Archive for the ‘Beavers and Frogs’ Category

Beaver ignorance never really goes out of style!

Posted by heidi08 On July - 17 - 20172 COMMENTS

Oh good! Smart people are still being head-smackingly stupid about beavers! Thank goodness! I thought I was out of a job for a while there. It’s good to know our services are still needed.

Let’s start where we always start, shall we? In Saskatchewan.

Meewasin starts work on trail through the Northeast Swale

Work began Thursday on building a 2.2-kilometre trail network through the swale that is intended to both accommodate those who want to enjoy the area just north of the Silverspring and Evergreen neighbourhoods and discourage those who misuse the area.

The trail system will include six nodes that will feature benches, garbage cans and interpretive panels. The trail is being built along a three-metre-wide swath that has already been disturbed by human activity. “What we’re trying to create here is an access to the swale, which has significant ecological value,” Otterbein said in an interview at the swale Friday.

A beaver has built a home in the wet pond and some endangered northern leopard frogs have also been spotted in the pond, Otterbein said. Meewasin also plans to install wildlife-friendly fencing along the swale’s edge next to the developing Aspen Ridge neighbourhood.

I’m told a ‘swale’ is a marshy or hollow place between ridges. I couldn’t tell when I read this article whether they were thinking about protecting the sensitive frogs from the beavers or protecting the neibourhood from the beavers, but I’m sure curious what “wildlife-friendly fencing” looks like in Saskatchewan, where they actually had a beaver kill contest just last year.

I’m guessing that they were heavily informed by the thoughtful outdoor chronicle “Mountain men” which profiles a forlorn trapper who can’t kill many beavers because there’s not enough WATER. No kidding.

Lack of water gives Tom beaver problems on Mountain Men

This week on Mountain Men, Tom is having trouble with his beaver traps due to a lack of water.

Beavers are creatures of habit and the key to success when trapping them is usually the location. Traps can be set along the beaver dam, where they tend to run across the path over the dam often. You can also place one between two ponds the beavers are using or any path they use frequently.

The lack water means that not only can Tom not get his boat into the traps, but the traps are also exposed and any twigs covering them are now gone. This makes it highly unlikely he’s going to have any luck whilst the water levels are so low.The lack water means that not only can Tom not get his boat into the traps, but the traps are also exposed and any twigs covering them are now gone. This makes it highly unlikely he’s going to have any luck whilst the water levels are so low.

Ohh no! Poor Tom! Not only is the water level too low to trap beavers but the unfortunate man is too frickin stupid to live! Saying the water level is too low to catch beavers is like saying there’s no time to gain weight because you’re too busy eating, or your prisons are too empty because the city has too many police, or the federal government is working so hard we can’t afford health care.

Here, Tom, I have an idea. Stop killing beavers for a nanosecond. Let them make their dams and raise the water level and recharge the aquifer, and then you’ll be able to trap lots of things that live IN the water, like otter and mink and things that drink the water like moose and fox, and the beaver will save your sons!  Buy them each a copy of this novel, will you? And then we’ll talk.


More grrs for Vermont where they have been struggling mightily to justify extending the otter trapping season for another month, and foolishly agreed to listen to the public on the issue. They have been getting millions of emails from folks who say angrily that “otters are innocent” and they shouldn’t be killed for their fur.

Obviously beavers are NOT innocent, that goes without saying, and their trapping season lasts a month longer so it’s woefully inconvenient for trappers to have to modify their beaver killing machines so that otters pass through safely and for wardens to actually check and see the difference. The easier adjustment would be to make the seasons the same – plus you can depredate beaver any ole time of year if they’re causing a problem.

Note no one is suggesting LOWERING the beaver trapping season to make them the same and save on paperwork. I  wonder why?

A Vermont legislative committee has postponed a decision on a proposal to lengthen the otter trapping season. This postponement, voted on last week, adds another chapter to a long and vigorous public debate.

“It’s a highly contentious issue,” said Brenna Galdenzi, president and founder of animal advocacy group Protect Our Wildlife. In a phone interview following the hearing, she said, “Whenever there’s an issue of trapping, it really gets people active and speaking out. It really gets people going.”

“We’ve received hundreds and hundreds of emails,” Catherine Gjessing, general counsel for the state Fish and Wildlife Department, said in a phone interview. The department provides staffing and scientific recommendations to the Fish and Wildlife Board when it considers changing hunting, fishing or trapping regulations.

 Kimberly Royar, a state furbearer biologist, said that public sentiment toward trapping sometimes focuses on sympathy with individual animals at the expense of considering how best to manage an entire species.

