Archive for the ‘Beavers elsewhere’ Category

Don’t fear the BOO-ver!

Posted by heidi08 On October - 31 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

Failure is an orphan they say, but success has many parents.

It must be true. Just look who’s eager to jump on the beaver bandwagon now? Capture

Butte, the “beaver deceiver” and the New York Times

 Here’s a sentence you probably never thought you’d read in the New York Times: “Enter the ‘beaver deceiver.’” It appeared in a story filed on Monday, in Butte, about beaver populations thriving in the West. And just so you know: We were all over beaver deceivers, long before the Times found out about the devices.

Ya ya ya, you were ALL over beaver deceivers before they were ‘cool’. (Not that you invented them or anything.) I was so dam impressed at the time that I wrote about it back in 2013. Just 5 years after Skip Lisle installed ours. Yes, Butte was 14 months ahead of the NYT, but I’m not sure that’s really a compliment anymore.

On the other hand, you’ll be relieved to know that I heard back from the Jim Robbins the reporter of that article, who changed the reference to beavers living IN the dam, and assured me that he did not, in fact, drop out of kindergarten.

Surprised Girl

There’s a nice article from Andover Massachusetts of all places about a resident fond of the wildlife in an abandoned beaverpond. He wants to keep the dam even though the town wants it gone. He talks about the way it brings birds and wildlife but sadly never once mentions how much better it would be if there were beavers there to keep it repaired. Apparently, a flow device was installed years ago but has since decayed and the beavers decided to move on. I got all excited when I heard the headline, but its not what you think.

 Beaver dam dispute rattles neighborhood

 “Wood ducks, Canada geese, mallards, catfish, snapping turtles, deer,” he says excitedly as he opens the gate that leads from his manicured backyard and swimming pool to a town-owned grassy area near the pond. “None of them were ever here before.”

 The Conservation Commission earlier this month ordered the removal of the mud-and-stick beaver dam, since the beaver that built it eight years ago no longer lives there. Dobbelaar says that would drain the pond and return the area to the muddy bog it used to be. “The beavers are gone,” Dobbelaar admitted. “But in the meantime, why tear it down? I would like to maintain it for the neighborhood and the neighbors. I would like to fix it, but they just want to tear it down.”

I’ve never read an article like this proclaiming the benefits from the ghosts of beavers past. But it’s fairly intriguing considering that all MA usually writes about is the horrible voter curse of  not being able to use conibears. This was my favorite part thought:

He said when the beaver first came to the neighborhood, he wanted to tear the dam down because it was causing flooding.

 “I wanted to break it,” said Ikemoto, who is 81. “I went to the town and they wouldn’t allow it. They only permitted a beaver deceiver.”

 The beaver deceiver worked, he said. 

Is such a thing possible? Are there really towns that don’t let you remove beaver dams and require you put in a flow device instead? Someone pinch me, I must be dreaming. Andover is just outside Boston and 95 miles East of Mike Callahan and beaver solutions. So I can’t imagine how that happened.

The article says the beavers came 8 years ago and the neighbors figured out how to install a pipe. Hmm before our time AND before the Beaver Solutions DVD. Which I guess is what explains the parts all being decomposed and washed away now. The town’s worried the old dam will wash out, and he’s worried that no dam will mean no more wildlife.

Can you guess my solution to both their problems?

________________________________________

Happy Halloween, btw. And remember not to be afraid of this:

don't fear the beaverNow I just need a band to record it.

And beavers for all

Posted by heidi08 On October - 30 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

Say what you want about my idiosyncratic reporting, but this has sure been ONE HELLUVA WEEK for beavers. This morning a retied librarian beaver friend sent this my way with best wishes. It was published online exactly two days ago.

