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

The Martinez Beavers

Category: Beavers and salmon


If you were crazy enough to visit the website yesterday you probably saw something that looked like this telling you we were closed for maintenance. Of course from my perspective I saw something much, much scarier,  One huge photo, no photos at all. One time the screen was even black and red.  It was quite a day.

Ihttps://2.bp.blogspot.com/-rHlgeSV0OPI/V2iKMC6KrZI/AAAAAAAAJ1U/r5wKNhvBM9UilEGLIyl30BsxKZ9Q2c7FgCLcB/s1600/book-nook.jpg‘m guessing Scott is busily untangling wires as I type, I’m trying to imagine what the finish state will be. At the moment I just know that his vision is way less cluttered than mine. I think of this website like a really rich library crowed with interesting-looking books you might never get around to reading but want definitely want to explore someday. I want it to be a space you could spend hours comfortably exploring or a space you could visit every day and still not see everything. I want it to be immersive and inviting.

But I want the information to be accessible too.

I’m sure we’ll figure out the balance eventually! In the meantime you should take time to enjoy this article about beavers in the tundra where they wonder if beavers moving in will make more habitat for salmon.

Beavers making themselves at home in an unlikely place: Alaska’s northwestern tundra

“It’s kind of the next wildlife you’d expect in tundra, but with much bigger implications,” he said. With their dams and new lakes that hold warmish water, beavers of the tundra ecosystem are thawing permafrost soils through their actions. Beavers could be “priming arctic streams for the establishment of salmon runs” that now don’t exist, maybe because extreme northern waters are too cold for egg development.

https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/newsminer.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/5/0a/50ad1040-cb39-11e7-bf7d-53936e9107e5/5a0e3fe3158bc.image.jpg?resize=1200%2C740Tape and co-authors Ben Jones, Chris Arp, Ingmar Nitze, Guido Grosse and Christian Zimmerman are writing about those changes in a paper with the working title, “Tundra be Dammed: Beaver Colonization of the Arctic.”

“We do not know how beavers reached the Beaufort Coastal Plain, but they would have had to cross a mountain range or swim in the sea,” wrote Yukon biologist Tom Jung, who recently saw a beaver dam and winter store of food just 15 https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/newsminer.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/6/5b/65b6fc80-cb39-11e7-a858-677eda3cdfc0/5a0e400932562.image.jpg?resize=1200%2C900miles south of the Arctic Ocean in northern Yukon Territory.

 Looking at Alaska from above, Tape found beaver dams all the way up the Alatna River and over a broad pass into the Brooks Range and the Nigu River. The Nigu River flows north into the largest river on the North Slope, the Colville. As far as he knows, there are no reports of beaver in the Colville.. But he wonders if beavers were ever present on arctic tundra landscapes. The northern expansion of the American beaver might be a phenomenon people have not yet seen.

I’m not so sure it’s that big of a surprise for beavers to swim through the ocean to colonize new places. They are much better than this than you think. But I hope you get lucky and get beavers soon! You will be richly rewarded.

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Vermont has a complex relationship with wildlife. It is home of some of the most progressive beaver management on the east coast and still gives into its hunters and trappers way more freedom than many folks are comfortable with. This article is a nice look at that complexity, I would love to see similar photos about our history in California. Go look at the photos at least. It’s a walk through that part of history that is surprising to remember.

History Space: Vermont’s great outdoors

The cold night air and departure of colorful leaves are sure signs that another autumn has taken hold in Vermont. This is the time of year when nature has been on full display.

This teeming abundance wasn’t always typical of Vermont. The state’s forested hillsides and landscape flourishing with wildlife represents a relatively recent recovery in the last few decades following centuries of unregulated habitat destruction and species loss. Vermont’s rich wildlife heritage was once in jeopardy of being lost forever, and faces many new challenges today and in the future.

“The search for beaver drove the exploration of New England,” said wildlife biologist Kim Royar, a 35-year veteran with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, who has focused on mid-sized mammals from beavers to bobcats.

“Felted hats made from beaver fur were highly fashionable in London at the time, and centuries of over-harvest of wildlife in Europe as well as destruction of forests and wetlands on the continent had driven beavers and many other species there to the brink of extinction,” Royar said.