Beaver and otter are caught using the same traps, but otter season ends at the end of February and beaver season ends March 31. This means trappers going after beaver in March are required to modify the trigger mechanisms in their traps to allow otter to pass through unscathed.

Gjessing and Royar identified two primary reasons the department supports P-1704, both related to different end dates of the otter and beaver seasons. First, they said the department has heard reports from trappers that the modified traps used in March sometimes simply pin beaver until they drown instead of breaking their necks, leading to inhumane kills. Extending otter season would remove the requirement that trappers use the modified trigger mechanism.

“It’s not a matter of increasing the otter take,” Royar said. “It’s allowing trappers to utilize the otter that are taken during that expanded beaver season. That’s really the goal of this.”

Oh, those tender-hearted trappers! Did you catch they are ONLY asking for that extra month for the poor beavers who drown to death in the modified traps. Goodness those trappers are sensitive souls, (and if you wonder how sensitive go read the comment section of the article).

As I said, no one minds about killing beavers, but if we could just change the rules about how often we can kill otters we can reduce the suffering of those poor pests. Because otters are INNOCENT!


SNF: Every Beaver Everywhere

Posted by heidi08 On July - 8 - 2017Comments Off on SNF: Every Beaver Everywhere

I try to stay beaver-centric on this website, but once in a great while an article about general ecology grabs and holds my attention so much that I can’t entirely escape. Besides, this entire article might as be about beavers anyway. Every Single Beaver Everywhere.

beaver phys

The big ecological roles of small natural features

Ecologists and conservationists have long recognized that keystone species have major ecological importance disproportionate to their abundance or size. Think beavers, sea stars and prairie dogs—species that >Similarly across landscapes, the keystone concept of disproportionate importance extends to other ecological elements, such as salt marshes in estuaries. Now an international group of researchers is exploring the disproportionate ecological importance of small natural features—unique environmental elements that provide significant ecological and economic impacts.

Desert springs. Caves harboring bat colonies. Rocky outcrops. Strips of natural vegetation edging agricultural fields. Riparian zones. Small coral heads. Tiny islands. Large old trees.

These small natural features are often overlooked, relatively vulnerable yet environmentally mighty in their ecosystem. They also are at the opposite end of the spatial scale from the Earth’s large conservation superstars—the Serengeti, Yellowstone and the Great Barrier Reef.

Or hey, maybe an unexpected beaver pond in an city stream?  Sustaining unique habitat even  in the middle of town?

Small natural features have big ecological roles, according to the 37 researchers from 11 countries writing in a Special Issue of “Biological Conservation.” Sometimes they can provide resources that limit key populations or processes that influence a much larger area. Sometimes they support unusual diversity, abundance or productivity.

They also are small enough to efficiently maintain or restore, while traditional land-use activities continue in close proximity, such as forestry, fishing and grazing.

“Small natural features are an example of what can be termed ‘The Frodo Effect,'” writes Malcolm Hunter, University of Maine professor of wildlife resources and Libra Professor of Conservation Biology, in the journal introduction.

“In the ‘Lord of the Rings,’ the small and unassuming hobbit Frodo has more strength than any of his larger peers and saves Middle Earth with his brave actions,” says Hunter. “Gandalf and the rest of the fellowship of the ring go to great ends to protect him, because they know this.”

And you thought that only techs could be geeks. Apparently what Star Wars is to silicon valley, Tolkein is to biologists. They love thems some Frodo. We’ll let them have their fun, but that’s silly, because it’s not even the passage I would have chosen for this significant contribution played by very small things.

“For you little gardener and lover of trees,’ she said to Sam, ‘I have only a small gift.’ She put into his hand a little box of plain grey wood, unadorned save for a single silver rune upon the lid… ‘In this box there is earth from my orchard, and such blessing as Galadriel has still to bestow is upon it. It will not keep you on your road, nor defend you against any peril; but if you keep it and see your home again at last, then perhaps it may reward you. Though you should find all barren and laid waste, there will be few gardens in Middle-earth that will bloom like your garden, if you sprinkle this earth there. Then you may remember Galadriel, and catch a glimpse far off of Lórien….”

Isn’t that much better? Now let’s get back to the subject of this article. Small natural features (SNF) like a big oak tree, or a small rock outcropping, or even a drowned stump in the river, are often the nexus around which a  collection of wildlife is gathered. And if it wasn’t there, the collection wouldn’t be either. More than this, the researchers argue that actually saving that frog pond or small stand of trees beside the field might have as important an impact as a large scale restoration project that costs hundreds of thousands more dollars.

