Archive for the ‘Beavers elsewhere’ Category

A treasure box of beaver stories

Posted by heidi08 On August - 26 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

There are quite a few beaver treats to enjoy today. I guess we should start out with the ‘day off’ I gave myself after Placer. I had been waiting to try this and just needed the space between deadlines. From now on I’m officially working on the beaver mania clock, but this was pure enjoyment. Alert readers might recognize the audio from earlier in the year’s Scientific American podcast. But the graphics are all mine.

I sent this to Nick myself and Michael Pollock did told me he did too, but the champagne and thank you bouquet hasn’t arrived yet. I’ll let you know when it does.

Here’s another remarkable treat that arrived yesterday, this one completely without Heidi’s fingerprints. The funny thing is that my father worked for PGE all his life from the lowest oiler in Oakland to the coporate office on the 35th flood in San Francisco as General Manager of Operations. This  is how he found a job for his shiftless immigrant son-in-law 30 years ago when the green card finally landed. Both men went on to retire from the company with generous pensions and mostly fond memories but maybe a little beaver intelligence survives in their absence?

Shasta County: PG&E Moves Gas Line to Prevent Beaver-Caused Leaks

ANDERSON — PG&E crews responded to a seemingly routine report of a gas odor on a rural residential road outside this Shasta County city. But what they found surprised them. PG&E crews recently relocated a gas line in Shasta County because of beavers chewing the line.  They located the leak and dug to expose the gas line for repairs, revealing a void around the plastic line and chew marks on the pipe.

The void was a beaver den, which had likely been abandoned as the beaver came across the gas line and perhaps thinking it was a tree root, chewed away. As soon as the rodent punctured the line releasing gas, the beaver apparently gave up and left the unfinished den.

We knew the first time it happened it was a beaver,” said David Ferguson, a gas maintenance and construction supervisor in Redding. “We made the repair and thought it was an isolated incident,” he added. “But after it happened a few more times, about once every one or two years, we realized we needed to find a solution.”

Cherokee Drive on the road in southern Shasta County. The gas line lay next to the banks of Anderson Creek Overflow, which in recent years has had an incursion of beavers as the industrious rodent reclaims developed areas. On Wednesday (Aug. 24), PG&E crews finished the relocation job and began serving the four residential customers with the new gas line at a safe distance away from the beaver habitat.

And no I’m NOT making this up. I guess the explosions in San Bruno a few gave them so much trouble they are bending over backwards to show they’re nice guys? Maybe the decision was purely fiscal since sending someone out year year after year to fix the chewed pipe cost money. Whatever the reason I’m dam proud of PGE this morning!

Now, if you regretted not being a fly on the wall for the Placer presentation you’re in luck. I think this should be cued up right to watch on your own. There are only a few places where I flubbed up, but I’m still quite sure its the BEST beaver presentation Placer County as ever had.

(And I’m looking at you, Mary Tappel.)

Outlasting the Outliers

Posted by heidi08 On August - 24 - 20163 COMMENTS

I was never very good at math, but for some reason I really got statistics. (Unlike Jon who is excellent at math and dismal in is stats class. Go figure.)  That way of thinking about numbers just made sense to me. I could put the formulas together and analyze what came out. That said, I would be the first to admit that I remembered only what I needed to know to graduate and retained a chalk outline of the information in my brain once the dissertation was signed.  But it generally helps me read research better and understand what was being done.

What remains of the chalk outline tells me that regression analysis is something you do when you have a bunch of numbers you’re trying to tease out the most significant factor that makes them different from each other. Why do some kids drop out of college and others succeed? Is it money? IQ? Parental support? Social skills on campus? etc. And of course identifying the primary cause is important because you want to use that in making future decisions down the line. So when a friend of a friend in the field of social stats for medication offered to work with the county portion of our depredation stats I was very excited.

This is what he wrote at the time:

I used the square miles to predict the expected # of permits for each county, bases on the square miles of water.  Then I looked at the actual number of permits, and calculated a ratio of the two.  The data and graph are attached.regression analysis

You have one county that is clearly an outlier – Placer. This country issued almost 7 times as many permits as expected. 

So yesterday I spoke to the Board of Supervisors of the outliers in question. The county chambers were  high tech – there were four large wall screens and the entire meeting was streamed to Tahoe where it aired live with participants. There were two computer/media guys on hand to make sure everything ran smoothly and two women taking notes up front. The Commissioners filed into their seats on the dais and the meeting started a little after nine. There was an award for a stalwart Rosie the riveter airline mechanic who had worked for years and years at the historic society, and then several multi million dollar contracts were approved for snow plow equipment and police squad cars. You really got the impression that this was a county with discretionary funds.

