Very wonderful timing too, because yesterday Ben Golfarb’s editor, Michael Metivier, posted the likely cover for his new book on Facebook. I love everything about it but the silhouette, which I very kindly fixed for them by trading it for one of ours. This is what has been released though. Aren’t you excited to read this? You can pre-order your copy from amazon right NOW!
Remember this is for the CREEK coalition, so the idea of a beaver is less important than the idea of water, which I think is accurately reflected in this toothy mural. But I love the size of this mural. Apparently they do nothing in half measures in San Jose.
Do you want to tell them the truth about beaver teeth, or shall I? Either way we’ll get a chance to talk it over with them at the festival, because they’ll be booth 37 and handing out beaver tattoos! Here are the flags for each participating booth I made yesterday.
In the mean time let’s appreciate the lovely photo by Cheryl Reynolds that was included with permission in this month’s issue of the Canadian magazine “Saltscapes“. It has a modestly nice article about beavers authored by Bob Bancroft. The current issue is only available to subscribers but they mailed us a copy as a courtesy. It’s mostly about the history and biology, but does a little work learning about the benefits they provide -(then goes on to promptly list all the mosquitoes they cause, so it’s not the best) – but it does have Cheryl’s name and OUR WEBSITE so truly curious minds can come learn the truth if they want. Here’s the photo and I scanned the article. Article_0049
Regular readers of this blog know I don’t pull out the ‘Star Wars award ceremony’ for just any beaver article. I did it when the New York Times finally decided to read the memo and report that beavers matter (even if the author did first write that beaver live in the dam). And I do it for this – I’m pretty sure this is better. I’m tearing up so often it’s hard to be sure. This is the kind of glorious article you need to GO READ FOR YOUR SELF in its entirety. But I will serve up some highlights to whet your appetite.
Beavers seem to know that healthy waters need wood – big wood to scour deep pools, dead wood to fertilize them, racked-up wood to complicate the flow. The intricacies of their dams, lodges, and mazing canals surpass all belief, in spite of – or rather, because of – the ways they are riven with a wild porosity, in need of constant maintenance. With all this industry and adaptive efficacy, beavers are deserving “ecosystem engineers,” even as they compel more expansive definitions for this very term. We typically engineer ecosystems by neatening and bleakening them with inert structures, often at the expense of other species. But the organic approach of Castor canadensis actually increases biodiversity, including direct contributions to over 25 percent of herbaceous plant species along forested rivers and streams.
In this respect, beavers are also “keystone species” that have disproportionately large impacts on their neighbors, including us….The discerning eye can look at maps of the Pacific Northwest and pick out lands where beavers came before. Some remain fertile wetlands, others are now pastures with “good” groundwater, still more are wet floral meadows tucked away in the woods. Our most livable and lovable landscapes are often ancient beaver ponds, first cleared, composted, and irrigated by beavers long ago. For the many happy bovines we see amid the longest-green grass, we can thank a beaver. For the homes that are flood-buffered or firewise with nearby ponds, we also can thank a beaver. And if you drink water in Bellingham, Washington, it’s been stored and filtered by wetlands upstream. At least for this, we can surely thank a beaver.
Sniff. I love everything about this article. But the bold sentence I love especially. If you love the way your pastures or farmlands look, thank a beaver. If you love that your home is above the flood plane, thank a beaver. The only thing this article needs is better photos. That scruffy muskrat-looking kit is no way to tell a story. Rob needs to talk with Suzi and have this article properly illustrated.
Yet as trials and errors teach us time and again that no one person can achieve restoration alone, the promise of partnership has taken a new turn. The return of beavers to their former haunts is showing us that even our species – the great Homo sapiens – can’t achieve restoration alone. While the Pacific Northwest remains collectively committed to the ongoing work of restoration, there is the growing awareness that our former salmon abundance was made possible with the beavers’ work. The last five centuries aside, beavers were one of the greatest earth-shapers on the continent, creating the very conditions in which our beloved salmon evolved. However much it jabs at our hubris, we are realizing that our aspirations to restore landscapes may be a kind of beaver mimicry. ELJs are, after all, what beavers do. Near my home, in the Stillaguamish River watershed, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration even estimates that, after the fur trade, winter habitats producing young salmon were reduced by 86 percent without the beavers’ presence.
