Archive for the ‘Beaver Chewing’ Category

Follow-ups and Flourishes

Posted by heidi08 On September - 16 - 2017Comments Off on Follow-ups and Flourishes

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.

The Watch of the Wild

Posted by heidi08 On August - 24 - 2017Comments Off on The Watch of the Wild

Fantastic column today from Karen Corker, the director of WildWatch in Maine. I’m guessing she attended Skip’s lectures last year in the state. Or maybe she even made them happen? Either way this is exactly the kind of writing we want to see everywhere.

Maine Voices: Beaver Deceivers allow people, nature’s engineers to go with the flow

At the end of each summer, Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife determines the fate of thousands of beavers. August is the month the department sets the trapping season dates for beavers across Maine’s 29 wildlife management districts. Towns and private property owners may request that specific areas be closed to trapping, but the closures represent a tiny fraction of the vast territory that is open to trappers to kill beavers in Maine without limit for five to six months a year.

Approximately 10,000 beavers lose their lives each year as a result of this aggressive, expansive approach to beaver management. The number of other, non-targeted animals killed in traps set for beavers is not generally reported, but the department admits that otters are frequent victims because they share the same wetland habitats.

Now I just have to interject and say how on earth does she know that the number of beavers trapped? I’m guessing she’s citing the numbers that come from the USDA stats for Maine, but is USDA the only folks allowed to do nuisance trapping? In California APHIS is responsible for a very small fraction of beavers killed by depredation permit, which can also be used by private trappers. I assume that’s true for other states as well.

There are two primary justifications for such extensive trapping. The first is that beavers have historically been regarded as “nuisance” animals, largely because of their damming behavior. When beavers clog culverts, the channels that run under roads, it often results in the flooding of roads and other properties.

The second justification derives from the department’s embrace of trapping as a recreational activity and primary wildlife management tool. In 2015, trapping proponents persuaded IF&W’s legislative committee to rewrite Maine statute to require the department to use trapping as a key basis for managing the state’s wildlife.

Another correction based on our reviews of depredation permits, is that the vast majority of depredation permits are sought for damage to landscaping. In fact there’s even a comment to the article that mentions tree damage. There are far more landowners who own trees than culverts I guess. So it’s a more common complaint. In California the deniens of beavers killed as ‘nuisances’ dwarfs the fur trapping numbers. That may be slightly different in Maine, but I doubt it.

A rapid evolution in our understanding of beavers and their value is eroding these justifications. Beavers are a keystone species; they create ecosystems that nourish a multitude other animals and plants. The marshes and meadows they build create ecological stability. With more than a third of freshwater fish and amphibians in the U.S. either extinct or at risk of extinction, the wetlands beavers produce have unrivaled potential to reverse these accelerating losses.

Along with the evolution in understanding of beavers’ contributions to healthy habitats, high quality flow devices – Beaver Deceivers, for example – have also evolved in recent decades.

When these devices are well-designed, well-constructed, and professionally installed, they prevent flooding, keep beavers and their benefits on the landscape, and offer long-term solutions to human/beaver conflicts at significantly lower cost than road repairs and beaver trapping. When such devices are not employed at conflict sites, beavers have to be destroyed continually. This approach is not only costly, it precludes the formation of the fertile habitats that support a rich and diverse assortment of wildlife and plant life.

In short, removal by trapping is not a lasting, economical, or ecologically-smart solution; any emptied beaver habitat is soon resettled, and the never-ending cycle of conflict and killing simply begin again. IF&W is not unaware of the benefits and effectiveness of flow-devices. The department has, in fact, stepped up its promotion of non-lethal solutions to beaver/human conflict through their use.

This is obviously my FAVORITE part of the letter, and the best wording I’ve seen on the subject. Good job Karen, you hit all the right notes. And it sounds a lot like Skip so I’m assuming they know each other. The column goes on to talk about the humane concerns about trapping, but in my considered opinion THIS is the power part. Just leave out the compassion next time Karen, and go straight for the economic value. People are inherently selfish and listen closer when their pocket book is involved, I promise.

Any Maine citizen who would like to share comments or concerns about the proposed beaver trapping season can express their views at a public hearing on Aug. 29 at 6 p.m. at the Augusta Armory, Room 209B, 179 Western Ave., Augusta. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is also accepting written comments on the season until Sept. 8. Comments can be emailed to becky.orff@maine.gov.

That’s a formal cue to send some comments about how well flow devices work and how beaver problems can be managed. You know I will! Right after I send Karen a note to thank her for this nicely written reminder.

Owls and Champions

Posted by heidi08 On August - 19 - 2017Comments Off on Owls and Champions

Jon met a stranger on his hike in Franklin hills yesterday and they had friendly dogs so they chatted for a while. The two men talked about the trail, and talked about nature, and eventually got to the subject of Alhambra Creeks. The man brought up the beavers, which he had never seen. He thought he had heard that they had some kind of ‘Champion’ that lived in town, but he didn’t know who? Someone Perryman?

Heh heh heh. Beaver champion! I like it. Sometimes I feel like a champion. But definitely not the first or the foremost. One of the most famous beaver champions of all times  is Grey Owl, (or Archie Bellamy). Who in addition to standing up for beavers made all of Canada feel foolish by convincing them he was was Apache, which he clearly was not. They haven’t recovered from the injury quite yet, but if you ask me they have no one to blame but themselves.

One look at the long frame and roman nose should have been enough to dispel any myths!

Grey Owl’s Cabin

On Ajawaan Lake in Canada’s Prince Albert National Park, a conservationist who called himself Grey Owl lived in a cabin with beavers from 1931 to 1938. He faked a First Nations identity; the former trapper was actually an Englishman named Archie Belaney, though these details didn’t emerge until after his death.  

After working as a fur trapper, wilderness guide, and forest ranger, he eventually dove into the world of conservation. His third wife (he’d already had two overlapping, failed marriages by the age of 37), a Mohawk Iroquois woman named Anahereo, helped convince him to make the switch from trapping beavers to advocating on their behalf.

Anahereo had accompanied him one day as he set up a trap to catch a mother beaver. The cries of the kits (baby beavers), which supposedly resembled the wails of a human child, caused her to beg him to release the mother. Though Grey Owl failed to heed to her requests because the pelt would earn them much-needed income, he did go back and locate the abandoned kits the next day. He and his wife raised them in their cabin.

Grey Owl went on to write several books about nature conservation, focused largely around a central theme of the negative effects of the commodification of the natural world. Grey Owl and Anahereo were featured in documentaries about their environmental work and became fairly well known among 20th-century conservationists within the United States and Canada. After Grey Owl died of pneumonia in 1938, the details of his fabricated First Nations identity came to light and tarnished his reputation.

Tarnished reputation! He was a polygamist too, don’t forget to mention that. Of course what he said was true and insightful regardless of his parentage. The truly funny part of this is that Grey Owl, who was arguably the most famous beaver advocate in history, and certainly the only one during the end of the fur trade, lived in Saskatchewan, which is now won of the MOST famous beaver-killing provinces in the world.

Here’s a video I made using his speech in the movie by Richard Attenborough. I’m actually quite proud of how the 90 seconds came together, even slipping a little Beethoven in the background.

But maybe you are more old school, and want to see the real thing (er reel thing). Here’s the original 1936 documentary produced with National Parks Canada. As beaver Champions go, he really set the standard. I am sorry every day my living room doesn’t have a beaver pond in it. I can’t speak for Jon, though.