Despite an estimated 200 million beavers in North America prior to European settlement, the region’s supply of wildlife was limited. By the 1670s, nearly a quarter million beaver had been shipped from the Connecticut River Valley to London, and fur trappers complained that the species had become scarce in the region. By the turn of the 17th century, beavers were thought to have become completely extinct in what is now Vermont due to unregulated trapping.

Royar said that the loss of beavers was especially difficult for the many species that rely on the wetlands they create, such as moose, otter, mink, turtles, salamanders, and the waterfowl and songbirds that nest in these wetlands and meadows.

“Beavers are the architects of the landscape, creating a dense network of wetlands used by a wide variety of wildlife,” said Royar. “Once a beaver uses up all the resources around the pond, they move along, allowing the dam to slowly disintegrate and the former pond to transition to grasslands, which creates another stage of incredibly important wildlife habitat. Given that some valley areas of Vermont may have had as many as 300 beaver dams per square mile, the loss of beavers was a devastating blow to the wildlife of Vermont and represented a dramatic change to the state’s landscape.”

It wasn’t just California that was cleaned out of beavers. The decimation of the beaver population happened all over the northern hemisphere and must have left a drier bleaker continent. We just happened to be the last on the list because we were the hardest to get to. It’s stunning to me to think about the individual players all across the united states that started thinking this should be undone at about the same time. Was it the influence of Roosevelt? Emerson? Muir? Or some big inspiring meeting that got everything thinking differently? Fortunately for Vermont, there were some eco-concious players in the 2oth century that made a difference.

Simultaneously, Vermonters were becoming concerned over the continuing destruction of the landscape and streams. The nascent environmental movement, influenced by writers such as Vermonter George Perkins Marsh, as well as Thoreau, Emerson, and Whitman, and conservationists Muir and Roosevelt, spawned the creation of a Board of Fish Commissioners in 1866 to protect brook trout and clean up the waterways. The first game warden force was established in 1904 to protect deer and other game species from overharvest.

n 1921, biologists trapped six beavers at Old Forge, New York and released them in Bennington County. In a little more than two decades, the beaver population rose to more than 8,000 in Vermont. (Photo: Courtesy Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department)

During that period, 17 white-tailed deer were brought from New York state in 1878 and stocked in southwestern Vermont. By the 1950s the deer population had exploded in Vermont. Since then, improved game management techniques, including science-based hunting seasons and bag limits, eventually led to a more stable and healthy deer herd

In 1921, biologists from the newly formed Fish and Game Service — a precursor to the modern Fish & Wildlife Department — reintroduced beavers to Vermont. Within two decades, the beaver population had soared to more than 8,000 statewide, building dams and often coming into conflict with people.

“Beavers returned to Vermont after being absent for more than two centuries,” says Royar. “In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of people had moved in, constructing roads and buildings in the valley bottoms and along riverbanks that had previously been beaver habitat. Beavers naturally attempted to reflood these areas, creating a cycle of conflict with people and their property that continues to this day.”

Just imagine for a moment if they had NEVER reintroduced beavers in Vermont. Aside from all the fish and wildlife populations that wouldn’t have recovered, Skip Lisle would never have tried to protect his grandfather’s land with some fence posts and never invented the beaver deceiver! Which means he never would have come to California and the Martinez beavers would have been killed. I wouldn’t have started Worth A Dam and you wouldn’t have been reading this website!

It’s like the entire nation watched  what amounted to a “beaver-version” of “It’s a wonderful life” some where in the 1900’s and were rightly terrified by the thought of what the world would look like without beavers. Guardian angels like ‘Terrence’ in every state showed the horrors and then made their recovery possible. And all of America suddenly ‘woke up’ as if from a beaverless dream. Somewhere there is a list of reasons WHY beavers introduced beavers in 1921 that I would like to see. It probably describes fish habitat, water storage and wildlife populations and represents all the hard-won jewels of wisdom we forgot over the years.

I think reintroducing beavers is like having children. You have to do it fast while you’re young and foolish. If you wait until you’re smart enough to know all the disadvantages and things that could go wrong it will probably never happen.