It’s no wonder that beaver-based restoration partnerships are forming all around the region, eager to dispatch the rodents like mercenaries to the frontlines of damaged watersheds. And where direct reintroductions are not possible or practical, we are learning to welcome the rodents who naturally return.
Sometime you just need to get that second cup of coffee and settle in for a good long read. As wonderful as the article is, it’s even sweeter because the author was at the beaver conference, wrote me a LOVELY compliment about my presentation, and said he agreed with me that Lorne Fitch’s presentation was amazing. He also loved meeting his hero Kent in person.
US Forest Service biologist Kent Woodruff knows that many landowners consider beavers problematic, but his leadership on the project has shown them how these animals can aid us in timely, cost-effective ways. Woodruff can talk about beavers one minute as though they are venerable elders; in another, they might be an Allen wrench, just the right size; in the next, he might be on his knees, pointing out to some visiting schoolkid what makes one beaver’s tail unlike all the others. It’s no wonder that Woodruff has been dubbed a “beaver whisperer.” Since 2008, the project has relocated over 300 beavers around the Methow Valley watershed, most to headwater streams on public land.
Shhh, here comes my favorite sentence:
Glamorous as these intensive restorations are, sometimes the simplest tactic is just to let the beavers come home. But this can also be the most challenging approach – while still the most necessary – because it requires a coexistence that conquers our perceptions of beavers as pests.
You knew it was going to be something like that, right? Let the beavers relocate themselves and if you have to change anything, spend the effort changing the people. That should be on my tombstone. There’s a very nice passage about Tricia Otto who allowed beavers to reawaken her property. Something tells me we’d be great friends.
Thankfully, there are growing numbers of people who welcome these nomads. Over the past two years, I have worked weekly as a land steward with Tricia Otto, a retired doctor and avid conservationist who had long sought to restore native biodiversity on a wounded piece of land. In 1989, when Tricia bought her hundred-acre parcel of weed-sprung woods outside Bellingham, she never thought beavers would enter the scene. But soon after her arrival, the beavers followed. First they clogged an old culvert, which backed up the little-trickle-of-a-blackberry-strangled-creek, which ultimately drowned her driveway. After a few winters of driving through standing water, she realized the beavers were doing other things: As silent teeth sawed through the nights and wet roots went to rot, trees fell. And in the felling, even-aged woods became a multigenerational community. Light hit the land again, and sometimes the land became water. Without even asking, the beavers were helping Tricia achieve her conservation goals.
In the past several decades, Portland, with its progressive urban growth boundary to constrict sprawl and keep the city green, has become a destination of the eco-friendly. And ever since officials from nearby Tigard, Oregon rashly breached a beaver dam, locals have started to speak up for their state animal. Greater Portland’s urban parks have become oases touted for “beaver watching” opportunities, and wherever possible, beavers are allowed to do what beavers do. The sheer curiosity these rodents provoke has shown that our natural aesthetics are wildly adaptable. Where the beavers draw too close for comfort, there are options. People are learning to foil the fellers from taking down cherished trees with hardy fences, or by coating the trunks with an abrasive paint-sand mixture.
And where beavers are truly threatening safety, public infrastructure, or private homes, people are turning to the rapidly evolving realm of non-lethal fences and flow devices aimed at beaver-proofing culverts and stream channels where flooding could be an issue. These relatively inexpensive devices include the Beaver Deceiver – a fence that prevents the beaver from coming too close to a culvert, and the Castor Master – which keeps a pond’s water level from rising above a certain height. These remarkable tools have worked for thousands across the continent, and in Europe, where Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) numbers are on the rise.
