Archive for the ‘Beavers elsewhere’ Category

Spooky Beaver Boo

Posted by heidi08 On October - 24 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

It’s getting to be my favorite time of year! No, not halloween. But Boo at the ZOO day! In San Francisco they let you in free if you’re wearing a costume, and they feed the animals inside pumpkins!

Apparently it’s even happen in Detroit, Michigan.

Early Halloween at Zoo Boo


A beaver passes and four kids cheer Sunday, October 23 at the Detroit  Zoo for the annual Zoo Boo celebration.

636128523018422727-2016-1023-fl-ec-zooboo-004Looks like a lot of fun. And we all know how much beavers love Halloween.


Beaver Public Radio

Posted by heidi08 On October - 23 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

Now new  Hampshire Public Radio reports on beavers!

Something Wild: West End Farm Trail

 Over another small hill, Knight leads us to a beaver complex, pointing out the three ponds these rodents have constructed. Chris explains how each of the ponds are formed by beavers channeling water and flooding forest land. And if we come back in another year or two there could be a fourth pond. “You build another dam, flood another forest and presto you’ve got a fourth pond.”

Eventually this first pond drains, and shrubs and trees return to what is now a clearing. Dave explains those first plants to colonize after the water has drained are actually primary food source for beavers. “So they’ll move back up to the top of the drainage and they start all over again. So they cycle in and out, and up and down the watershed.” Flooding a forest seems like extreme behavior, but it creates habitat for fish, frogs, turtles and water birds. And all inside the city limits.

captureAfter 9 years of covering beaver news I’m starting to see a pattern.  September is full of beaver problem reports because the animals are busy taking trees and making food stores for the winter. But come late October we’re treated to an assortment of beaver benefits as people either start noticing the wildlife, water storage or upcoming beaver moon. I might like late October the best of all the year!

In the meantime, lets just appreciate the harvest.

loggly celebrate

How the West was Watered: The next chapter.

Posted by heidi08 On October - 22 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

These are the golden days of beaver news. Yesterday a glowing report on VPR and today a glowing report on NHPR. But we’ll talk about that later, because this article from New Scientist Magazine has earned top billing.

captureHow beavers could help save the western US from a dry future

By MacGregor Campbell

How fortunes change. The fur rush drove the North American beaver, Castor canadensis, to near-extinction. Then, after a remarkable comeback last century, the once-prized rodent became a pest. Now, some say it could be on the cusp of a fresh rebranding: not as a prize or a pest, but as a prodigy.

Known as nature’s engineers, beavers seem to magic water out of nowhere. Crucially, their dams also help to store that water. At a time when California faces endless water shortages and long-standing drought, could beavers be part of a more natural solution?

Shrubs swallow the rocks, bulrushes stand in a wide expanse of clear, still
water, and cottonwood trees tower over the landscape. In the speckled
shadows, yellow butterflies dip and soar while finger-sized blue dragonflies
perch on reeds. Translucent baby fish take cover under waterlogged sticks.
Beavers and humans have been busy. “We’re building an ecosystem here,
says Michael Pollock, a researcher with the National Oceanographic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), based in Seattle, Washington state.

Ohlala! Curl up with your saturday morning cuppa and settle in for the best read of the entire week. Any article that starts out with Pollock is going to go places we want to be. We’re all in at this point. Unfortunately that’s all the preview the magazine gives for free but we are old friends right? They didn’t mean to keep us out.

In 2010, local landowner Betsy Stapleton got in touch with Pollock after
reading about some of his research. Pollock was interested in something
called beaver dam analogues. Typically consisting of a line of posts set
across a stream bed and interwoven with willow and cottonwood branches,
these faux dams slow water down and widen out a stream to form a pond.
The goal? To attract beavers. Putting one up is like prepping beaver real
estate for sale.

scotts-riverIn Sugar Creek, much to Stapleton’s delight, the faux dams worked. As she wades through soft muck into surprisingly pristine pond water, she points out evidence of beavers all around. Sticks with chew marks are strewn across the pond bottom. A scent-mound of dried mud stands guard telling interlopers that the pond is spoken for. Vegetation has been stuffed into both dam analogues. “They like to plug every little hole,” says Stapleton.

For Pollock, Sugar Creek was a test case for a new way to manage water.
When Stapleton first contacted him, the site had just a trickle of water. It felt
symptomatic of the wider issues facing California, namely persistent
drought and dwindling groundwater resources, neither of which is likely to
be eased by climate change. Traditionally, the answer has been to build
more channels, reservoirs and other artificial water infrastructure. Pollock
believes beavers are a better solution.

