Archive for the ‘Beavers elsewhere’ Category

Martinez crime rate may sky-rocket

Posted by heidi08 On November - 29 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

BP.orgMore good beaver news from our friends at This time especially referring especially to urban beavers.

Contact with nature may mean more social cohesion, less crime

Numerous studies have demonstrated the benefits of contact with nature for human well-being. However, despite strong trends toward greater urbanization and declining green space, little is known about the social consequences of such contact. In the December issue of BioScience, an international, interdisciplinary team reports on how they used nationally representative data from the United Kingdom and stringent model testing to examine the relationships between objective measures and self-reported assessments of contact with nature, community cohesion, and local crime incidence.

The results in the report, by Netta Weinstein of Cardiff University and others, were notable. After accounting for a range of possibly interfering factors, including socioeconomic deprivation, population density, unemployment rate, socioeconomic standing, and weekly wages, the authors determined that people’s experiences of local nature reported via a survey could explain 8% of a measure of the variation, called variance, in survey responses about perceptions of community cohesion. They describe this as “a striking finding given that individual predictors such as income, gender, age, and education together accounted for only 3%” of the variance.

The relationship with crime was similarly striking. According to the study results, objective measures of the amount of green space or farmland accessible in people’s neighborhoods accounted for 4% additional variance in crime rates. The authors argue that this predictive power compares favorably with known contributors to crime, such as socioeconomic deprivation, which accounts for 5% variance in crime rates. “The positive impact of local nature on neighbors’ mutual support may discourage crime, even in areas lower in socioeconomic factors,” they write. Further, given the political importance placed on past crime reductions as small as 2%-3%, the authors suggest that findings such as theirs could justify policies aimed at ameliorating crime by improving contact with nature.

You can read or download it here. Anyone who is surprised by this finding should have stood at the footbridge watching beavers while people of very, very different walks of life conversed about them. It was not at all uncommon to chat with toothless homeless, cycling yuppies, families pushing strollers, commuters getting off the train, and aging grandmothers together in that gathering. And I’m sure that amount of social cohesion affected crime rate.

I was working all day yesterday on the foundations of my section of the urban beaver paper, and kept asking our retired librarian friend BK from Georgia for help, which he nobly provided along with this article.Turns out there is a solid and growing body of evidence that having nature in your city is every bit as good for your physical and mental health as air quality, crosswalks and libraries.

To which we say,

From hats to heroes

Posted by heidi08 On November - 28 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

Looks like Frances Backhouse book has hit the Canadian market in time for the holidays and is making quite an impression. I hope she sells many, many copies! I’m imagining Christmas morning all around the hemisphere is filled with happy fathers, grandmas, CEOS and science teachers reading about beavers over their morning coffee.

(Mind you, it would be great if she had a few extra copies lying around left over to donate to the silent auction at the beaver festival.)

Review: Frances Backhouse’s Once They Were Hats is fascinating and smartly written

Backhouse plots an absorbing itinerary that takes the reader on a tour of beaver habitats, as well as stops at a fast and furious Toronto fur auction and a visit to Smithbilt Hats, the legendary Calgary maker of western headwear. Among Smithbilt’s creations is the “Gus,” worn by Robert Duvall’s character in the series Lonesome Dove. Today, you can buy a wool version of the Gus from the company’s website for $110, but the highly prized, incomparably durable, full beaver model will run you $1,000. Sounds steep until you consider the guarantee that, “Once you get one, you’ll never need another.”

Most importantly, Backhouse identifies the beaver as a “keystone species.” By that definition, the beaver is “central to how a particular ecological community functions.” As such, its “effect on other animals and plants is disproportionately large.” Looking forward, the beaver’s positive impact on hydrology and water conservation could lessen the impact of drought caused by climate change. While not presented as a panacea, a strong case is made for how a “détente” between Homo sapiens and Castor canadensis can work to the benefit of both.

CaptureHot dam! Beavers — extremely weird, and essential to who we are

Once They Were Hats is deeply, enthrallingly, page-turningly fascinating. Backhouse plays two roles in Once They Were Hats: narrator and historian; in one chapter she may be investigating the evolution of the beaver species — visiting the Canadian Museum of Nature’s warehouse to look at some whittled, wooden evidence of prehistoric beaver-like animals — and in another she is describing through dialogue her visit with a Native elder, whose Deisheetaan clan held the beaver as a crest animal. It’s in this way that Once They Were Hats is both a reliable source of scientific information and an interesting anthropological text, drawing two parallel lines through Canadian history: one human, one beaver.

