Archive for the ‘Beavers elsewhere’ Category

Dear Mr. Fellman

Posted by heidi08 On September - 25 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

I’m trying something different today. Rather than post my review of this misguided article in my usual quippy way, I’m going to address the author directly, like an old friend sharing a beer. I’ve written him through his blog already so I’m sure he’ll check to see mine when he opens his mail. Here’s the article that got my attention:

The potato rake and the battle with the beavers

  • OK last weekend I was spending way too much time at the millpond dam near my house. I was down there carrying a potato rake, a pitchfork, various shovels, and a collection of hearty oaths.

    I was frequently covered with mud, and I was always covered with sweat. I was, as I explained in an earlier edition of the Journal, doing battle with beavers, or, to use a somewhat earthier catch-phrase gleaned from a character that represented the Ipana toothpaste franchise in the 1950s, Bucky ”bleepin’” or “F-ing” Beaver. “You’re going to lose,” I was told cheerily when I revealed the fight I had undertaken against this apparently implacable foe.

    The folks gathered around the table at a monthly meeting of an environmental group I work with nodded their heads in agreement at this grim assessment. “Beavers always win… especially when all you have is a potato fork.” If I would put aside my liberal queasiness against the equally liberal use of nuclear weaponry, I might, was the consensus, have a fighting chance, but without the highest of high-powered arsenals, well, “You’ve read Don Quixote, right?”

    Ahh Bruce. You need better environmental friends! Come sit at our table. Yes, the beavers are determined not to freeze solid during the coming winter months, and they’d like to be able to reach all that food they’re busy storing so they don’t starve either. They’re quirky that way. But if you want that dam lower we can tell you how to keep it there successfully. And it won’t involve TNT or clam rakes.

    I couldn’t see any windmills on the horizon, and, in fact, I couldn’t see any beavers. That my foe was invisible was hardly surprising: Castor canadensis is, at the very least, crepuscular—active, that is, beginning at dusk—and the beavers I was confronting appeared to be downright nocturnal. I’ve found no signs of a permanent lodge. I can’t spot any suggestions of gnawed-down trees and shrubs. Ghost critters or not, they’ve certainly made their presence unmistakable.

    In front of the dam is a wall of mud, perhaps six inches high and foot wide. It’s reinforced with sticks and branches, many of which have been stripped of their nutritious bark—a beaver buffet item—and all of them showing signs of gnaw marks. Occasionally, I’ve found a beaver footprint, and if this wasn’t proof-positive of my invisible foe’s identity, consider the following.

    Crepuscular? Have you checked the nutrition label on a willow leaf lately? Do you really think a 60 lb beaver is going to consume all the calories he needs by eating leaves an hour a day? And find time leftover to raise a family and make the repairs you’re complaining about? Beavers are NOCTURNAL. And the biologist who made up the other thing also believed no one could see him if he closed his eyes.

    Indeed, it was the demise of the stream, a favorite hangout, which girded my loins for the fight. This nameless body of water has long been the home and, I suspect, nursery for a group of uncommon dragonflies known as Dragonhunters, large, fierce, and beautiful insects whose primary prey is fellow odonates, and I’d be hanged if I was going to let this creek be engineered out of existence. Now, when it comes to beavers, engineering is just what they do.

    Nature’s master craftsmen have been creating, maintaining, and, when they consider it appropriate, recreating wetlands to meet their needs since the glaciers receded more than ten thousand years ago. It’s simply their nature to do this, and when they returned to our area, after being trapped to the point of local extinction, in the 1970s, we were to learn that, even when we humans might suggest, “Bucky, this area is fine as is and doesn’t require any improvement,” there’s no arguing with beavers.

     But, I thought, perhaps my persistence might convince them to go elsewhere to practice their unnecessary dam trade. After all, there’s already a perfectly functional dam in place. The pond it created and maintains doesn’t require any additional help. So I do my daily work to bring back the water flow over the dam, and make the stream safe for its resident flora, from Bur Marigolds and Cardinal Flowers to liverworts and mosses, and resident fauna, which includes otters, minks, Great Blue Herons, crayfish, Powdered Dancer damselflies, Stinkpot turtles, Brook Trout, waterthrush warblers, or any of the myriad other animals I’ve spotted here since I took this area under my observational wing in 1984.