Is there any beloved topic that this article doesn’t cover? Beavers help streams and biodiversity – check. Beavers can be relocated to areas to do good work – check. It’s even better when we allow beaver to relocate themselves – check. And when beavers cause problems flow devices can solve them. – CHECK. That’s it. That’s the beaver gospel. Chapter and verse. He didn’t miss anything.
We can’t restore ecosystems alone. We have great resources out there, like the Beaver Restoration Guidebook, an infinitely practical, inspiring tome of case studies and how-tos from leading practitioners. And yet there is many a night when I put my head down, afraid I have not yet done enough, known enough, or tried enough to steward this place. In such times I take heart in how beavers recall the words of ecologist Frank Egler, who said, “Nature is not only more complex than we think; it is more complex than we can think.” I take heart in the ways we increasingly see our fellow animals not as objects to save, but as allies with common cause. The beaver is a model, measure, and motivation for this work, and I trust that we have much to live for, together. When my workday is done, I trust that somewhere, on a dark and fast-dripping stream, a beaver’s shift begins.
PERFECT. PERFECT. PERFECT. This is the very best article I could ever have hoped for. Thank you SO much for your excellent work, Rob. It could only have been slightly more perfect if it mentioned in passing how a certain California city south of Whatcom had decided to live with beavers a decade ago with excellent results including a beaver festival. But, hey. Gift horses and mouths, you know the saying.
How much do you wanna bet that after reading this the execs at Earth Island are kicking themselves that they aren’t Worth A Dam’s sponsor and let ISI get to beavers first?
Things are starting to take on a pre-conference craziness. I dreamed last night our beavers were living between two Killer whales at Marine World and I hired Skip to come build some kind of protection for them. When I woke up he had just told me he needed a permit to start work and I was worried how I was going to approach the city without letting them know the beavers had come back.
This morning I got an email from Paul and Louise Ramsay that they were passing near Martinez on the way to Canyonville and they’d love to visit. In addition I got an email from Gerhard Schwab of Germany that he and Duncan Haley were planning a trip after the conference and they’d love to see Martinez and our stomping grounds.
Apparently we’re a beaver flop house.
I suppose things could will get weirder the closer we get too departure. I am already so sure of a snowy drive that we have stooped to trading cars with my mother for the week. (Subaru vs. Prius) We’ll be right on the Umpqua river in nearby Tiller so I’m hoping we won’t be flooded or snowed out! Hopefully, all will be worth it when the vast mysteries of beavers unfold before our eyes and ears at the conference.
In the meantime there are beaver tidbits too grand to pass up on the menu. First from Tallahassee FLORIDA where it never never ceases to amaze me that beavers and alligators are neighbors.
Drivers should take caution as construction along Orange Avenue may pose danger for otters and beavers in the waterway underneath the road.
Animals attempt to cross the street to get to the other side of the creek, but due to a cement barricade blocking the area where they try to go around, they get run over by passing cars, said Melissa Ward, a local resident who first saw a beaver dead near the construction site three weeks ago. A week later, an otter met a similar fate. Ward said her mother has seen eight beavers dead in the past few weeks.
As if we needed ANOTHER reason to hate those cement barricades in the middle of busy streets. What on earth are animals supposed to do when they run into one of those? Just jump really high? I realize running into one is probably dimly better than running into a car going the opposite direction, but I’d much rather run into something soft and let wildlife cross safely. Jon was once saved very nicely by all that bottle-brush they tore out to replace with concrete.
A few fun items, one from the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival parade this weekend in New York.
The Canoodlers, who wear old-fashioned orange life preservers and do dance routines with wooden canoe paddles, dress as beavers for this year’s parade. They won second place in the competitive independent walking group category, edging out the ever-popular Lawn Chair Ladies. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter
Heh heh heh. Let that be a lesson to you. Be careful of you might end up like this very foolish looking man who dances with canoe paddles.
