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

The Martinez Beavers

Category: Beaver Rehabilitation

A collection of articles and videos on rearing orphaned kits.


There were two news stories yesterday that touched on the history of this blog. One of them was positive so we’ll do that last. The other is less positive but I’m at least happy that the reporter wrote me back this morning and apologized for not asking US first. Ahem.

What’s up with all the wayward beavers?

WALNUT CREEK — An injured beaver discovered recently in a Pittsburg parking lot near Kirker Creek may have lost its sight, according to the Lindsay Wildlife Experience.

When the Contra Costa County Animal Services Department brought the 35-pound male beaver to the Lindsay on Oct. 18, the animal was lethargic and staff believed he may have suffered head trauma and an injured jaw.

The medical team had been monitoring the beaver’s condition, administering pain medication and treating him with antibiotics for minor injuries.

Two days after the beaver arrived at the Walnut Creek hospital, however, Lindsay staff discovered that the animal could not see, which may be a temporary side effect of the head injury, said Elisabeth Nardi, associate director of marketing.

If the beaver is permanently blind, he would not be able to survive in the wild, she added.

Poor guy.

Typically, the Lindsay receives only one or two of the large rodents per year, but this is the fifth the nonprofit has cared for in 2017. Wildlife experts are not sure why so many beavers are venturing from their lodges into areas with people.

The medical team at Lindsay Wildlife Experience in Walnut Creek is treating an injured 35-pound male beaver who was found in a Pittsburg parking lot on Oct. 18, 2017.
The medical team at Lindsay Wildlife Experience in Walnut Creek is treating an injured 35-pound male beaver who was found in a Pittsburg parking lot on Oct. 18, 2017. (Courtesy of Lindsay Wildlife Experience)

One theory is that the beaver population has grown.

The heavy rains that soaked the Bay Area last winter produced lush vegetation for the toothy animals to eat, so more kits may be surviving.

A second hypothesis is that people are encroaching on the animals’ habitat.

“We have had the better part of 10 years of drought and the human population in the Bay Area has increased and spread out more during that time,” said Amber Engle, Lindsay Wildlife Rehabilitation Manager.

First of all, stop spouting theories about the population growing and ask the REAL BEAVER EXPERTS at Worth A Dam. Sheesh.

I actually heard about this poor little guy thursday morning from Cheryl, who was alerted by their vet. But this particular unconsulted beaver EXPERT doesn’t think it has anything to do with the population growing. (!) This wet winter and spring was terribly hard on beaver families. Flooding dislocated them all over, not just in the Bay Area. A beaver that is suddenly without family or home is disoriented and confused. He or she can easily wander into a public area, get hit by a car, and wind up in rehab.

This beaver’s dislocation is NOT storm related. And he sounds sick. The blindness makes me think of our very first sick kit. Remember that? He was picked up swimming in circles and they discovered at Lindsay he was blind.

After he died a necropsy showed that he had brain damage caused by round worm parasite that was responsible for his blindness.

And for goodness sake don’t euthanize a beaver just because he’s blind. Put him some farmer’s pond or backyard and let him find his way. Beavers have routines,their eyesight isn’t good anyway, and it he had a reliable food source he’d be fine  and figure things out on his own. Two thirds of beaver life is probably spent sightless anyway – underground or underwater.

Go here to donate and remind Lindsay that caring for sick beavers is Worth A Dam.


 

Better news comes from Southern California at the site of the big bruhaha nearly two decades ago. For newer readers Lake Skinner was a reservoir that made a decision to trap out beavers and caused resident outcry. When they were challenged on this decision they said that the beavers were  threatening the homes of endangered birds in the area, the least Bell’s vireo and Willow Flycatcher and had to be killed to protect them.

The outraged citizens hired an attorney who brought the whole thing to court, filing suit against the metrolitan water district, the power company and CDFG. When they lost they brought the matter to appeals court with expert testimony by the likes of Sherri Tippie and Donald Hey.

This time they won because the smart attorney (Mitch Wagoner) argued that that removing the beavers was a violation of CEQA and the court agreed that the decision was “discretionary” and not “ministerial” (meaning they did it because they wanted to not because they had to.) So they lost big time and had to all those pay court costs.

In addition but seperartely, researchers in the area were attracted to the story and published an article about the whole stupid decision wonderfully called “Management by Assertion” which remains one of my favorites.

Well yesterday this was posted including some of their findings.

Skinner Reservoir – Lake Skinner Temecula Ca

The reservoir and nearby Southwestern Riverside County Multi-Species Reserve host endangered species such as Least Bell’s vireo (Vireo bellii pusillis) and Southwestern Willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus), dependent on riparian willow habitat that is created and maintained by North American beaver (Castor canadensis).