Biologists began to redefine the beaver’s ecological significance — which is as or more interesting than its historical one. Beavers, like few other species, dictate their environments: their tendency toward deforestation has informed the evolution of many plant species, and the dams they build affect waterways and irrigation. They literally transform the landscape: One wetland scientist late in Once They Were Hats tells Backhouse that the near-extinction of beavers “fundamentally changed the way watersheds operate.”

How exciting for a beaver book to be heralded in this way! Congratulations Frances, and I hope it continues to generate adulations. I’m always especially thrilled to see folks talking about beaver benefits in the press. I would of course assume that this meant great things for beavers if I were not SO old that I remember the reviews of Glynnis Hood’s book that pronounced beaver as an “eco-saviour” and how dizzying that glorious inevitability  seemed at the time. I was naive enough to write about it as “the New Gold Standard” in 2011, because I was sure the world’s attitude toward beavers was going to finally change at any moment.

Not so much. I guess Canadians are happy to celebrate beaver at regular intervals – just so long as they can keep killing them.

Kudos also  to our good friend Robin Ellison from Napa whose lovely photos from the Tulocay beaver pond graced not one but two months of 2016 RCD calendar! A fine kit and a very regal pond turtle. You realize of course, that once adorable beaver kits adorn the watershed calendar the birds and otters are going to have to fight for space. Expect more grand beaver photos next year. The calendar isn’t for sale, but if you make a donation I’m sure they’ll let you pick one up at the RCD office (1303 Jefferson St, Suite 500B, Napa).

Bonus points for putting the beaver on my birthday month.
Robin September

21 beavers shot in Scotland

Posted by heidi08 On November - 25 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

This story is so upsetting. Two days ago I saw a comment on a scottish facebook page saying that farmers were shooting beavers. I wrote Paul Ramsay to find out what I could. He quickly wrote back that there had been several incidents and one farmer in particular bragging that he had “Shot 10”.

They were uncertain whether to go to the papers or not, because they feared a negative story could promote a backlash, resulting in more beavers dying..

Looks like the cats outta the bodybag.

Farmers shooting invading Tayside beavers

But it has now emerged that the bodies of 21 beavers have been discovered with gunshot wounds since the end of 2012.

Farmers and other landowners are suspected of being responsible for the slaughter and have been urged by conservationists 

to adopt non-lethal methods to control the species.

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) has examined the bodies of 23 beavers in the Tayside area and concluded that two died in road accide

nts and the rest were shot dead.

At present, a licence is not needed to shoot beavers as they have no legal protection in the UK. However, possessing and moving a dead beaver is not legal without a licence.

Why on earth should we be surprised at this story? Just because beavers were extinct for 400 years, and scraped their way back from the bistory pile, doesn’t mean a farmer won’t shoot them now. I mean, they happily shoot rabbits, foxes, and badgers. So why wouldn’t they shoot beavers?

The very slanted article is the best answer I could have thought of to Paul’s question. No matter how responsibly you sit on the story and consider your cautions, its going to break soon enough anyway.

Better to make sure you’re in front of it.

Beaver Moon.

Tonight is a full beaver moon. So when you’re looking up  in ghostly wibderm think of our Scottish friends.

Beaver and Taiga

Posted by heidi08 On November - 23 - 2015Comments Off on Beaver and Taiga

The Boreal forest (or Taiga) is the largest biomes in the world and our  greatest ally in the seemingly unwinnable war against carbon. It consists of hardwood and deciduous forests occurring between the 50 and 60 latitude belt across Canada, parts of North America, Scandinavia and Finland. The climate where it grows has short wet summers and long cold winters. It is always in danger of being logged out, and every time we lose a little of it the earth itself pays the price.

Guess who helps Taiga do what she needs to do?

Beavers restore dead wood in boreal forests

CaptureDead wood has decreased dramatically in the boreal zone due to intensive forest management. Several species dependent on dead wood have suffered from this decline. Beavers dam water systems, raising floods into surrounding shore forests. The flooding kills the trees due to oxygen deprivation.

Researchers at the University of Helsinki, Finland, compared dead wood quantities and types in southern Finland. The shore forests of beaver sites had significantly larger quantities of dead wood compared to non-beaver sites. Beavers use wood for nutrition and as the building material for their nests and dams. This wood resource is used up by the beavers’ actions within a few years, forcing the beavers to change location. This creates several dead wood hotspots in the area, benefitting a large number of species.

Certain dead wood types have become exceptionally rare in managed forests, e.g. standing dead trees (snags) and deciduous dead wood. Beavers create a wide variety of dead wood types, but they particularly produce standing and deciduous dead wood. The dead wood-dependent species living at beaver sites may differ from those found in managed forests or fire areas.

BP.orgHonestly beavers have been featured in so many articles this year I think they need a new section entirely. Don’t you? How much more proof to we need? Wait, don’t answer that.