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Isn’t it amazing how one of the unexpected consequences of having really bad men (and Betsy DeVos) busily looting the country is that it can motivate really good men and women to run for office? I mean, people who have important jobs and are soberly committed to things that take a great deal of their time – people that you would never expect to take an interest in local or not-so local politics.

Say, senior researchers at NOAA Fisheries, for example.

Pollock dethrones longtime incumbent in parks board race

Having successfully ended a dynasty, unseating longtime incumbent Kirk Robinson and claiming the Commissioner Position 5 of the board for the Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park & Recreation District, Michael Pollock’s celebration was much less involved than his campaign.

“I just chatted with a few of the other elected officials, the ones that made it, and had a drink and went to bed,” Pollock said. “A raging party on Bainbridge is one that’s over by 9 o’clock.”

Pollock claimed victory with an immediate, commanding lead in the parks board race Tuesday. He received 54.9 percent of the vote, while Robinson locked up just 45 percent. Pollock had 2,733 votes to Robinson’s 2,243 in the last vote count.

The position on the five-member board carries a six-year term.

 

Bainbridge is an island just outside seattle where Michael Pollock has lived for years. The park system controls some 1600 acres of parkland and 32 miles of trails. It is a lovely place to live, facing the usual pressures of urbanization and conservation you might expect of an island that’s commutable to Seattle by ferry. And I’m guessing it is going to be a very, very nice place to be a salmon or beaver in the very near future.

Pollock — a former member of the Bainbridge Island City Council, but a new face in the arena of parks — easily outpaced Robinson in the race, who has held the job since 2003.

“Definitely, change is in the air,” Pollock said, referencing both his own victory and the several other newcomers voted in during Tuesday’s election.”Island voters, Pollock said, seemed to have “caught a little bit of the national mood.”

pollock

Congratulations, Michael on your big win! You are positioned to do great things for Bainbridge and I’m sure folks know it. I just have to ask, did you actually make yard signs that said “vote Pollock” and distribute them to neighbors? If so, can I please have one? It’s hard to imagine you on election night, watching the votes pour in and taking that official winning phone call.

(I, myself never ran for office, but I learned from my time on the John Muir board that there is a lot of  governance that involves patiently listening to ridiculous things, holding your temper, mechanically seconding motions and trying to stay awake without slipping into a meditative coma.) You are obviously much more  skilled than I, and have dealt with doubters, academic and government blowhards and naysayers all your life. I know for certain that you are more than up to the task!

Big decisions need you, and we are thrilled at your success!

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Well yesterday was fun, with little messages of encouragement for our 10th year  from folks around the globe. Now it’s time to get back to work. You know what they say, before anniversaries “Chop  wood, carry water“, and after anniversaries”Chop wood carry water“. Or something like that.

Here are two articles that deserve our attention. I’ll start with the grating one first. Why is it every article written about Peter Busher annoys me more than it interests me? Over the years I have come to think he basically knows his beavers, but he honestly doesn’t seem to like them very much.

The Secret Sex Lives of Beavers

The population boom can raise alarms in communities. Beavers are often viewed as a nuisance, causing millions of dollars in damage each year by chewing fences, trees, and decks. They build dams, which leads to flooding of homes, crops, and railroads.

But some behaviors can be beneficial, says Peter Busher, a College of General Studies professor of natural sciences and mathematics and chair of the division. Beaver dam building expands wetlands, whose functions include filtering toxins from water, supporting biodiversity, and mitigating floods.

Peter Busher poses with beaver captured for analysis

Busher has been studying beavers for four decades and was the first person to track the animals by tagging them with radio transmitters. He does his research in the Quabbin Reservation in Central Massachusetts, where 150 to 300 beavers con­stitute the nation’s longest-studied population, says Busher. Hoping to learn how humans can better coexist with beaver populations, he examines mating habits, birthrates, group structure, and how the animals migrate from one area to another. His findings could inform deci­sions about how communities respond to beaver activity and manage the animal’s population, both in Massachusetts and across the country.

Although beavers are among only 3 percent of mammals that are socially monogamous, raising their young exclusively with one partner, researchers do not know much about their pairing behavior. Do the parents also mate with other beavers and raise a mixed brood, or are they sexually exclusive? Busher wants to find out. He suspects that genetically monogamous beaver populations—those that tend to mate with one partner—increase more slowly and may stay in an area longer. If one of these populations were removed because of nuisance activity, he says, the area would likely be free of beavers for a while. But if the population were more promiscuous, new beavers could move into the area at any time; communities would then need to develop a long-term animal removal plan.