At Sugar Creek, on the other hand, the water gets stuck. Beneath it isn’t just
rock but rich soil too. NOAA hydrologist Brian Cluer points out sand and fine
dirt that has come from further upstream. In the still waters of the ponds, it
settles. Grasses, reeds and other plants take root in the stuff, locking it and
its moisture in place. With time, a thick base of rich, moist soil builds up,
helping to raise the water table.

Cluer says that all this has a huge knock-on effect. The water seeps down
into the ground, recharging underground aquifers. That matters because
California is depleting its groundwater at an alarming rate. It is now tapping
into “fossil” water that has been underground for tens of thousands of
years. Farmland is sinking as aquifers collapse. This is the price you pay for
an intensive water management system predicated on drained wetlands
and artificial channels, says Cluer.

Oh my goodness, creating biodiversity AND recharging our bone- dry collapsed aquifers. That’s got to sound pretty good to a lot of bureaucrats out there. Hope the aide to the governor is reading this. We’re at the part of the article where they talk about the ‘buts’ though. But here’s the bad news. I’m braced. Give it your best shot MacGregor.

It’s not all sweetness and light, however. Humans and beavers working in
harmony to restore degraded ecosystems is an alluring dream, but the
reality is somewhat more complicated. For one, there’s a reason why
beavers are considered a nuisance: they don’t always do what you want
them to. Introduce them in the wrong area and they can wreak havoc.
Chewed trees, plugged culverts, flooded fields and roads – the same
behaviours that make beavers excellent engineers are often at odds with
human infrastructure. Across the US, that means damage costing tens of
millions of dollars each year.

Introducing beavers to an area doesn’t always go well for the animals either,
says Jimmy Taylor, a wildlife biologist with the US Department of
Agriculture, based in Corvallis, Oregon. Dropping them into a new area can
leave them vulnerable to predators and without enough food while they
build their infrastructure.

Alright if the most negative voice you got is Jimmy Taylor, I can handle it.It’s funny how this article is turning into a ‘Who’s who’ of beavers and my beaver podcasts isn’t it? You really should go listen to them again just to make sure you know what’s going on. Yes, beavers don’t always survive reintroduction and beavers block culverts. Can we go back to the good news now? No we have to fret about fish first.

Minimising conflict between beavers and humans is a good start, but not
the whole story. Some fish and wildlife managers are concerned that the
dams obstruct fish and so will harm stocks. Pollock doesn’t buy the
argument. Together with Wheaton and others, he has recently completed a
large-scale study of the effect beaver dams have on steelhead trout
numbers at Bridge Creek in Oregon. In 2008, the team started building
beaver dam analogues along a 32-kilometre stretch of the watershed,
eventually completing 121 by 2012. The resident beavers chipped in,
building on top of the artificial dams and creating new ones too. By 2013,
there were 236.

Before the experiment, the density of fish living in Bridge Creek was the
same as at nearby Murderer’s Creek, but by 2013 it was nearly double. It
seems that far from being harmed by the dams, fish were benefiting from
the wetter, more protected environment. What’s more, so far as the team
could tell, there was no change in the number of adult fish heading
upstream to spawn. They seemed to have no trouble hopping over the

“Beavers and salmon have been evolving together since at least the
Pliocene, 3 million years ago,” Pollock points out. He says preliminary
results at Sugar Creek tell a similar story. Before the beaver dam analogues,
they counted tens or hundreds of baby fish in a typical summer. After?
Thousands. “There’s way more than we can count,” says Pollock.

Ohhh yes, that’s the kind of research I like best! The snappy ‘take that’ kind of research! If I didn’t know better I’d think that maybe this would change the way people looked at beavers. I’d think that this article would open eyes, and minds. But  I’ve been in the beaver biz a long time. People are very, very stubborn. I guess I should be happy if it changes a few minds and gives some others pause.

Oddly enough, this article does a lot of heavy lifting for the rodents but makes the decision to end on an appreciation of their anal scent glands. Hmm? Not the note I would have ended on, but the rest is wonderful so we’ll let this slide.

babyHow could you not love beavers? They are intensely social and form lifelong pairs. Each family – or colony – splits its duties: while one animal gathers
building material, another excavates the pond and yet another watches the kits (that’s a baby beaver to me and you), keeping an eye out for predators
or rival colonies.