    Okay. This endears you to me, Bruce. You’re a stream keeper. You’re motivated by stewardship and want to prevent the stream from changes that will result in less biodiversity of the species you love to photograph. Me too!


    Dragonflies mating: Bruce Fellman

    (You take amazing photos by the way, you really should visit the beaver pond some evening before the month ends and try your hand at beaver photos. Poke around this website for a while and you’ll see the builders aren’t as impossible to see as you think.)

    mirror mirror

    Martinez Yearling Grooming: Cheryl Reynolds

    Hey guess who can help you take care of that creek you love? I’ll give you a hint. It has fur and a flat tail. Those deep pools have more to do with the brook trout and the turtles than you imagine. And those creek plants you love so much – guess who’s raising the water table so that their roots have something to drink? Beavers are the original creek stewards. Why not learn to work with them instead of against them?

    And every night, for the past few weeks, the Castorean Conservation Corps has returned with mud, sticks, and impressive skills to undo my efforts.

    Yes beavers fix repairs they believe are necessary for their family to survive the upcoming winter. Go Figure. Hey you’re good with tools and own a pair of waders. Why not buy Mike’s DVD and learn to install a flow device that will keep the dam at the height you can stand and still protects the beavers? It will save your creek and your sanity. Unwilling to spend a dime on these dam rodents? How about a free book that will teach you to do this as well? Or hey, if you don’t like being in the water, why not hire Mike Callahan or Skip Lisle to do it for you? They’re a phone call and a couple states away. We brought Skip out 3000 miles to solve our problem a decade ago. You’re getting off cheap.

    flexible-leveler-diagramNow, I’ll let you go. I’m glad we’ve had this little chat. I know you have a lot of reading to do. Start by watching our story to learn how the flow device controlled our dam height for ten years and how the beavers transformed our creek. Then go down some evening and actually watch the family you’re fighting with. There are a million fascinating columns in your future if you learn to appreciate the effect beavers have on wildlife and watersheds. Don’t believe me? Check out the writing of Vermont’s Patti Smith for the Battleboro Reformer, or Connecticut’s Ben Goldfarb for the High Country News.

    Beavers are natural environmentalists. You guys should be best friends. Really.

    State of the beaver







    Beaver Central

    Posted by heidi08 On September - 24 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

    Yesterday numberI received an  email about beavers in New Jersey, and a distress call about beavers in Eugene Oregon. Coming a day after my beaver good wishes from New Hamshire, I can only conclude that Worth A Dam is the nation’s number one resource for beaver advocacy.

    My email from Eugene included this video from Patricia and Greg McPherson concerned about the Island Lakes beavers in GoodPasture Island Oregon.

    I put her in touch with Leonard Houston of the Beaver Advocacy Committee, Kaegen Scully-Englemeyer of the Welands Conservancy and Jacob Shockley of Beaver State Wildlife Solutions. I’m sure between the three of them those beavers will have a fighting chance. She wrote a nice thank you note that I thought I’d share to draw attention to a newish resource I put together while the beaver mania talk was still fresh in my mind. Look to your left and up on the screen for the link.

    I watched your ‘Our Story”   ….VERY HEARTWARMING, FUNNY AND EDUCATIONAL…..KUDOS!  I’ve passed it on to city of Eugene, ODFW and others. That initial image of the beaver setting up shop in downtown….very risky, funny and ultimately—thanks to you——A VERY POSITIVE OUTCOME!

    Thank you for what you do-  patricia

    Good luck Patricia! Public interest  makes a huge difference in beavers lives and they are lucky to have yours!

    Time for some adorable news from WildHeart Ranch in Oklahoma who didn’t even know about this story until I posted it on FB and tagged them.  It’s a shame beaver orphans are so dam adorable, maybe if they were hideous and terrifying the world would make fewer of them?

    captureRescuers Wait For Sleepy Baby Beaver To Wake Up For His Breakfast

    “Good morning,” Dan at Wild Heart Ranch, a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center in Claremore, Oklahoma, said in a Facebook video on Friday. “I promised everybody I would send a morning video.”