I’ll see if I can float the idea, but in the meantime, you should amuse yourself with the grisly native story sent to me by Dorrie Langley of the Martinez Arts Association. See if you don’t read it as a hard hitting metaphor for the devastating fur trade. It was collected and published by Russell K Greater.

why 3 why 4 Replace the word ‘eat’ with the word ‘consume’ and it works for me. Trappers definitely stink. And besides it certainly explains this!

The importance of counting beavers

Posted by heidi08 On November - 22 - 2015Comments Off on The importance of counting beavers

KOLO steal

First a sorry follow up to the Sparks NV beaver story, I heard from Sherry of the Sierra Wildlife Coalition that 5 beavers were reportedly trapped over the weekend. And just for added insult the news station chose to STEAL Cheryl’s lovely photo of happy urban beaver to discuss why urban beavers couldn’t possibly be tolerated. Letters were written.

Speaking of the bumpy path of urban beavers, I was realizing that our chapter would have more weight if we could say something about how common this issue is in the country. There isn’t any data base that would possibly tell us that, but one special place that I happen to know of and have access to. I went through and did a spread sheet of all the beaver stories in or near cities I reported this year on the website. Now mind you, I don’t cover EVERY SINGLE story, but consider this a minimum. Cities all across the country, from Bakersfield CA to Ackron OH, San Marcos TX and Cumberland RI. There have been 107 so far in 38 states, with various complaints including flooding and chewing trees. The vast majority end in depredation, but it was heartening to see that a fair number ended this year in mitigation.

2015 map with wordsCalifornia and Massachusetts are apparently numbers 1 & 2 on the list, although assume some observer bias because one is the state I live in and one is the state Beaver solutions lives in. I’d love to have this data for the past 5 years, so we could spot trends and changes, but I don’t think I’m that patient. Even the states missing this year I know I’ve reported on in the past.

Well, except Hawaii.

This was a lot of work, so now a treat from the Cheyenne Zoo via LK. Heartening to see Ginger doing what she can do, regardless of the odds.

Seems like old times…

Posted by heidi08 On November - 20 - 2015Comments Off on Seems like old times…

There’s been a confusing amount of good news lately. A reader of this website could get the mistaken impression that things were all rosy for beavers and beaver understanding everywhere. You might think that everyone wants them in urban and rural settings to take care of amphibians, water storage, and salmonids. You might think that people had stopped blaming them for power blackouts and giardiasis outbreaks.

But you’d be wrong.

Beaver Blamed for Taking Down Utility Pole

A State Trooper spotted the tree down on the wires at Circle Drive in Roaring Brook Township early Tuesday morning. Crews on the scene tell Eyewitness News, a beaver living in a nearby pond gnawed on the tree, toppling it on the lines. It doesn’t appear anyone lost any power, and the tree will be removed.

Now that’s more like it….blaming a fallen pole on a beaver even though the power company is supposed to trim away anything that can fall on lines during a storm. Anything in the standard nuisance line? Maybe with a euphemism about ‘removing’ them instead of admitting the lethal truth?

Plans to Remove Nuisance Beavers in Sparks

SPARKS, Nev. – The City of Sparks has obtained a permit from the Nevada Department of Wildlife to remove nuisance beavers from a drainage ditch along Sparks Boulevard.

beaver4“It’s basically the North Truckee drain and it’s the end of that rather elaborate irrigation system that comes off the Truckee River and heads into Spanish Springs and then the water drains back towards the Truckee River,” said Chris Healy of the Nevada Department of Wildlife.

“When they build the dams they need material to do it and they start in on the trees. Some were wrapped and they still did damage to the point where we lost that tree,” Healy said. “That’s the real tragedy because what about the birds that utilize the area, use the trees to roost in and nest in. It’s a better area when we have trees surrounding waterways.”

“We do not allow beavers to be moved; you could be moving disease to a healthy beaver population,” Healy said. “Also, too many beavers in one place leads to trees being felled by those beavers. Anywhere there is appropriate habitat in the state of Nevada, beavers are there.”

Bonus points for getting NDOW to call it a drainage ditch, I’m sure that’s what you wrote on your permit, and they’re just reading it verbatim. Good work enlisting the services of Chris Healy to turn environmentalists against each other and spread the lie that you need to kill beavers to save birds. Near as I can tell Chris is the public [dis]information officer for NDOW, which has a swanky website promoting what a great place Nevada is for everyone that’s not a beaver.

And they TRIED working with residents to do this humanely, look how hard they tried! 2 and a half feet of chicken wire! If beavers had been chickens this would never have happened.