Promiscuous beavers? Honestly? Is that honestly what you think? Who thinks like that? Have you looked at every OTHER variable in their habitat that might differ between various beavers to rule out that food availability, or population, or stream gradient and prove that these it doesn’t influence which beaver are promiscuous and which aren’t? I’m sure, as a scientist, you would do ALL THAT before LEAPING to the assumption that DNA is responsible. I mean this is almost like race research.

How much trouble would you be in if you were posing that certain ethnicitys were more promiscuous?

The best research I have read on the topic described beavers as “opportunistic monogomists” – meaning if the right conditions happened to arise they would take advantage of them and mate outside the pair bond, and if they never arose it would be mostly okay with it and get on with the business of taking care of the family. I remember being amused when Rickipedia commented that this was pretty much the same for most male humans.

But Dr. Busher is trying to prove that it’s a beavers genes that make him roam. So that those prolific beavers we can kill more, and the faithful homebodies we can work with.

Are you sure you teach in Massachusetts? Because this theory is starting to sound positively republican to me!


The article that really interested me today comes from the irreplaceable George Monbiot and discusses the use of better language about ecology to capture public interest. Rusty of Napa sent it my way and I’m glad he did.

Forget ‘the environment’: we need new words to convey life’s wonders

If Moses had promised the Israelites a land flowing with mammary secretions and insect vomit, would they have followed him into Canaan? Though this means milk and honey, I doubt it would have inspired them.

So why do we use such language to describe the natural wonders of the world? There are examples everywhere, but I will illustrate the problem with a few from the UK. On land, places in which nature is protected are called “sites of special scientific interest”. At sea, they are labelled “no-take zones” or “reference areas”. Had you set out to estrange people from the living world, you could scarcely have done better.

The catastrophic failure by ecologists to listen to what cognitive linguists and social psychologists have been telling them has led to the worst framing of all: “natural capital”. This term informs us that nature is subordinate to the human economy, and loses its value when it cannot be measured by money. It leads almost inexorably to the claim made by the government agency Natural England: “The critical role of a properly functioning natural environment is delivering economic prosperity.”

I’m fully on board with the need to use language that enlivens and engages us rather than regulates our attention. But sometimes we are talking to politicians or biologists and need to convince them, and we think that kind of language carries more sway? Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe the only thing that matters to decision makers is what we celebrated yesterday: public pressure and votes. So engaging the public is more important than sounding objective.

This is my FAVORITE part.

On Sunday evening, I went to see the beavers that have begun to repopulate the river Otter in Devon. I joined the people quietly processing up the bank to their lodge. The friend I walked with commented: “It’s like a pilgrimage, isn’t it?” When we arrived at the beaver lodge, we found a crowd standing in total silence under the trees. When first a kingfisher appeared, then a beaver, you could read the enchantment and delight in every face.

Our awe of nature, and the silence we must observe when we watch wild animals, hints, I believe, at the origins of religion.

Something about that sentence feels very, very true for this woman who spent so many years in the company of beavers. (Not that we were silent the whole time.) Our beavers had train whistles and garbage trucks to get used to, and could handle a little talking. But there was definitely awed silence at times. Like when kits emerged or when an uncommon behavior was scene.

And it sure felt like the very best parts of church to me.

if we called protected areas “places of natural wonder”, we would not only speak to people’s love of nature, but also establish an aspiration that conveys what they ought to be. Let’s stop using the word environment, and use terms such as “living planet” and “natural world” instead, as they allow us to form a picture of what we are describing. Let’s abandon the term climate change and start saying “climate breakdown”. Instead of extinction, let’s adopt the word promoted by the lawyer Polly Higgins: ecocide.

We are blessed with a wealth of nature and a wealth of language. Let us bring them together and use one to defend the other.

Thank you, George for another beautiful column. I’m envious of the people who got to walk alongside you on the way to see those special Devon beavers. We very rarely feel reverence for what we consume or eliminate as inconvenient. But I have seen it time again on children’s faces watching our beavers.

Maybe its reverence, more than science, that protects nature.