A single family can create and maintain tens of square kilometres of water infrastructure. They thin local forests, both for building material and bark – their preferred food – and store it in underwater caches of sticks and small logs that also provide homes to baby fish.

Perhaps the beaver’s most surprising attribute is its anal scent glands. They
produce a substance called castoreum, which beavers use as a calling card.
Humans use it in perfumes and occasionally as a flavouring additive,
typically in substitutes for vanilla.

Lets give MacGregor the benefit of the doubt and lets assume that he wanted to finish the article on some grand sweeping note about beaver benefits or how society misunderstands the gift it was given, and his small minded editor in gaberdine made the article end on anal scent glands, because ew!  People will tell their friends!

Overall this is a fantastic read and just in case you want to pass it along to your friends or senators I will risk  the long arm of the law and link to it here. Shhh,

On a local note, I heard from Leslie this morning that our wayward beavers have nearly finished the tree they took down and she had fun watching them all evening. I also heard back from the grounds  keeper at the junior high that he is grateful for the information and loves nature and will keep my number handy. So that’s about the best we could hope for.

You do everything you can to raise your children right, and get the right information out there,  but at some point they go out in the world and you just have to trust things will work out.



Praise beavers from sea to shining sea

Posted by heidi08 On October - 20 - 2016Comments Off on Praise beavers from sea to shining sea

Nice description from Ruth Grierson of the Mount Desert Island in Maine. Even though they’re east coast and not very far from solutions they aren’t exactly floating in beaver wisdom and coexistence up there, so this is nice to read.

Eager beavers help selves, others

Many have noticed lately that the water level in island beaver ponds is way down. Someone asked me what the beavers will do this winter if we don’t get more rain before winter starts. This could be a problem for them. I know my pond is quite low at the moment. The beaver ponds are interesting to see now, for you really can check out their lodges and dams and realize what wonderful structures they have made. They are excellent engineers. The term “busy as a beaver” has real meaning.

Beavers are the largest living rodents in North America and among the mammals living on this island that are easy to see and observe as they live their lives. Other wildlife benefit considerably by their presence, for they create an excellent habit supplying food, shelter and water, the requirements for life. Plants also benefit from their presence. Migrants find the many beaver ponds excellent places to stop, rest and eat on their long journeys. You sometimes even come across geese or ducks nesting on the top of a beaver lodge, for it makes a safe place for a home. The trees that have died because of the flooding of an area provide great nesting places for many birds and mammals.

Well said, Ruth. It’s a good point that is never made often enough. In fact I think it deserves a poster. What do you think?

posterJeanette Carroll from Redding has some similar thoughts. Here’s a recent letter she published in the Record Searchlight which is part of USA today. Redding is famously beaver danger zone, so we are thrilled about this.

Please help the salmon.

Thousands of dollars are spent restoring salmon habitat and pouring suitable sized gravel into the Sacramento River for the salmon to use as they migrate upriver to spawn. All efforts to increase the salmon species are very worthwhile.

I sincerely hope the Department of Fish and Wildlife will provide some guidance to the Department of the Interior so the waters from Shasta and Keswick dams are not abruptly curtailed as was the case in 2014 and 2015. The salmon no sooner completed their spawning efforts and their depleted and decaying bodies began to wash downstream in the Sacramento River when the water flow stopped so abruptly that not enough water was left to allow their eggs to hatch.

Their nicely cleaned gravel spawn beds were exposed to the elements and their eggs would have never hatched into tiny fry had not our local pair of beavers quickly rebuilt their dam just in time to inundate the salmon eggs in their redd. So, the 2014 and 2015 eggs did hatch but there are not enough beaver and suitable sloughs in the Sacramento River to save other vulnerable spawning grounds. If the same thing occurs this year, will the beaver come to the rescue again and save the 2016 salmon eggs?

This is a fine reminder of what NOAA fisheries research has been pointing out for 20 years. Beaver ponds are salmon nurseries. And ripping out beaver ponds is salmon genocide. If you’re going to save one, you have to cooperate with the other. Shorter column: When Jeanette writes “Please help save the salmon’ what she is really asking is “Please help save the beavers”.

OW! The stupid! It hurts us!

Posted by heidi08 On October - 17 - 2016Comments Off on OW! The stupid! It hurts us!