Now originally I thought this was on the reservoir website which would have been awesome, but today I can see it was just a blog that I think might be computer generated. Never mind. It is still very good news though because the it means that the information from the good guys in this lawsuit and study is so widespread that it’s easier to pick up than all the lies they wanted people to believe and had a staff of thousands to spread.

Beaver truth will out. So there.

 


camilaHere’s two very nice ways to get a jump start on the weekend. The first is news that our good friend Camilla Fox of Project Coyote is now working with the Center for Biological Diversity to sue Fish and Game. Here she is with a volunteer working at the beaver festival in 2012. We always like days that start out like this.

State wildlife agencies sued over commercial trapping program

Two national nonprofit advocacy groups sued the California Fish and Game Commission and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife this week, claiming the two agencies have improperly managed and illegally subsidized the state’s commercial trapping program.

The Center for Biological Diversity and Project Coyote claim thousands of coyotes, foxes, badgers and other fur-bearing animals are trapped in California every year so their pelts can be sold overseas.

The advocate groups claim in their lawsuit that the California Fish and Game Commission and state Department of Fish and Wildlife have illegally diverted up to $500,000 since 2013 to subsidize commercial fur trapping in the Golden State.

The California Fish and Game Commission and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife are two separate entities. Established in 1870, the California Fish and Game Commission is billed as the first and oldest wildlife conservation agency in the United States, predating even the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries.

I didn’t even know that there was a State Fish and Game Commission. They are the folks at the county level that gave us our grant last year. In fact they’re hosting a bbq this weekend that Cheryl is attending to show off what we did with their money. I can’t tell from the article how they’re saying the agencies subsidized trapping but I’m very interested in this idea. Wait, there’s a clearer article in the LA Times yesterday. They say the taxpayers end up subsidizing because the fees for trapping licences are so low. They’re saying if they charged trappers what it actually cost the system, the fur trade would die in California. Hmmm that’s interesting.

Lawsuit aims to end commercial fur trapping in California

“We hope the filing of this lawsuit will be remembered as the moment California said goodbye to the handful of people who still kill mammals so that their pelts can be auctioned off in foreign markets and then made into slippers and fur-trimmed coats,” she said.

It may be unpopular, but I’m not going to invest a lot of energy in fur trapping. That is not the cause of the overwhelming number of beaver deaths. Depredation is the BIG killer in California. I would spend money suing the the state over that.

(I’m having a fantasy right now about what it would be like to have enough money to sue CDFG in a drought year after counting all the beaver depredation permits and calculating how much water they would have saved if they had been allowed to live!)

Of course my favorite lawsuit against CDFG involved beavers, was won at the appellate level and happened 18 years ago with our friend Mitch Wagoner in Riverside county. Ahh Memories!

Meet the Baby Beavers, Squirrels and Ducklings Saved During Harvey

The second treat to start the weekend is this from the Wildlife Center of Texas, who has its share of rescues after hurricane Harvey. The article is definite eye candy and you should check it out, but I thought this was particularly wonderful.

The good volunteers at WCT are working hard at the moment so go here to donate.

beaver-duo
Kits dislocated by Hurricane Harvey: Wildlife Center of Texas

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.

Orange Avenue construction threatens otters and beavers

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.homepage logo

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.

The beaver that lives in trees

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”.


I was surprised to come across this yesterday in my search for donations. I hadn’t seen this site before and knew nothing about it, which is rare for beaver news so close to home. Thinking about the Tuleyome website from yesterday, I suspect similarities. The two names aren’t actually linked anywhere I can find, but their location is, and the websites are very similar. Either they have the same technician or they are staffed by a handful of similar people.

Either way, I like them.

Capture

The Elder Creek Oak Woodland Preserve is a private preserve soon to be protected by conservation easement that encompasses 233 acres of primarily steep hills of blue oak woodland containing dozens of old-growth manzanitas. This preserve is located in the Elder Creek Watershed, which covers about 150 square miles and ranges in elevation from over 8000 feet to about 250 feet above sea level. Over 72 miles of streams and creeks make up the watershed, making it one of the longer ones on the west side of the northern Sacramento Valley

What we do to encourage beavers on Elder Creek:

• Never kill beavers and encourage others to join us in protecting them.
Regularly comment to California Fish and Wildlife to prioritize restoration of beaver populations.
• Build small, beaver-like check dams and baffles in the creek in mid- to late spring (depending on flow).
• Leave cottonwood and willow along the creek, occasionally removing dead wood and coppicing some of the willow.

Imagine stumbling across a website like this by accident! I can assure you it made my afternoon.