Sparks is just outside Reno, which puts it firmly in Sierra Wildlife Coalition territory. In fact the article features a slanted interview with a beaver defender who calls them ‘wonderful creatures’ and says that traps are inhumane. If I can get a hold of her I’ll advise her to call them out for calling a living stream a drainage ditch, and show them some data on how beavers help birds. My personal preference is always to try and be ‘less huggy, more sluggy’ – to coin a phrase.

The fact that the beavers will be killed doesn’t sit well with some residents. A small group gathered at the corner of Rock and Victorian Avenue Thursday night with signs they hoped would get their message across.

“Beavers are our friends, they are nature’s engineers,” said Connie DeAngelis. She’s heard that the traps are going to be placed underwater.

“A beaver can stay alive up to 15 minutes underwater so for them to put a beaver through this is tortuous treatment to kill it and eliminate it because it’s eating trees, because it’s doing the things it’s supposed to do, it’s just hideous,” DeAngelis said. “It’s sickening and there are other ways to relocate beavers, there has been a lot of studies done. The fact that they wouldn’t look for a more humane way to do this is very disappointing to me and to a lot of people that don’t know about this yet.”

I just friended Connie on Facebook. Lets see if we can sent a little beaver help her way. The thing I don’t understand is why the news knows about the permit. It’s not like every depredation permit is reported on the 5 oclock rundown. Even though it should be, since you’re taking the beavers away from everyone. The best possible explanation would be that some friend at NDOW let it leak. But I doubt that. I can’t imagine the city has to announce when they are getting a depredation permit. Martinez certainly didn’t.

So how is this public? Hmmm.

Tree planing today. Wish our heroic workers luck!

Plant it, and they will come?

Posted by heidi08 On November - 15 - 2015Comments Off on Plant it, and they will come?

waterboardsOnce upon a time, lo these many months ago, the SF waterboard decided to help Martinez with some tree planting for beavers. It invited me out to present in December and got so inspired about beavers it decided to share its Watershed Stewards Program Interns from Americorp to help.

(Stop me if you’ve heard this story before.)

LoadedSo Corie and Rebecca came out for a meeting with Worth A Dam and the city engineer, then obtained a permit to take willow cuttings from wildcat canyon, then came to Martinez for a day of planting. Cheryl, Lory and Jon showed up for a day of hard work at the end of March. Is this ringing any bells?

So they spent a day planting and Jon spent the evening wrapping trees and the beavewillowrs gazed wistfully at the forbidden fruit like children eyeing their presents under the tree, and life was good. The planting was even on channel 7 news.

Then guess what? Funny story. (Not really).

Public works got a divine inspiration (or a phone call from you-know-who) and ripped every planted stake out. They piled them to one side by the road. Jon just happened to notice as he drove by.  I called the engineer in a panic to ask WTF and he called the foot soldiers who had done the dirty work and by evening these poor stakes were all back in the ground. No kidding. Shades of Alice in Wonderland painting the roses red.  Some of the trees were upside down, some barely planted, all looking the worse for wear.

It suppose it goes without saying that they all died.

IMG_0441Well, the SF Waterboard was not very happy with that. And our good friend Ann Riley swore that we would REPEAT the planting next year, this time before thanksgiving, when they’d get more water, using the help of their next intern. And these trees had better not get pulled up.

But in the meantime our beavers died or scattered to the four winds and the city launched its grand bank destabilization project, which Riley was super not happy about either, so she negotiated with the engineer that our replanting should happen exactly there, where they had pulled out all the other living things.

Riley & Cory plan the attack!

Riley & Cory plan the attack!

The new intern’s name is Brenden Martin. And he and Riley are coming friday with some helpers to replant. This time they are going to use willow cuttings from here. Meanwhile, oddly enough the film crew from Middlechild productions will be out from the UK and filming it for the part of their documentary about how cities can live with beavers. Then heading to Napa to follow up with some beaver footage.

Rusty Cohn has boldly volunteered to come help Jon and Lory with the effort, and Ron will kindly take some photos for us. Oliver Smith, the assistant producer i’ve been chatting with, is probably interviewing Lara or Mark as well as interviewing me that day. The crew  arrives SFO tueday night and supposedly the gang is staying at the John Muir Lodge.

Honestly, two months ago I was feeling like if we didn’t have beavers we should cancel the planting and let the city be responsible for their own damn trees. But Jon persuaded me to be patient and now I feel differently.  Besides it’s working out well for Urban Beavers everywhere, and that makes me happy. I ask myself, if I were a beaver living in exile and saw a bunch of tasty morsels planted in my absence, wouldn’t I think about  coming home?

I certainly would.

beaver kit eats breakfast

beaver kit eats breakfast: Cheryl Reynolds