And then there was me and beavers.

A CDFW supervisor from Tahoe introduced me and then Jack Sanchez from SARSAS added a nice introduction as well.

Heidi  has become the nation’s foremost beaver specialist as a result of a beaver family moving into Martinez Creek in front of a Starbuck’s and producing kits.  She started Worth A Dam and has spread the beneficial aspects of beavers in waterways worldwide.

Because Placer County allowed housing development too close to its waterways, an adversarial relationship has developed with beavers.  I believe if the English, Russians and beaver trappers had not exterminated beavers in Ca in 18th and 19th centuries, we would have no need for our Rim Dams, Shasta, Folsom and Oroville.

I present with great pleasure Dr. Heidi Perryman to talk about beavers.

My talk went as it was supposed to, and everything worked the way it was supposed to. The four screens displayed my slides which were also streamed in Tahoe, and even without video and 8 the last minute surprise I think the message really got across. When it was over several commissioners asked questions and repeated the phrase “Seven times more”  with horror. I really had the impression that the talk registered with them and left a mark. Vice chair Jennifer Montgomery even said she remembered our friends at the Sierra Wildlife Coalition in Tahoe saying something similar years ago when the beavers were killed at Kings Beach.

When I left the meeting I was followed out by the CDFW man who thanked me for an excellent presentation and talked about how they had made a mistake in Tahoe years ago because they didn’t understand and now knew better, and a reporter for the Auburn newspaper who wanted to talk about 7 times more and ask about mosquitoes. Jack and his wife came to say what a good presentation it was and so did one of is board members. They had already scheduled a private meeting tomorrow with one of the commissioners to follow up!

Honestly, we floated home feeling that we had really done something useful. I thought about Robin from Napa getting the PRA in first place so we could analyze the data, and Jon and I slogging through all those grizzly permits, and me writing my grad school friend in a panic about the data, and her asking her friend from Infometrics who generously donated his time and my meeting Jack when I presented at the salmon conference in Santa Barbara, and us all collaborating to prove that beaver belonged in the sierras, and I really felt like all the piano strings had pulled in just the right way to make this happen.

Afterwards Commissioner Jim Holmes sent me this very nice note.

Dear Dr. Perryman,  Thank you so much for your very informative presentation on Urban Beavers. It gave me a wonderful overall picture of the importance of beavers in our ecosystem.

The recorded meeting should be available soon, and in the meantime I am definitely very aware of the step they took forward and the role we played in making that happen. Sometimes I think what I like best of all about this beaver chapter of my life is the self-guiding interdependence of it – weaving the help of friends into a creation of my own imagining without anyone telling me what I should do and letting that make a difference.

Wide open beaver places

Posted by heidi08 On August - 19 - 2016Comments Off on Wide open beaver places

CaptureThere’s a slick new beaver-friendly article in the online world. This one is fCapturerom “Sonoma County Wildlife” and features Cheryl’s photos (one with misattributed credit to me). It’s one of those very confusing articles to review, because I’m very very happy with the tone, and the resources, but predictably frustrated with the details about us.

Why we need beavers

Environmental improvements to the landscape

By felling trees and making ponds, beavers create diverse micro-habitats, adding wetlands and deep pools. According to the OAEC report, fish, insects, birds and amphibians and river otters proliferate in beaver-influenced landscapes. Beaver dams slow down streams, reduce erosion, and allow water to sink into the quoteground. The ponds they make are deep, cool places where young fish, like coho salmon smolt, can survive through the summer.

Beaver increase diversity in plant life as well. Shallow parts of the beaver pond become wetlands and eventually meadows where unusual plant species can flourish. Beaver ponds and marshes help to filter out sediment and pollutants, making the downstream water cleaner. Wetlands support greater plant growth and also wet decomposition of plants which removes 5 to 40% of nitrogen pollution from stream water.

Beaver activity even sequesters carbon. Recent research shows that meadows and wetlands created by beavers capture more carbon than the grassland or forest that they replaced. One estimate by geologist Ellen Wohl is that a beaver meadow contains 10 to 30 times the carbon of a dry grassland, depending on its size and age.

