wetlands are very good at storing water, and can help reduce the effects of smaller floods and hold water during droughts.

Water flowing through dammed areas is naturally purified, and after a dam has broken, fertilizer created from the decomposing material in the dam will spread downstream.

I promise I haven’t embellished this or edited to make it look better. This is the ACTUAL website for Calgary and it starts by describing how lucky we are to have them. Then it gets around to talking about problems, but in a pretty reasonable way.

Beavers also present some challenges

Because conditions are so good, Calgary’s beaver population has grown in recent years. This can cause problems for our forested areas, infrastructure and property, and the beavers themselves.

A single adult beaver can cut down about 200 trees in a year. With each lodge housing four to six beavers, wooded areas can be devastated in a short period of time. This is harmful to other wildlife that rely on the trees for habitat. Beaver dams can also cause flooding that affects property, and in some cases, can damage storm drains and weirs that can be very expensive to repair.

Okay, that’s most reasonable. People can legitimately have concerns about these animals. There’s only a single sentence I take issue with.

“Without natural predators, beaver populations can grow to be unsustainable.”

Ahh Calgary, you were doing so well up until them. Did you never read that beavers were territorial? Did you never think that when the streams were full of beavers the new ones would have to look elsewhere for a place to call their own? I would be disappointed in them,  but they quickly redeemed themselves.

The City’s approach to beaver management

The City’s practice is to try and strike a balance between health of the surrounding areas and the wellbeing of the beavers.

When required, The City uses different measures to protect trees and property to make our river parks unappealing to beavers. Depending on the situation, we may use a combination of the following:

  • Placing metal wiring around tree trunks.
  • Planting varieties of trees along the shore that are less palatable.
  • Placing under-dam drains to control water levels.

surprised-child-skippy-jon

We consider all other options before turning to trapping. However, in some cases it is required. When we do remove beavers, we use traps that are designed to kill instantly. The traps are placed under water for the protection of dogs, park users and other wildlife, and are checked daily.

There’s a final paragraph on why they can’t relocate beavers that are causing issues instead of trapping them, but honestly this is ALL I WISH from any city beaver management policy. Protect trees. Plant Willow. Install flow devices.

Consider it my version of “Eat. Pray. Love.”

If every city tried to do these things before trapping I would be over the moon with joy. Honestly, this is the best and most sensibly proactive policy I have ever read.

They even have a video teaching how to wrap trees. Be still my heart.

I expect a mass exodus of beaver supporters moving to Calgary right away. Honestly, my bags are nearly packed.


One more present for Heidi in the Odds and Ends category. This lovely website I came across in my travels is called beaverlikemammals.com, with the actual tagline “A friendly place to post sightings of beaver-like mammals” which she dubs BLM’s.

Really.

CaptureBLM
abbreviation
Beaver Like Mammal.

Everyone wants to make a contribution to society, to leave their own little mark on the world. This website is my mark. It provides a public space where people can post sightings of beaver-like mammals (BLMs). Did you spot a BLM at the corner of 10th Street and West Main? Does a BLM emerge from the bushes by your back porch every evening around 6pm? Did you catch a glimpse of a BLM out of your car window on the way home on Thursday night? Submit your sighting to beaverlikemammals.com!

There is a page for submitting a sighting and your observation will be listed by your state. Most of the entries she has look like woodchucks with the occasional squirrel. I don’t see any actual beavers since back in 2007. But she definitely gave me a gift.

From now on, the next photo of a nutria I see on a news article about beavers I’m calling it a BLM.

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