Will someone PLEASE argue this case in court to save a beaver pond in the next 6 months?

Every time an individual city or landowner makes the decision NOT to rip out a beaver dam, they are allowing one of these important SNF’s to exist. And every time they trap a beaver they are destroying one. Don’t believe me? Here’s some of the biodiversity our friend Rusty Cohn photographed at the tulocay beaver pond between a hotel and a car dealership in downtown Napa  last week.



Gem state beaver gems

Posted by heidi08 On July - 7 - 2017Comments Off on Gem state beaver gems

Idaho is a mixed bag ecologically speaking. It is filled to the gills with hunters and trappers and folks who visit the state just because they want to hunt and trap, but it has  more than its fair share of really study beaver advocates like Mike Settel brave enough to host an overnight beaver festival with camping and beer in the Beaver dam jam!

Then there are unexpected treasures like this, that seem to pop out of the rich Idaho soil like yellow flowers in the sidewalk.

Beaver ecology to be featured at Southwestern Idaho Birders Association meeting

CaptureNAMPA — Dirk Anderson will be featured at the Southwestern Idaho Birders Association’s July meeting to talk about the role of the North American beaver in western ecology.The presentation will look at beaver ecology through the lens of Anderson’s childhood. Growing up in Idaho City, he saw first-hand how beavers influenced the ecology of his back yard. 

 Anderson will also discuss the history of beavers in North America and how they were the driving force behind western exploration. The presentation will wrap up talking about restoration, conservation and beaver-related issues.

Anderson is the AmeriCorps environmental education instructor at the Boise Urban Garden School. He is a graduate of McCall Outdoor Science School where he received a Master’s of Science in Natural Resources with honors. He also has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Montana Tech of the University of Montana where he played basketball. Anderson is a modern day mountain man, raised in Idaho City, with a passion for the outdoors, art and music.

Mike Settell was stunned to learn about this, because it’s a big, long state and all the beaver players don’t always know what each other is doing.  Hopefully he’ll find a way to get a friend to attend Anderson’s lecture, because I would love to know what he has to say. There are pockets of beaver advocacy all the way from Coeure d’Alene to Pocatello and lots of places in between. I just found out about another surprise in the state involving Trumpeter Swans. Seems some lovers of swans have decided that where they nest is so important there should be MORE of it, not less.

Guess where they nest. Go ahead. Guess.

Cygnus buccinator is our largest bird in North Americaso heavy it needs a wide open stretch of water to take off. It is ungainly on land and has short legs like its landlord. These swans nest on beaver (or muskrat lodges) and feed primarily on the rich aquatic plants that surround them. Since it’s the biggest bird we have, it wants the very  best place to raise a family and is equipped to defend it handily. (I imagine every type of waterfowl would love to nest on the island of a beaver lodge. No predators to sneak up behind you, no neighbors during the day. But it can fight off anyone else who might want to share.) It’s prime reale state assures that year after year it’s children grow up safe.

Due to it’s size and fortune, it was avidly hunted in the last 200 years, and for a period of time believed to be extinct. Now it’s population has recovered but has suffered because of the damage to wetlands and all those important beavers that maintain them. Especially in Idaho. Swan people are beaver people, and want some wet places that beavers can be safe so that swans will be safe. There has even been a plan to reintroduce beaver so that the swan population could recover, which in a state like Idaho is fairly remarkable.

CaptureTrumpeter Swans continue to face a number of threats. In Teton Valley and across the globe, many wetlands have been drained or filled, negatively impacting countless wildlife species, including Trumpeters. In addition, declining beaver populations throughout the Greater Yellowstone region have furthered wetland resource losses. Currently, the Greater Yellowstone Trumpeter Swan nesting population is struggling due to lack of habitat. Biologists are seeing fewer nesting trumpeter swan pairs in our region and even fewer successful nests.

Teton Regional Land Trust has worked with families and other conservation groups over the past 25 years to conserve over 33,000 acres in East Idaho, including 11,000 acres in Teton Valley. The successes of our wetland protection and restoration program, combined with Teton Basin’s strategic location, have created a unique opportunity to reestablish Trumpeter Swan nesting in Teton Valley, and enhance Trumpeter nesting throughout the Greater Yellowstone region.

It’s wonderful to read about good works being done in other places, and fun to find beaver fans where you never even thought to look. You would think, that between the swan people, the frog people, and the salmon people beavers would stand a chance in this crazy concrete-driven world. But the deck is pretty much stacked against them. Turns out we really, really like culverts.

And we really hate the things that plug them. Go figure.

blocked culvert