Ecological engineering and aquatic connectivity: a new
perspective from beaver-modified wetlands

GLYNNIS A. HOOD AND DAVID G. LARSON

SUMMARY
1. Habitat fragmentation and wetland loss due to anthropogenic causes are usually attributed to physical modifications of the environment; however, the loss of key species can compound these impacts and further reduce the connectivity of aquatic ecosystems.
 
2. Ecosystem engineers can play a critical role in modifying aquatic systems by altering the bed of ponds and streams, increasing water coverage and influencing biogeochemical processes within and adjacent to freshwater habitats. However, there is a paucity of research on how these organisms enhance connectivity among aquatic habitats, especially in otherwise isolated wetland systems.
 
3. In this study, we collected field data at natural and agriculturally impacted sites to quantify physical alterations to otherwise isolated, morainal wetlands modified by beavers, and to determine how these modifications might enhance connectivity. For finer-scale analysis, we collected and modelled bathymetric data for 16 wetlands, eight of which were occupied by beavers and eight abandoned by beavers.
 
4. We demonstrated that beavers actively increase the volume-to-surface area ratio of wetlands by almost 50% and that their digging of foraging channels increases average wetland perimeters by over 575%. Some channels were 200–300 m long, which enhanced the interface between the riparian zone and upland forests. A coarse estimate of soil displacement due to the digging of channels by beavers exceeded 22 300 m3 within the total 13 km2 natural area. Additional measures of wetland depth, basin complexity and basin circularity revealed other dramatic differences between wetlands with beavers and those without in both natural and agricultural landscapes.5. Exclusion or removal of beavers could limit ecosystem processes and resilience, especially in areas with otherwise isolated aquatic habitats and limited connectivity. Conversely, reintroduction of such an ecosystem engineer into areas targeted for restoration could result in significant increase in habitat heterogeneity and connectivity.Keywords: beaver channels, Castor canadensis,

CaptureBefore we even launch into the article or the full awesomeness that is Glynnis, take a close look at this graphic showing the difference between beaver-present ponds and beaver-absent ponds. They differ in average increase of perimeter by 575%. No, seriously. Because you know Dr. Hood of the impeccable credentials and methods has had her graduate students meticulously measure and GPS it twice. Check out this quote from the discussion section.====

The increase of wetted perimeter of morainal wetlands by more than 575% on average demonstrates the important role one species can play in patch dynamics, spatial connectivity and habitat creation.Complex configuration of these perimeters (Fig. 5)also increases within-pond habitat heterogeneity byincreasing shoreline complexity, cover for waterfowl(Nummi & Holopainen, 2014) and potential dispersal corridors for other species to upland and adjacentaquatic habitats (Anderson, 2013).

If there is a rock star of beaver research it is Glynnis Hood. She is thoughtful, observant, charismatic, research driven, and she loves beavers.  If I could be twenty years old again and a graduate student in ANY campus, I would pick the University of Alberta, sit in the front row, take notes in two colors and hang upon her every word.

High shoreline complexity is one of the most important factors for enhancing biodiversity in wetlands (Hansson et al., 2005). In our study, the influence of beavers on shoreline and basin complexity at the local (wetland-specific) scale was easily observed; however, this complexity was also readily apparent at the landscape scale. Beaver channels were used not only to link a wetland with its adjacent upland habitats; they also joined one wetland with another over 10s or in many cases 100s of metres. Those wetlands would similarly be joined through the same process over increasingly larger scales.

Go Glynnis go! Here’s my 2012 interview with her. Oh and this is my very favorite part of what is now my very favorite paper, proving the inherent inter-connectivity of all things:

Many of these beaver-modified wetlands (active ones in particular) had an outward appearance resembling neurons with dendritic extensions into the ‘tissue’ of the surrounding landscape (Figs 2 & 5). 

You want to know the funny thing about the word DENDRITE? (I mean besides the fact that mine are busy de-mylinating at an alarming rate.) The funny about the word Dendrite is that it comes from the word Dendron in Greek, which means “Tree”. “Dendritis” means tree-like in Greek. So those fractal neural connections in our brains were called Dendrites because of trees.