    The star of the video is a very sleepy baby beaver named Rocky. And Dan is using the time while Rocky is still groggy to update all his fans.

    “Here he is waking up for his morning breakfast,” Dan explained. “Beavers are kind of temperamental. Rocky doesn’t want to eat yet because he’s not fully awake.”

    Not cute enough for you? Check your pulse. You may be dead. Can you hear the awww noises coming out of your mouth? Hmm, watch Annette feed the little sleepyhead just to be sure before we call the coroner. Any spare change you might want to send their way will be put to good use. Remember this is Oklahoma and teach folks to care for Nature is important.

    Now for our own local interests here at home, Jon saw Mom and Dad again last night. She wasn’t nearly as snugly as the day before and barked at Dad wen he wanted to cuddle. Which any just-delivered or about-to-deliver mom can understand. Still she looks great and she’s OURS.

    Another work of Art

    Posted by heidi08 On September - 21 - 2016Comments Off on Another work of Art

    A while ago I was contacted by ‘Voices of Wildlife’ in New Hampshire. They were having some beaver issues and wanted help educating the public. I told them that a fantastic supporter lived right near by and introduced them to Art Wolinsky. They arranged an education event at the public library last night. And Art stepped up to the job boldly. Not only did the retired engineer prepare a wonderful multimedia presentation at a moments notice, he also arranged to film it so it could be shown in other venues around the state.  Oh, and my FB friend who was there tells me his last line was ‘Happy Birthday, Heidi”. Which is honestly beyond touching.



    A multimedia presentation, by Art Wolinsky and Voices of Wildlife in NH, about how to derive the benefits of beaver created habitat while eliminating conflict and negative impact.

    When beavers began threatening the culverts at Art’s condo in 2009 he reached out to the experts who helped him and the other residents create solutions to live peacefully with the beavers. They ended up with a win-win for all involved.

    Learn how this was achieved by attending this free and open to the public event. Contact with any questions.

    Art is also putting his film on youtube and I can’t wait for the chance to share it with you! Just another example of beautiful Art work!

    Now as it was my birthday yesterday I tried to only do the things I wanted and allowed myself to play with a very silly tool on my iPad that I had never really used  before. How fun is this?

    Beavers in Wales

    Posted by heidi08 On September - 13 - 2016Comments Off on Beavers in Wales

    A very nice interview regarding beaver reintroduction of beaver in Wales from CoutryFocus deserves your attention. I’ve taken out all but what concerns us here. I especially love the farmer interview when he explains they were willing to try reintroducing beavers as long as their was an ‘EXIT STRATEGY’ – meaning they could kill them if they caused trouble. Apparently England isn’t even willing to attempt coitus without that these days.



    I especially like the part were he explains the unrealistic concerns anglers had – that beavers would eat all their salmon!

    Meanwhile there was a very interesting discussion in Iowa where a county supervisor’s meeting was forced to consider what to do about a problematic beaver dam. And they didn’t discuss the options you’d expect.

    Beaver Dam discussed during short Board of Supervisors meeting

    MUSCATINE, Iowa – The Muscatine County Board of Supervisors met in a short session Monday with the major topic of discussion a beaver dam in a ditch along 41st Street. The dam had been cleared three times this year at taxpayers’ expense but the board chose not to continue removing the dam until the backed up water threatened the roadway.

    “As long as the dam and the water behind it is not affecting the roadway it is county policy to leave the dam alone,” Jeff Sorensen, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said.

    “If it is determined that it is threatening the roadway then we can either remove the dam or remove the culvert and close the road.

    Remove the culvert or close the road for a beaver problem?

    Umm, there’s one other thing folks usually remove when that happens, but shhhh don’t tell them. I’m enjoying this moment. I want to read that sentence again over and over.