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The salmon suit was ALL over the news yesterday. I was thrilled to see it even made the radio in Oregon. Yesterday CBD actually had a matching donor so all the money that came in from the news was doubled!  I didn’t even realize it the announcement was cleverly timed to match the beaver moon which was apparently strongest in the wee morning hours last night. Everything about this must have gotten wildlife services attention. Lets see where this goes!

More treats to follow, because this wonderful letter by Connie Poten of Missoula Montana just ran yesterday in the Independent Record. Connie is the secretary of Footloose Montana, and writes a powerful letter. It has a few things that need tweaking but my goodness it even has a NEW FACT THAT I LOVE. And that so rarely happens anymore.

Let beavers work to prevent fires

Gifford Pinchot, the first chief of the Forest Service, called beavers this term is blocked. [Editors note: the name she writes he called them is very cool but not as yet unconfirmed by the forest service or Pinchot scholars so for now consider it cloaked.] Tens of millions of beavers created vast wetlands in North America, nourishing Native Americans, fish, wildlife, forests and meadows with life-giving water. Then came the European fur trappers, and in less than 50 years, Montana had no more beavers at all. Eastern Montana dried up as a result. Finally, beavers were reintroduced to recharge aquifers gone dry and save water from draining away.

Starting July 7 with the Crow Rock fire near Miles City, Montana turned into an inferno. The Lodgepole Complex fire burned 400 square miles. Montana became the epicenter of drought — the hottest and driest summer on record  —and got smothered in smoke. By Sept. 11, more than 1 million acres had burned. Animals burned alive and died from smoke inhalation; a coyote was seen with a leg burned off. Seeley Lake was plunged into toxic darkness for six weeks. Montana’s tourism industry shut down in much of the state. Hundreds were evacuated and homes burned. Two firefighters died.

We now face the cost of fighting these fires. Farmers lost $400 million in crops, ranchers were hit hard and the tate budget is spiraling downward. It doesn’t have to be this bad. We could make a small change that would help contain fires. We could eliminate recreational trapping of beavers.

Beavers create ecosystems. They build dams that hold ponds and restore streams, wetlands and floodplains. They turn hardpan into rich soil. They supply water for municipalities, irrigation and wildlife. Seasonal streams flow year-round and groundwater is stored, thanks to beavers. Beaver wetlands act as firewalls, mitigating forest fires. Firefighters use water from the ponds. When beavers gnaw down cottonwood trees, they spur more growth — cottonwoods thrive on disturbance.

As warming temperatures threaten cold-water fish like trout and coho salmon, the cold water at the bottom of beaver ponds makes a perfect habitat for juvenile fish. Beaver ponds nurture grasses, trees and shrubs, creating nesting sites and food for songbirds, forage for game animals and most species. Beaver ponds improve water quality too, by reducing sediments and pollutants.

In a time of accelerating climate change, drought and fire, we need beavers more than ever. They work for free and restore our precious water. What are we waiting for? End recreational beaver trapping now. Let our beavers go to work.

Isn’t that an AWESOME letter? Connie deserves all our praise. She even talked about Skip Lisle and beaver deceivers! No wonder Footloose Montana is so successful since even its secretary can deliver a powerful lesson with a pen. I love the quote about beavers being “water factories”. You know I’ll be tucking that away to share sometime in the future!

Una familia de castores ‘monta’ su casa en la cuenca del Ebr

Another delight was sent by Duncan Haley of Norway yesterday but the beaver world was TOO busy to share. This is an article about beavers in Spain that were supposedly introduced without permission. (Duncan swears the accusation is legit and because he has inside information so I trust him.) The article is in Spanish but use google translate if you want to read some really amusing beaver misunderstandings! The farmer has been watching the beaver activity using a night cam. I was especially interested in the interaction between the beaver and this Genet so I clipped that short interchange. It is easily the likely the most delightful beaver moment I will ever post here. I especially love the moment when the Genet waits to see if the beaver is following. Enjoy.

Don’t you think they play that every night? If you, like me, find yourself suddenly wondering what a Genet is, Duncan explained “Like a cross between a marten and a cat with spots like a leopard and a long ring tail
Wow. Doesn’t that sound amazing? Here’s one in the color.

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