Which beavers eat.

Naturally Curious about Beavers

Posted by heidi08 On October - 29 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

CaptureNaturally Curious: Ecosystem Engineers

Wetlands are crucial — roughly 85 percent of all native North American wildlife relies on them — and throughout most of North America wetlands are highly correlated with beavers.

 When the beaver population plummeted due to fur trade in the 18th and 19th centuries, the number of beaver wetlands did as well. Today, beavers number around 6 million to 12 million, and the number of ponds is estimated to be between 1.5 million and 7.7 million. This had an enormous impact on the flora and fauna in and around these wetlands, changing the distribution and abundance of many plants and animals.

dt.common.streams.StreamServer.cls


Naturally Curious: Ecosystem Engineers
Beavers are one, if not the only, species capable of changing the geological, chemical and biological properties of the landscape to suit their needs.

If you want to know why the state of New Hampshire is having such positive public support for beavers, it’s entirely because of articles like this. Mary Holland is a talented author and breathtaking photographer who donated generously to our silent auction in the past. She likes to write about beavers sometimes, but this is the most glowing advocacy I’ve seen from her yet. I’m hoping that we influenced her work in some small way. There is so much I want to share I can barely pick and chose. Make sure you click on her article  just so she gets credit for this remarkable work. Here’s a treasure hunt for motivation: there is one thing she got wrong. But only one. See if you can find it.

Vegetation

 Studies have shown that by increasing the diversity of habitats, beavers increase the number of species of herbaceous plants. By expanding wetland habitat, beavers provide an ecological opportunity for new plant species. The riparian vegetation — plants on a pond’s banks — not only increases in number of species, but the vegetation becomes denser as a result of beaver activity.

Insects

A beaver dam slows the current of a stream and increases deposition of nutrient-rich sediment and organic material in the water. This plays a key role in the development of insect life. The variety and density of species increases, providing more food for fish, birds and mammals.  Although one would think that the presence of a beaver pond might increase

Fish

 As one would expect, there is a shift in fish species, just as there is in insect species, as the rapidly flow ing stream is converted to the stillness and increased warmth of a pond. Studies have shown that fish species richness increases with the size of a pond, but even very small beaver ponds can have higher than expected richness compared to ponds of a similar size not impounded by beaver dams.

 Contrary to popular belief, beaver ponds have been shown to have a beneficial effect on trout and salmon populations. Loss of beaver ponds has been correlated with a significant reduction in salmon production. Beaver dams are typically not barriers to fish — they find ways of passing through them, except when stream levels are very low.

Amphibians and Reptiles

dt.common.streams.StreamServer.cls Beaver ponds create an ideal habitat for amphibians. Reptiles also fare well in beaver ponds, especially older beaver ponds. There is greater species diversity of snakes and turtles in older ponds than younger ones, but even younger beaver ponds usually have more species than undammed streams.

 Mammals

 A wide variety and number of mammals uses the lush vegetation around beaver ponds as food and cover. An increased production of woody plants (vigorous shoot growth at beaver-cut stumps) and aquatic vegetation attracts browsing moose and deer. Water-loving muskrats, otters, raccoons and mink frequent beaver ponds for food and shelter.

 Birds

dt.common.streams.StreamServer.cls1 The creation of an aquatic habitat necessarily will attract different species of birds than a forest habitat. Significantly more bird species have been found at active beaver ponds than abandoned beaver ponds and control sites with no history of beaver occupation. Waterfowl use beaver ponds for nesting and rearing young, and as stopover sites during migration.

Mary’s Closing argument:

Humans may disagree about the advantages and disadvantages of having beavers as neighbors, but there is no disputing the fact that beavers play an important role in preserving biological diversity.

And THAT’s what the New York Times SHOULD have said. (By the way I just heard that the NYT beaver article is tracking as the 6th most emailed!)