There are precious few articles about beaver that shock me any more. Remember, I’ve been doing this a long time and written nearly 4000 columns about the way a city responds to beavers. Sure, every once in a while a city makes the right decision for the right reasons and that shocks me a little, and sometimes entire regions make bad decisions that are so destructive it catches my breath, but often I’ve seen it all before. This, as they say in the cattle trade, ain’t my first rodeo.

But just when you think you’ve seen it all, something can come up that you never in a million years would have expected. Something that is so antithetical to all logic, research and instinct that it makes me groan so loud I frighten the neighbors.

Most severe drought restrictions imposed in this Georgia county

North Georgia’s searing drought has forced Haralson County, 35 miles west of downtown Atlanta, to impose the state’s harshest watering restrictions. No outdoor watering (except for irrigation of family food plots). No car washes. Football fields must remain dry. And, please, don’t run the water while brushing your teeth.

The Tallapoosa River is so low that the county water authority dismantled beaver dams Sunday. Preachers used the pulpit to spread the water-conservation word. And nearby Anniston, Ala. is sending water Haralson’s way.

Haralson is the first Georgia county to trigger a Level III — the most severe — drought. Yet 50 counties across North Georgia are experiencing, at least, an “extreme” drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. A handful of counties in far Northwest Georgia are experiencing an “exceptional” — the worst — drought.

It’s up to everybody to do their part,” Walker said. “If you don’t need to use water, don’t use it. We’re asking everybody to conserve.”

He’s also aiming for those pesky, river-clogging beavers. About 30 volunteers targeted four beaver dams along the Tallapoosa River Sunday morning. They’ll try to tear down the dams by hand or, possibly, with back hoes. Wood and other debris dislodged from a dam the other night filled three dump trucks.

That’s right. You read that correctly. Haralson county is experiencing the worst drought they ever faced. Their lawns are dying and cars are dirty, even by California standards. And the most important water official in this entire dusty land is addressing the crisis by using work parties to rip out BEAVER DAMS because they HOG all the water.


I bet you didn’t know that all those years you turned off the tap to save water you were actually HOGGING IT!

Well, I wrote everyone a letter last night, including the reporter and all the mayors in Haralson county, and you can imagine how full my mailbox is this morning with heartfelt thanks appreciating the many articles I sent them. Because the entire state is so interested in research and learning. It’s hard to believe out here on the backwards west coast.

(Did you get that? Or is my sarcasm too subtle?)

I told them that ripping out dams to save water is like removing traffic lights to reduce accidents. I think of that beaver with a leaky pipe on the dry Guadalupe River just sitting there building his little dam and waiting for his pond to accumulate.

Beavers are so selfish. If he hadn’t hogged all those drips to himself they would have rolled into the cracked ground and disappeared entirely and the drought could have belonged to everyone.



“Ohhh the beaver and the rancher should be friends…”

Posted by heidi08 On October - 15 - 2016Comments Off on “Ohhh the beaver and the rancher should be friends…”


Tcapturehe Seventh Generation Institute in New Mexico does remarkable work on a pretty fierce landscape. They’ve been interested in the role beavers can play repairing water systems for a long time, and now they are working with Jon Grigg and the ranchers in Elko to release this new film on the subject. I for one  can’t wait to see it. They are using CROWDRISE to raise funds for a screening tour around areas that need it most: Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Nevada and oh yes CALIFORNIA.

Maybe after you see the trailer you’ll want to help get them started?

Trail Center presents film on ranching and beavers

ELKO — The California Trail Interpretive Center will present a free screening of a one-hour film that explores the pros and cons of beaver on ranch lands. “Rethinking Beaver: old nuisance or new partner?” will show at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

The film features local ranch manager Jon Griggs of Maggie Creek Ranch. It draws from real life experiences and unscripted interviews with him and other ranchers.

“Rethinking Beaver” explores the use of beaver as a tool to repair erosion, increase forage and overall productivity, and improve wildlife habitat on ranches.

The film was produced by Seventh Generation Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

smallerIf Elko Nevada doesn’t have the highest beaver IQ in the state -let alone the entire west I’d be very surprised. It was where I first read about the remarkable work of Carol Evans of the BLM which introduced me eventually to Susie Creek and Jon Griggs. Carol has since retired from her BLM job but is still interested in creeks and beavers. I was trying earlier to tempt her into hitching a ride to the State of the Beaver Conference in Oregon.

img_3508_cWhen SGI isn’t making movies it’s talking directly to ranchers,  relocating nuisance beaver or leading workshops teaching how to install flow devices. They are a front lines organization with smart work and good intentions. Congratulations Catherine Wilds and our friends at Seventh Generation! We can’t to wait to see the positive effect this has.