I think it safe to say that everyone knows that beavers live in water, leaving its safety only to forage on land or to sleep inside a lodge. While they eat both aquatic and terrestrial herbaceous plants, through much of the year, especially in winter, much of their diet consists of the bark and twigs of trees, especially poplar.
Beavers aren’t alone in their fondness for poplar. In the rodent group, there resides another species that also eats bark, twigs, and opening leaves of poplar. Porcupines eat woody material and, like beavers, possess a long intestinal pouch full of bacteria to digest cellulose. Unlike beavers, however, porcupines don’t cut down trees to access meals. They climb trees using their impressive climbing gear: huge claws and rough-skinned feet.
Apart from starvation and falling out of trees, Porcupines face another challenge. Some are shot by humans because they damage trees; others die when they cross highways or stop to glean salt from the asphalt. Porcupines are slow moving animals built for climbing, not running, and thus are prone to being hit by cars. They need not run from predators because they own a powerful defence: modified hairs known as quills.
In the vast history of our natural life, Jon and I have come across only a single porcupine that was hit by a car in the Sierras. Which doesn’t mean our paths haven’t crossed. I was fascinated to read in Dietland Muller-Swarze book that beavers are the only animal where the female young are recorded to disperse greater distances than the males – except for one other. You guessed it, the porcupine. As winter is a great time for spotting them keep your eyes pealed for these “Tree Beavers”.
But there is one silly image out there that is soo foolish I can’t even bring my self to write about it at all. Even if I did, I’m sure you know every single thing I would be likely to say. If you’ve spent any time on this website at all you’ll know IMMEDIATELY where this is. And if you’re new I’ll give you a clue. It starts with a “B”.
Not a bad beaver report considering its from Indiana. I can’t embed it here but click on it for a nice review of the issues. Even though they newscaster can’t tell a lodge and a dam apart, there is actually discussion about beaver benefits and options supposedly being considered.
A family of beavers is currently living the Hawthorne Park Wetlands it’s kind of like having, squatters move into your neighborhood. The rodents are causing a big problem and the Vigo County Parks Department is facing a tough decision.
The Parks Dept. say trapping and killing the beavers in the area is an option. The other alternative would be to capture and relocate the animals, but that equipment can cost around $200 per beaver. The issue is the dams they build can cause water back up in other areas.
On a cold, frosty day there’s not much activity at Hawthorne Park. But there’s definitely something going on.. and it concerns the wildlife here. In particular some pesky beavers. “When they create dams, stop up water bodies, which creates sort of artificial wetlands in areas where people might not want those wetlands to be,” Falyn Owens, said
Owens, Urban Wildlife Biologist with Department of Natural Resources says the ideal would be to put up barriers to stop the animals. But if something more drastic is needed, then trap and kill is favored over capture and release because then the beaver essentially becomes someone else’s problem.
The beaver taking down trees and potentially causing flooding are primary concerns, but the animal does a lot of good too.
“They are what we call ecosystem engineers which makes them an incredibly important species in the natural system, just like human beings, they have the capacity to change their environment,” Owens said.
Since we’re talking about Indiana I would ordinarily hold little hope for these beavers, but I was tipped to the story by someone who works for the parks department who was tipped by the reporter. I was able to pull up email for Ms. Owens and the park superintendent, and send them information about flow devices and beaver benefits. Who knows? At least there’s a chance things could work out.
To be honest I was surprised they have a biologist in charge of Urban Wildlife at all. And Falyn Owens wrote me back twice, basically saying I can’t do anything and the park has a license to kill. But still. We’re grading on a curve.
Robin let me know that the infamous dollar store beaver made his way to Anderson Cooper at CNN the other night. Apparently causing him to get a bit of the giggles. Discretion being the furrier part of valor, I won’t comment. Sit thru a short commercial and enjoy the clip.