Thank you so much Mary for singing beaver praises with such passion and timbre! We are grateful for your eloquence, talent and veracity. I’m sorry the grey lady pushed your work out of the spotlight for a whole day, but I am so thrilled to promote your work now!

And if you need a little more illustration to the argument that beavers create habitat, here’s some recent footage from Rusty Cohn in Napa showing an unexpected visitor to the beaver dam. He wondered, fox or coyote? So I sent it to the expert. This morning Camila wrote back: COYOTE!

We have been so inspired by his work we tried our own trail cam last night for the first time, but all we got was the “Lesser-spotted-Moses” hard at working cleaning up a tree so the city wouldn’t be annoyed at the beavers. Recognize this species?

About frickin’ [NY] Time[s]….

Posted by heidi08 On October - 28 - 20144 COMMENTS

NYT

Reversing Course on Beavers

BUTTE, Mont. — Once routinely trapped and shot as varmints, their dams obliterated by dynamite and bulldozers, beavers are getting new respect these days. Across the West, they are being welcomed into the landscape as a defense against the withering effects of a warmer and drier climate.

 Beaver dams, it turns out, have beneficial effects that can’t easily be replicated in other ways. They raise the water table alongside a stream, aiding the growth of trees and plants that stabilize the banks and prevent erosion. They improve fish and wildlife habitat and promote new, rich soil.

And perhaps most important in the West, beaver dams do what all dams do: hold back water that would otherwise drain away.

“People realize that if we don’t have a way to store water that’s not so expensive, we’re going to be up a creek, a dry creek,” said Jeff Burrell, a scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society in Bozeman, Mont. “We’ve lost a lot with beavers not on the landscape.”

e5e46c4c-4ae7-49bc-8834-45cc0ce4fd61-1020x612Experts have long known of the potential for beaver dams to restore damaged landscapes, but in recent years the demand has grown so rapidly that government agencies are sponsoring a series of West Coast workshops and publishing a manual on how to attract beavers.

 “We can spend a lot of money doing this work, or we can use beavers for almost nothing,” Mr. Burrell said.

 Beavers are ecosystem engineers. As a family moves into new territory, the rodents drop a large tree across a stream to begin a new dam, which also serves as their lodge. They cover it with sticks, mud and stones, usually working at night. As the water level rises behind the dam, it submerges the entrance and protects the beavers from predators.

Lookee what I found in the New York Times! (Three people have sent it to me this morning so far. Make that four.Five.) It is so VERY much better than the last beaver article in the Times that I can barely bring myself to be sarcastic, which, as you know, is rare for me. This is big news. Big Beaver News.

This pooling of water leads to a cascade of ecological changes. The pond nourishes young willows, aspens and other trees — prime beaver food — and provides a haven for fish that like slow-flowing water. The growth of grass and shrubs alongside the pond improves habitat for songbirds, deer and elk.

 Moreover, because dams raise underground water levels, they increase water supplies and substantially lower the cost of pumping groundwater for farming.

 And they help protect fish imperiled by rising water temperatures in rivers. The deep pools formed by beaver dams, with cooler water at the bottom, are “outstanding rearing habitat for juvenile coho salmon,” said Michael M. Pollock, a fish biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle, who has studied the ecological effects of beaver dams for 20 years.

When the NYT talks to Michael Pollock about beavers and fish, I pretty just want to sit back and enjoy it. Go Michael!  I’m not sure why they didn’t ask you to comment on the BOGUS research quoted at the end of the article that says beaver dams benefit invasive fish like carp and bass, but then all reporters like a good horse race. Every now and then they jar my perfect appreciative moment with something like this.

As a family moves into new territory, the rodents drop a large tree across a stream to begin a new dam, which also serves as their lodge.