According to Westbrook, 85 percent of all watercourses in the United States — and a comparable, though unquantified, percentage in Canada — are headwater streams and, therefore, small enough to be dammed by beavers. This continent-wide network of fine blue lines represents a wealth of potential beaver habitat. “We’re talking about beaver in nearly every headwater stream across North America prior to European colonization,” says Westbrook. (from Canadian Geographic)

Beaver streams resulted in:

  • Reduced stream sedimentation and erosion
  • Stream temperature moderation
  • Higher dissolved oxygen levels
  • Overall improved water quality
  • Increased natural water storage capabilities within watersheds, including recharge of ground water aquifers
  • Reduced stream velocities, which means a decreased number of extreme floods
  • Removal of many pollutants from surface and ground water
  • Drought protection through increased year-round stream flow
  • Improved food/habitat for fish and other animals, including 43% (according to one source) of the endangered species that the US Department of Fish and Wildlife is mandated to protect

All these benefits from one little rodent! (Or several million, actually) Beavers are proudly promoted by our new BFF’s at Elder Creek Preserve. Thank you for doing this important work sharing the beaver gospel. Let’s hope is saturates Woodland and begins to sink into Sacramento. (And I mean both the region and the governing bodies it houses.)


On monday we were contacted by a beaver supporter who wanted to donate her grand mother’s old beaver fur coat for us to use in education or rehab. Certainly it’s nothing we have ever considered for ourselves. I have always mocked a very widely used and un-admirable activity folks practice in schools of allowing one student to ‘dress up like a beaver, with a fur coat, goggles and flippers’ to teach them about their adaptions. We would never do that as it seems way more stunt-y than teach-y. And why not teach kids the amazing things about beavers while you have their attention?

But it occurred to me maybe we could teach about the fur trade and the toll it extracted on our streams and wildlife? We never really tried to do that kind of education at a festival, but why not? And maybe while we’re at it teach the martinez story and our creek response with series of display panels folks can look at their own pace.  I have been working on a graphic we could use for a poster with the display. trappedI will say, that Jon and I were both very surprised how soft the coat was. I always imagined beaver as more wiry. And you can definitely see how protective and thick it is. You can’t even see where the individual hairs separate.  It also occurred to me that orphan beavers in rehab might like to snuggle up to beaver fur, so I’ve asked our beaver rehabber friend if that’s true and we will consider donating it to Sonoma where they do most of the beaver rehab work.

We like fur coats best of course ON the beaver, but it might be okay to put it to good use now.

 

 


It’s Monday, you have tons of Christmas wrapping and decorating to do, so you need this. Really.

cutest-kit-ever

Back when famed wildlife photographer was photographing our ill-fated baby beavers, she would Suzi at workhave to leave occasionally to go to Washington where Sarvey rehab facility had a very small baby beaver that she needed to include with the photos for the beaver story for Ranger Rick. I remember because in the beginning she talked about filming him in a ghillie suit because he shouldn’t learn to trust humans. The timing is right and I think this little guy was it.

Never A Dull Bling

I work at Sarvey Wildlife Care Center, a rescue and rehab facility for wildlife.

In May 2015, this baby beaver was discovered by some campers.  He was without his mother and too young to survive on his own, so the campers brought him to us.  We actually already had a female beaver with us who was rehabbing from an animal attack, and the two beavers were eventually put together.  The older female became a surrogate to the baby male. The two beavers spent a year with us.  This past spring they were both released, together, in a secluded area with lots of access to trees, water, and natural habitat.

Beavers play a crucial role in biodiversity.  Many species rely on beaver-created habitat, and a lot of these species who rely on beavers are threatened or endangered.  This year, the baby American beaver was made Patient of the Year at Sarvey. Ornaments and cards were made to celebrate this particular animal.

BENEFITS OF BEAVER PONDS

  • Decrease damaging floods
  • Recharge drinking water aquifers
  • Remove pollutants from surface and ground water
  • Drought protection
  • Decreased erosion

Sarvey does excellent rehab work and has earned a reputation throughout the world for their wildlife care. Aside from having the very cutest kit photo I have ever seen, they understand why beavers matter, which isn’t always the case. If you want to send them some love donate here because they deserve it.

Now there’s something that I’m even more excited to talk about. It’s an article in the very respected magazine Natural History that a beaver buddy alerted me to yesterday. The article is by Katy Spence and she obviously  spent some quality time with our beaver friends in Alberta with Dr. Glynnis Hood and Lorne Fitch of Cows and Fish. You can’t believe how great this article is. Guess what the title is. Go ahead, guess.

hydroDing! Ding! Ding! That’s the title I have been waiting for a decade to read! Somebody give Katy a Worth A Dam t shirt! Unfortunately the very impressive article isn’t online and doesn’t want to be shared with the likes of people who haven’t purchased a subscription, so it required stealth to obtain and sharing it with you requires stealth as well. I figured I’d put the cute baby photo on the top and all the copyright police would walk on by saying ohh, just some cute animal loving website; nothing to see here, move along.