See this kind of article is exactly the cowpusher we need to get reluctant farmers off the tracks and keep them from standing in the way of beaver success: detailed and scientific listings of their benefits, which is great at encouraging folks to think about beaver in a new way. I’m guessing that most of this article was based on the ‘Beaver in California” report from OAEC recently released. Because they got very minor details about general Vallejo right, and very obvious details about Martinez wrong.

Learning to live with the urban beaver

beaver dam on Sonoma Creek

Beaver seem to be slowly moving back to the North Bay. A nonprofit in Martinez called Worth a Dam just held its 9th annual Beaver Festival, celebrating the more or less continuous occupation of a pond on Alhambra Creek since 2007. When beaver first moved into Alhambra Creek, in downtown Martinez, the city made plans to have them trapped and killed. A group of residents persuaded the city council to try an intervention that would keep the pond from flooding and it was successful. Beaver also appeared in downtown Napa in 2014 and are still there.


In Sonoma County there is only one verified beaver pond, on Sonoma Creek in Maxwell Farms Regional Park just outside the city of Sonoma. This is the second recent attempt by beavers to repopulate Sonoma Creek. According to an article in the Bohemian, a beaver family moved up Sonoma Creek to Glen Ellen in the 1990s, but was soon caught eating grapevines and exterminated. Left to themselves though, they will slowly re-populate our streams. Young beavers naturally disperse to find their own territory as adults and move from one watershed to another, either overland or by water.

Getting these techniques right involves understanding how a beaver thinks. When the City of Martinez ran an underwater pipe through the beaver dam to keep the pond below a certain level and prevent flooding, they made sure that the ingress and outlet of the pipe were both placed underwater since the sound of running water will prompt the beavers to build their dam higher. Also necessary is a change of human attitude, regarding beaver as environmental friends rather than enemies.

The funny thing is that this links to OUR description of the flow device and still manages to get the details wrong. The pipe goes over the dam and the outflow was above water in every condition but high tide. People over focus on the noise detail because they love the story about Michel LeClare discovering that beavers covered the tape recorder with mud. But in reality there are other essential things beavers respond to that we have no way of observing. Like feeling the suction created by a leak on their very sensitive vibrissa or guard hairs.

mom eye close 1

But really, you’re just being picky Heidi. These are minor details in some really good advertising for beavers. Thanks, Sonoma Wildlife!


Another dam festival!

Posted by heidi08 On August - 18 - 2016Comments Off on Another dam festival!

It’s starting to be time for the third annual beaver dam jam with our friends in Pocatello Idaho. I’m really proud of Mike Settell and is band of merry folk for getting this together in a state that traps more than it treasures. I am pretty sure that our festival convinced these folks to try their own, but even I can’t imagine what it would take to offer camping AFTER the event!

3rd annual Beaver Dam Jam to raise money for Watershed Guardians

POCATELLO – The third annual Beaver Dam Jam, a music event to support beaver conservation, will feature the bands Country Drive and Hot Pursuit and other activities from 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Aug. 27 at the Mink Creek Pavilion, located in the Caribou National Forest on South Mink Creek Road.

Watershed Guardians helps the Portneuf Watershed, by helping beaver. Proceeds from the events will support BeaverCount, a free winter event to census beaver colonies in Idaho. Watershed Guardians also educates the rural and urban communities on non-lethal methods of beaver damage control.

The Mink Creek group campsite holds up to 200 folks and has a nice outdoor pavilion that is a popular outdoor wedding venue. It’s about 12 miles south of town and they arrange for buses to get everyone out there and back safely. Can’t you just imagine the whooping good time of dancing under that pavilion? They provide food and beer is available for a donation. You can bring camping gear (including bicycles) on the bus. I can’t even imagine the planning this takes.

Well, I can sort of imagine.


Feel sorry for the trapper in New Hampshire

Posted by heidi08 On August - 17 - 2016Comments Off on Feel sorry for the trapper in New Hampshire

With Pelt Prices Dropping, N.H.’s Beaver Population Grows

New Hampshire NPR would like you to consider the poor, unappreciated and undervalued trapper this morning. Because you know, those icky beavers can’t be regulated in any other way. Everyone says so, Even the NH Furbearer biologist Patrick Tate, whose salary is paid by selling trapping licenses. Go figure.