I’m sorry. WTF? Did you just say that the dam also serves as their lodge? Are you in Kindergarten? Wait. Kindergartners know better than that. Did you drop OUT of Kindergarten? It’s a very nice idea to think that beavers maintain a live-work space like the metal artists in Greenwich, but actually, the dam holds back water, you know? Which sometimes pushes really hard.So it would be a very,very bad structural idea if it was hollow.

Talk to your engineer friends. They’ll explain it.

Overall this article is FULL of positive things about beavers. It’s the article we need to talk about drought and salmon and beaver solutions in the west. But don’t worry, they make sure to end the article with a little mystery.

“There’s a lot of unknowns before we can say what the return of beavers means for these arid ecosystems,” he said. “The assumption is it’s going to be good in all situations,” he added. “But the jury is still out, and it’s going to take a couple of decades.”

Ahh Jim, you must have looked so long to find someone to give you that quote. I know I’m not a fancy NYT science reporter or anything but do you wanna know what Michael Pollock said to me about that research? You know, the guy you interviewed from NOAA earlier?

This sounds like a certain person’s master’s thesis. This poor graduate student was sent out to sample beaver dams in remote regions of Arizona and didn’t really have time to come up with a good study design. There were all kinds of sampling, methodological and logistical problems with their approach and they really didn’t end up with much in the way of data that was very analyzable.

There are a lot of exotics throughout the system and little to suggest that beaver dams are responsible for that problem. Beaver have been part of natural stream and riparian ecosystem in that region for a long time and the native species have adapted, and potentially benefited from their presence. To conclude that beaver dams “could” negatively impact native fish populations is misleading. It would be just as reasonable to conclude that beaver dams “could” positively impact native fish populations, since that is what we see everywhere else, but that the timing and very low frequency of data sampling didn’t occur during the times of year that native fish might use beaver ponds.

 The reality is that this was a poorly designed study that produced little in the way of meaningful results, but perhaps will guide future research efforts. Pretty typical for many Master’s thesis in natural resource fields-a good learning experience, but not a lot of useful information applicable to management.

Michael M. Pollock, Ph.D.
Ecosystems Analyst
NOAA-Northwest Fisheries Science Center
FE Division, Watershed Program

Still and all, it’s a great beaver day. And I look forward to a full inbox telling me how great. There’s an awesome article from Mary Holland that we need to talk about and a deeply stupid one from National Geographic that will require my undivided mocking. But we’ll get to those soon. In the mean time, think about it. Beaver benefits in the NY Times. It’s a victorious dam. A day that will go down in history. The article is also on podcast, so listen for yourself and send it to a couple friends.

Capture

Click to Listen

Getting to the bottom of things…

Posted by heidi08 On October - 26 - 2014Comments Off

Filming Beavers Swimming Underwater

As the beaver slowly swam toward us, we held our breaths in anticipation and exchanged looks of excitement. The beaver dove under the surface and, to our amazement, swam directly beneath us, under the bridge and out the other side! We saw it perfectly under the surface, undulating its body slowly and paddling with its huge tail and webbed rear feet.

 1) First, of course, we found a location where we could stand unobtrusively above the path of swimming beavers: the bridge. But I soon discovered a small side canal next to the dam with a large fallen tree above, which allowed me to get even closer to the water!

 2) Secondly, I attached a GoPro HDHero 2 with an underwater housing to the end of a monopod. In the camera settings I flipped the image over because I would be filming upside down.

 3) Finally, I learned the habits of the beavers and waited patiently each evening til one began to approach. Slowly, I lowered the monopod down into the water, in the expected path of the beaver and hoped for the best.

Hal Brindley is a wildlife photographer whose enthusiasm for beavers is a joy to encounter. You should really go to his website and see the whole thing for yourself. But I have to share his underwater treasure so can think what it’s like in our beavers murky H20 world. Rusty from Napa is chomping at the bit to get a GoPro cam and try for himself, but I am less eager. To be honest, I feel like everywhere I can see our beavers, I’m responsible for them – thinking about their lives and well-being, problem solving to make sure the don’t trouble the city and worrying about their safety. I’m not sure I want to add to that job by knowing more about their lives by seeing them swimming over trash or sharp car fenders underwater.