Are they gone? Shhh. It starts with the account of Pierre Buldoc, who wanted to use beaver on is private land.

Sometimes called “nature’s engineers,” the North American beaver (Castor canadensis) is one of the few mammals — including humans — that substantially alters the landscape to suit its own needs. In fact, ecologists consider beavers to be a keystone species because their presence or absence will drastically change an ecosystem. With increasingly extreme weather events, ever-growing human populations, and declining freshwater sources, some beaver advocates believe the animals offer a vital, natural solution for retaining water in ponds and mitigating floods in other riparian ecosystems.

When Bolduc first proposed reintroducing beavers to the landscape, his neighbors — not to mention county officials — were not happy. Beavers had previously clogged a nearby culvert, which, in turn, often washed out the road. They were a nuisance, so the county removed them. Property values, crops, and roads in many rural areas have suffered damage from beaver construction sites. Sometimes, the territorial rodents will cut a favorite tree or even kill curious pets.

Yet, the rodents have had a tremendous impact on Bolduc’s pond. After approaching each of his neighbors individually about the beavers to convince them to try his reintroduction experiment, they eventually agreed. He even suggested an alternate solution for the county road: beaver-proof culverts. Unlike standard culverts, which run parallel to the water, these culverts are perpendicular — letting water rise into them like a straw in a glass. If the water gets high enough, it will drain through a connected horizontal pipe that runs underneath the road, preventing floods. Even when the beavers’ dam breached in May 2016 and drained hundreds of thousands of gallons of water, the culvert prevented a flood.

As climate change increases the risk of extreme weather events, some scientists are eyeing beavers as a tool for maintaining volatile watersheds. In 2008, Glynnis Hood, an environmental scientist at the University of Alberta-Augustana who specializes in wetland ecology and the impact of beavers, published a paper describing beavers’ unprecedented ability to mitigate drought. She and her team analyzed fifty-four years of drought data from Elk Island National Park in Alberta and found that where beaver dams were present, there was more water-up to nine times that of a pond or water source without beavers. Because beaver ponds are so much deeper than other ponds, water lasts longer, even in times of drought.

Hood has continued to examine the nuanced effect beavers have on a landscape, as well as how humans respond to them. She’s completing a study that compares costs of different beaver management efforts. The study will contribute to a larger project, called Leave it to Beavers, which aims to reduce human-beaver conflict. The Alberta-based, inter-agency effort uses citizen science to gather information about the long-term effects beavers can have on a landscape. The project is composed of several agencies, including the Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society, a non-government agency informally known as “Cows and Fish.” Cows and Fish works with landowners and stakeholders to clarify how water flows through different landscapes, especially agricultural areas.

A riparian specialist for Cows and Fish, Lome Fitch, is trying to spark discussions about living with beavers. He offers a voluntary workshop on how beavers affect the landscape and how humans can peacefully coexist with them. He isn’t interested in pushing people to accept beavers, necessarily. He’s simply holding the door open. “You don’t bring people to the middle,” Fitch said. “You just start them thinking about where their position is and, hopefully, use that and expand their information sources. Maybe they’ll continue to migrate towards the middle.”

Fitch developed a ten-step list of goals, the first of which is building tolerance. Perhaps the most formidable step will be to change government policy in Alberta. The province has no clear policy concerning beavers, leaving confusion over what is permitted and what is not when it comes to relocation and rehabilitation.

The article goes into a full description of flow devices and how they work, and talks about how Glynnis and her students are using them effectively and teaching others how to use them. It even talks about how polarizing beavers are, Rachel Haddock of the Miitakis Institute calls them the ‘Wolves of the watershed’ because people either love them or hate them. Ahh! Sounds familiar!

Then it ends on this POWERFUL note.

If people are willing to compromise with beavers now, the result could be a new narrative in which humans and wildlife co-engineer a healthier, more resilient landscape. The big unknown is whether or not we can move past old assumptions.

That sure is the big unknown alright. But wowowow! What a fantastically public place to put this out there. We can only hope it gets read and circulated in all the right places. Lets hope someone leaves it on the governor’s desk right away. And decorates the halls of congress with it. And forces everyone waiting in line trying to get a depredation permit to read it. And if, btw,  you work somewhere someone needs to read it email me, and we’ll see what we can do.