CaptureWell sure, this report contains a brief ineffective interview with a ‘save it all’ vegan at the end, and no discussion whatsoever of the valuable services beavers provide or the fish and wildlife that are harmed by their removal, but the real issue of whether this is a trap-happy report or not comes down to this essential question: A) Does it feature a sympathetic photo of the trapper? And B) is he presented in some humble, hardworking way like sitting on the stairs, writing a letter to his mother or standing on the street in his socks? Answer here:


If only there were a hole in his stocking! That would be really effective story telling. Because OBVIOUSLY no one else in the ENTIRE state can manage the voracious beaver population without help from trappers! I mean it’s not like our NH friend Art Wolinsky as been living peacefully with the flow device he and Mike installed and his beavers for half a decade right? Icing on the cake: Art just wrote me that they invited Mr. Tate to watch Mike install this flow device in person. No kidding.

Well the important thing is that the trapper is knowledgeable about what he’s doing. He clearly is very informed about beavers, right?

Kaska’s not sure how many beavers are in this pond. He should be able to tell once he catches one—by looking at its tail. Beavers are territorial: they fight by biting each others’ tails.

If tomorrow I find a beaver in one of my traps that has bite marks out of his tail, that will tell me I have two different family units in this area. Maybe I’ve got the stranger; maybe I’ve got the resident. But that tells me that I maybe have more.”

Yup. Because tail marks always mean that a stranger beaver is snooping around the area, right?

Mom's tail

Mom’s tail

Learning by Loss

Posted by heidi08 On August - 16 - 2016Comments Off on Learning by Loss

Yesterday I stumbled across this wonderful interview with Derek Gow about beavers in England. I admit that I was originally drawn by the amusing photo which of course readers of this site should recognize right away. But let’s make allowances for the fact that they haven’t seen beaver in 400 years and cut them some slack.


It might take a moment to adjust to his Cornish accent, but the whole 15 minute interview is very, very good. I got especially fascinated by his discussion of the species that suffered when beavers were removed from the landscape. At around 2:13 he talks about the Large Copper Butterfly that relied as catapillars on the coppiced willow trees at the edge of forests beavers once provided that never really recovered from their removal. Next he talks about the Bearded Tit which feed their youngsters on the larvae from flooded reed beds that rarely occur in the absence of beavers. It made me realize what  an incredible numbers of species beaver ponds affect that we never even consider.



The entire interview is the work of Open Learn and you might want to register and peek about to see what else they have. I’m very impressed with the work Derek has done to educate his countrymen about why beavers matter. It’s an uphill job but he points out that if we want folks in Kenya to coexist with truly destructive animals like elephants and Lions, we should be able to tolerate a little beaver interference!


This year’s edition of “Thanks Bob!”

Posted by heidi08 On August - 14 - 2016Comments Off on This year’s edition of “Thanks Bob!”

Bob Rust finally gets the credit he deserves after years of hard work. You won’t find any photos in the article, but of course we have them all.

Eye on the East Bay: ‘Beaver mobile’ turns heads at Martinez festival

IN THE BELLY OF THE BEAST: Beaver sightings are not all that uncommon along Alhambra Creek in Martinez — especially during the city’s annual Beaver Festival, which took place last weekend — so it takes something larger than life to turn heads. Leave it to Bob Rust to answer the challenge.

beaver-bread Rust, an environmental scientist by trade, has been moonlighting as the festival’s unofficial artist in residence for several years, surprising audiences with his whimsical creations that have ranged from beaver-shaped loaves of bread to a mechanical beaver tail to a giant inflatable beaver reminiscent of a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon.
giant beaver
For this year’s festival, Rust made a grand entrance on what might best be described as a “beaver mobile.” He started with a low-slung adult tricycle that he picked up used, then covered it in a papier mâché shell that he painted in appropriate shades of brown, attaching a huge tail that dragged noisily on the ground as he pedaled around the festival grounds, all while hidden within the faux beaver’s mighty belly.

Rust, who last year crafted a beaver out of wattle and daub as the festival was in progress, is no stranger to taking his creations from concept to completion on short notice. He spent about a week on the beaver mobile, and was still putting the finishing touches on it that Saturday morning. He said he was painting the critter’s white teeth at 10:15 a.m. and needed to get it to the festival by 10:30.

Rust has more than a passing interest in beavers. An avid kayaker, he usually tries to take his boat onto Alhambra Creek prior to festival weekend to remove trash or other unsightly debris.

No telling what he might do for an encore at next year’s festival, but he is intrigued by the idea of bringing back his beaver bread — baked in a beaver-shaped oven. Stay tuned …


The beavers are SO lucky to have a hero like this working for them! Thanks Bob!