Posted by heidi08 On October - 14 - 2016Comments Off on Confluence

I knew Joseph R. Walker was a mountain man who happened to be buried in Martinez. I wrote about him years ago when we were working on the historic prevalence papers.  I believe I referred to this picture as a “Dreamy Mona Lisa with a beard.” Ha!  But I never realized before how very important he was to the eventual settlement of California. It’s not a stretch to say we might not even be here if it wasn’t for him.

He was the first white man to cross the Humbolt Sink in Nevada. The first to find a pass over the Sierras. The first white man to stand in Yosemite. And although he is fairly forgotten by history, he was considered the greatest of fur trappers in his day.


He was a big man, 6 feet 2 and 220 lbs – but a thoughtful, unboastful, determined man who was said to never drink more than a toast. He was fair and cautious in his treatment of natives, but brutal if he felt they wronged him. While he never earned the fame of Bonneville (Who got Washington Irving to write his memoirs) or Fremont (who is famed for naming Tahoe) he was regarded as a remarkable leader of men and encouraged the most loyal regard by those who served him. The saying was that he only lost a single man in all his travels and that man had been attacked by a grizzly bear, not an indian.

Given our current political fray I found this quote about Fremont, attributed to Walker, amusing.

“Frémont, morally and physically, was the most complete coward I ever knew. I would call him a woman, if it were not casting an unmerited reproach on the sex.”

Yikes! That’s kind of respectable and catty at the same time. (Kind of like those leaked emails of Colin Powell.) Fremont was a complicated character in his own right, with his notable achievements including taking over as Governor of California, getting court marshaled for insubordination, being one of the new states first senators, and eventually running for president on an antislavery platform for the GOP.

Different story. Different day.

Back to our hero, I guess compared to Walker lots of men were short on courage. He was just 34 when Bonneville retained him to do a reconnaissance mission in ‘Alta California’ – which is what the Mexicans who were in charge of it called the territory. Since they were asking him to spy on another country Bonneville got him a Mexican passport before sending him out the door. Walker’s disguise was a fur trapper so he hired 60 grizzled others to look the part. They traveled down the Green River in Utah to the Humbolt in Nevada to the edge of the Sierras. They had been assured they would find the “Bonaventura” which was supposed to flow from Utah to the Pacific. Guess how true that turned out to be? Unfortunately it was already November by the time they started their ascent of the Sierras and conditions quickly went from bad to miserable.

Here’s  how a nice article in the Half Moon Bay Review recently described it

Growing short of food for themselves and feed for their animals, they moved ahead. What followed as they made their assault on the mountains is a truly California story. Their animals began to starve. The air was thin. Their wool and fur-lined clothing was little match for the snow and freezing wet cold. Most of all, the unknown way forward became a brew of uncertainty and fear, even for these seasoned men.

Walker needed to use both reason and inspiration. As they neared the highest ridges in mid-November they were also approaching the very edge of their ability to survive. They began eating their horses. There was talk of mutiny and retreat. They began to wonder whether they were more likely to survive by going forward or by retracing their steps in retreat. 

The part about eating their horses stuck in my craw the first time I read this. I guess because they theoretically were there to hunt beavers which they were just tossing away after they skinned them. Apparently during dire times mountain men were known to eat horses, mules, dogs, and their native guides – not to mention sucking what little nutrients they could glean from their beaver skins, leather fringes or moccasins.  Apparently they were on the original Paleo diet, gorging on barely cooked meat and fat when it was available and not eating much of anything else.

Suffice it to say our noble captain lead his men through an eventual pass and they left the snow to camp under the really big trees of Yosemite. He eventually discovered “Walker Pass” and opened all California for discovery. After Joseph and his friends had trapped out beaver they rented themselves as guides to the pioneers heading west.

He lived to the remarkable age of 80 and eventually went to live with his nephew on a ranch on Mount Diablo.

And so it came to pass that the most famed beaver trapper of his day was buried in the town of the most famous beavers in the nation which happened to be the home town of the most famous conservationist ever and where he was visited by the author of the most famous beaver book ever.

Because … castor coincidence.

  • Belated note. RIP to early Martinez Beaver supporter Paul L. Wilson who died peacefully and with family yesterday. Paul was the city watchdog and always ready to make sure they did the right thing. You will be missed.