    Beaver Mania

    Posted by heidi08 On September - 10 - 2016Comments Off on Beaver Mania

    Sometimes when you talk to reporters they can’t remember things if you say too much and you have to limit your comments to one or two key points and repeat them over and over.  Sometimes they get the gist, but not the details. Sometimes you can just tell they’re waiting to talk to the next person and are sick of listening to you. But every now and then you run into a reporter that remembers EVERYTHING you said so you better not say it wrong. Richard Freedman of the Vallejo Times-Herald definitely falls into that last category, I now realize. (Hopefully I didn’t get myself in too much hot water with the otter folks!)

    Beaver mania comes to the Empress in Vallejo

    Beavers don’t get the great PR like otters. You know, eating off their tummies in the ocean. Stuff like that. Even beaver crusader Heidi Perryman shrugs, “Everyone loves otters. They’re cute and don’t build dams. I’m feeling jealousy how easy otters’ lives are.”

    Yet, the beaver, those buck-toothed, paddle-tailed rodents, play an integral role in the food chain and the environment, says Perryman.

    Those dams they build hold back water, sure, but it creates more bugs. Fish eat bugs. Birds eat fish. Beyond more wildlife, the beavers have conserve water and in a drought era, it’s vital, Perryman noted.

    A child psychologist when she’s not lobbying for beavers, Perryman joins Kate Lundquist as speakers this Friday at the Empress Theatre for “Beaver Mania,” an evening that includes the film, “Leave it to Beavers” as part of the Visions of the Wild festival.

    Well I can’t deny it. I do feel jealousy. Ha!

    Not only was the beaver saved in Martinez, it’s become the star of a huge mural and an annual summer beaver festival as Perryman created a nonprofit, “Worth a Dam,” with a website,

    “I really wanted to persuade people not to kill the beaver. I didn’t expect to become an expert,” Perryman said. “I’m an accidental beaver advocate.”

    It shouldn’t be surprising that beavers even live in Vallejo, said Perryman.

    “We’re constantly expanding. We’re growing into places where they used to be and that’s not going to change,” she said. “At the same time, their population is recovering.”

    Though humans may be concerned that beavers could overrun an area, it’s not likely to happen, Perryman said.

    “Beavers are territorial. They don’t want to live around each other,” she said. “If one family has moved in, another will go off to look for unchartered territory and sometimes that’s an urban stream with a low gradient, trees on it, and nobody usually goes there.”

    It’s interesting to me that one could look through the evolution of my beaver advocacy like analyzing the layers of stratification in soil and see where I crossed paths with a new teacher who taught me something I wanted to retain. Like the term “low gradient” applied to urban streams (from Greg Lewallen when we worked on the urban beaver paper) or the upcoming section on beaver resilience (from Leonard Houston’s address at the last State of the Beaver conference). I guess sometimes I listen too.

    Beavers, continued Perryman, are a resilient bunch.

    “They were the first animals after Mount St. Helens eruption (1980). And one of the first species after Chernobyl (nuclear explosion 1986),” said Perryman. “They have a lot of adaptive ability, so they’re coming to a city near you so we may as well learn how to deal with them.”

    “Leave it to Beavers,” a 53-minute documentary by Jari Osbourne, “is a great movie,” Perryman said. “I know people will leave the theater thinking, ‘Beavers do a lot of things I didn’t know.’”

    Visions of the Wild runs through Sept. 18, including “Beaver Mania!’ 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, Empress Theatre, 330 Virginia St., Vallejo. Free. Discussions and documentary, “Leave it to Beavers.” For more, visit

    I’m pretty happy with this article, and starting to get excited about the event. Solano county received its share of depredation permits in the last three years so I’d love to teach them something new about beavers. The theater is a lovely old restored venue and it will be really fun to watch our beavers and Jari’s documentary on the big screen.

    Are you coming?


    You’re doing fine, Oklahoma!

    Posted by heidi08 On September - 6 - 2016Comments Off on You’re doing fine, Oklahoma!

    I’ve been in the beaver biz a long long time, I’ve seen folks amused, curious, frustrated, angry, or protective of beavers all across the hemisphere and beyond. But there are a few things that really surprise me and make me tear up. Reading about beaver benefits in the NYTimes, watching our beaver story on London TV, and getting in the congressional record all spring to mind.

    But this surpasses all of them.

    First a little background. Years ago when Mike Callahan finished his beaver solutions DVD one of his first buyers was the ‘Skunk Whisperer’ from Oklahoma. He’s a remarkable wildlife defender that really wanted to know how to solve beaver problems so that folks would be able to stop killing them.  He watched the video, talked to Mike, and learned about flow devices. And he waited.

    And waited.

    Seems no one in the state would hire him to do this work and save beavers. It was much easier to kill them. Never mind the drought. Never mind the fish. Just kill them every time. Ned was committed though. He decided he’d offer to do the installation for free just to show that it would work.

    Still he waited.

    Turned out, no one in is entire state could see any reason to try coexisting with beavers when it was so easy to shoot them. Really. Even the universities in OK teach classes about how bad beavers are. No one wants them. Not the farmers, or the duck hunters, or the fisherman. They are not welcome.

    So you can imagine how surprised I was to find this:


    I have a brand new beaver dam!

    CaptureI am so ridiculously happy tonight you would not believe! Yes, this is the world’s dumbest little beaver dam, built by the world’s most juvenile and optimistic beaver. I will TOTALLY take it! Tonight I went out to the back corner of the property to look for oyster mushrooms. Instead, I found a beaver dam.

    I live in central Oklahoma on 40 acres of land that belongs to my inlaws. Nobody has loved this land since before World War II, although there’s been constant activity in the form of a grazing lease and a couple of ancient but still producing oil wells.

    There’s only one willow tree on the whole property, which I now plan to make the ancestor of an entire battalion of willows in the service of bank stabilization and erosion control. (My fantasy is that if I plant enough willows from cuttings, maybe some day the beaver will come back, build dams, and turn my dead ravines into beautiful pools. There’s beaver sign on this land — cut stumps — but none of it’s newer than ten years old.)

    Late last summer I came upon one beaver stump near the property that was fresh enough that the chips were still visible by in on the ground. But the chips and the cut were weathered and grey, several months old at least.

    Then today I was on county road that crosses the stream that’s in our ravine. The place where the road crosses is about 50 feet upstream from our property boundary, and it’s a culverted ford where the road surface serves as a shallow spillway when the water level is up, as it has been lately. Right in the middle of the road, left by the steam water, I found a fresh-cut beaver food stick!
    That dumb little dam I found tonight is less than 24 inches high. It won’t survive the first rain event, I don’t think. I imagine it’s built by one juvenile beaver. But you know what? There’s a pond behind it that extends more than 200 feet up the ravine. And if you look closely at my blurry photo, there’s a black mark at the far end of the dam. That’s water, soaking upwards into dry soil. That’s my dumb little beaver dam already rehydrating the landscape.

    It’s wintertime. I hope there are two beavers, busily making a whole family of beavers. That dam won’t survive the spring flood, but i want them to build it back six times as high.

    I have felt for some time that given the available resources (not many), beavers were our only hope of rejuvenating the deeply-notched ravines that cross the middle of our property. I don’t care how many trees they eat — we weren’t using those trees anyway.

    We have a beaver dam! My glee is probably out of proportion, but it’s just as real for all that. We have a beaver dam!

    Dan from Oklahoma! Excited about beavers! As if it wasn’t enough to stumble on the excitement of the sole human glad to have a beaver dam on his property in OK, other folks actually responded to him with excitement on the same page! It’s a permaculture forum so folks were from all over, Michigan, British Columbia, Wyoming, Nevada New York, Idaho and one from Texas! And the responses weren’t “ew those rodents cause disease, kill it” or “this is the kind of dynamite you need to blow up that dam“. They were “Oh that’s wonderful! Beavers are so good for the water and land! Here’s a website I found on how to keep them!

    Honestly, it was like the entire internet was my Easter Egg Hunt and I just found the winning golden egg.

    The post was dated 8 months ago, so of course I wrote Dan  and asked about the dam. He wrote back that it failed in some hard rains and the little builder hadn’t been back unfortunately. But he was still eager to attract more and was thinking about planting willow along the bank to get them started. This morning another fellow from Las Vegas wrote how excited he was that the thread had started up again because so many states were using beavers to help save water.

    So it turs out, some folks in Oklahoma are excited about beavers after all. I can’t wait to tell Ned.

    Is Rewildling good for England?

    Posted by heidi08 On September - 5 - 2016Comments Off on Is Rewildling good for England?

    Sometimes the messages that get the most listened to are the ones that come from people you don’t expect to send them. I mean if you read a column by me saying we should save beavers you’d think nothing of it and just toss on the pile of the nine million other articles I’ve written about the exact same thing. But if one day, quite unexpected, you opened the webpage and read my writing that beavers should be eliminated from streams because the cause cholera, you take notice. And actually stop and think, whoa maybe that’s true.

    It’s not though. Beavers don’t cause cholera and I’ll never ever write that, but you get the point of the analogy right?

    Mr. Cohen is is a columnist and political commentator for the Spectator and Observer. He’s one of those who supported the Iraq war and opposed Scottish independence. So it was pleasing to read this headline.

    I’m sorry if rewilding hurts farmers, but we need it

    Apart from crags and pockets of ancient woodland, the British uplands are manmade. Three thousand years before Christ, neolithic farmers felled the trees and gave us a landscape stripped to grassland by grazing sheep we take as “natural” today. Two thousand years after Christ, new forces are moulding the British uplands. They will bring back at least a part of what stone age men destroyed.

    It’s hard to believe in an unequal country, where wealth and land are so unevenly distributed, but the ecology of the hills depends on popular approval. When public opinion moves, the hills move with it. However solid their drystone walls are, they will not be strong enough to hold back political change, climate change and changes in fashion, which affect the countryside as surely as they affect clothes and music.

    Before the Romantic movement, most saw the Highlands as wastelands. Our love for them is a result of the romantic reaction against the Industrial Revolution, which in turn produced its own revolution in sensibility. Another revolution is upon us. It is easy to mock the rewilding movement just as it was easy to mock the Romantics. But I would keep the “Disneyland” jeers to a minimum if I wanted to get a hearing.

    Rewilding the fells is not just townies forcing their naive fantasies on the countryside. It is a hard-headed policy: in a tiny way, it will help offset global warming; more tangibly, it will slow the floodwaters climate change is bringing. It will also be popular. If you doubt me, look at how many go to see the new beaver colonies in Scotland or the wetlands in East Anglia and Somerset. Or listen to the sympathetic hearings plans to reintroduce lynx to the Kielder Forest receive. Look even at the seeds on sale in supermarkets and notice how popular the wildflowers we once dismissed as weeds have become.

    “Taxpayers should only pay public subsidy to farmers in return for things that the market won’t pay for, but are valued and needed by the public,” said the National Trust’s director general, Helen Ghosh, after the Brexit vote. Her shopping list included wildflowers, bees and butterflies, farmland birds, water meadows and meandering rivers, which themselves slow flood water.

    You can mock her if you want, but your mockery won’t stop her. Romanticism was a reaction against industrialisation and rewilding is a reaction against global warming and the mass extinction of species. It is likely to be as uncontainable.

    The notion that rewilding is a response to Global Warming and species extinction appeals to me. That it is rooted in the romanticism’s rejection of the industrial revolution gives it a prominence and a place in history. That our taxes should subsidize things that matter, and that wildflowers and beavers matter, that REALLY appeals to me.

    That being said, I’m not convinced that increasing watershed or land complexity is bad for farmers. It’s good for water quality  and it’s good for bees both things their work requires. Making the countryside into a quilt of matching patchworks reduces its ability to survive all the increasingly horrific things that mother nature will be throwing our way. Better to diversify our landscape portfolio and let diversity itself be our seatbelt for the bumpy ride ahead. I am reminded of Brock Dolman’s discussion of the watershed as the ‘Lifeboat’.

    I’m not sure what will happen with the save-the-farmers movement in the UK but I can’t see they’re helping their case much meanwhile by resisting and shooting beavers.

    But maybe that’s just me.