But it would still be massively cool.

I spent yesterday in the trenches laboring over the grant for the Contra Costa Fish and Wildlife Commission. Chris Richards of the Alameda one came to the festival last year and said we should definitely apply.  The goal is to get them to pay for the keystone activity at the festival, which will look a little different this year. Reading over the grueling application it is clear that the festival itself is way too much fun to get funding, but hopefully an educational activity can squeak by.  Here’s my opening pitch:

The concept of species interdependence is a difficult to teach, but important to the understanding of crucial ecological relationships. The emerging understanding of Trophic Cascades, for example, is changing the way agencies and individuals understand the role of predators. The idea that one species could influence another, or make habitat for another, makes intuitive sense to children who are naturally so dependent on others. Having a firm grasp of how species interact is essential to understanding the consequences of our adult behavior later on.

K.E.Y.S.T.O.N.E.
Kids Explore! Youth Science training On Natural Ecosystems

 The K.E.Y.S.T.O.N.E activity provides a fun way to learn about complex connections between habitat, food chain and species abundance using the beaver’s Ecosystem Services.KeystonearchwayAdmit it, that might possibly be the best acronym in the history of beaver education! Well, I’m proud anyway. The sticky wicket is that the grant specifically says “Formal education” which means classrooms, test tubes and zoned-out kids. I’m trying to get around that with this quote:

“One result [of formal education] is that students graduate without knowing how to think in whole systems, how to find connections, how to ask big questions, and how to separate the trivial from the important. Now more than ever, however, we need people who think broadly and who understand systems, connections, patterns, and root causes.”

David Orr
Earth in Mind

 Isn’t that a great quote? Wish us luck!

Turkey before Halloween?

Posted by heidi08 On October - 25 - 20142 COMMENTS

Capture

Beaver comeback continues in Windsor-Essex on Turkey Creek

Nearly a century after they all but disappeared, beavers continue to make a comeback in Windsor-Essex County.  The latest sighting has come in LaSalle, along Turkey Creek.

 Ron Harway found the beaver in his backyard.

 Earlier this year, Harway noticed the bark from a tree 60 centimetres in diameter in his backyard had been torn off. Now, wood chips lie in a pile on the ground.

Let me say, if that picture is your beaver, he’s a teeny tiny insect of a beaver. CaptureLooking at the later photo of the chewed tree I’d say it looks more like  porcupine chewing or muskrat, just not much damage to show for all that gnawing. I suppose if it is a tiny kit who has no idea what he’s doing that means someone killed his parents and he’s an orphan, that’s IF its a beaver I mean. Which I doubt. Anyway Ron needn’t worry. he has a smart Turkey biologists nearby who know all about them.

 Biologist Dan Lebedyk with the Essex Region Conservation Authority says more beavers may not be a good thing in Essex County.

 Fifty years ago, the region had some of the lowest amount of tree cover in Southern Ontario. It’s been a long, slow recovery.

 ”So our resources are getting better but it’s not good to have an animal like this because we don’t have the actual resources to sustain a [beaver] population yet,” he said. Beavers can cut down up to 200 trees per year.

 Lebedyk is also concerned about the local watershed.”Because all of our water courses are basically drainage systems for our agricultural industry, we don’t want to see dams created on our water courses. it would create flooding and damage property,” he said.

I feel fairly certain Dan might get a letter from me. And in the meantime you should really amuse yourself by watching some footage of beavers that Napa has been smart enough to welcome. How wonderful to have good friends in Beaver places! The first is from Robin Ellison and shows a young beaver chewing on the branches of a willow tree they brought down the night before.

The second is from Rusty Cohn who has been experimenting with a trail camera to catch work at night. Notice the two beavers on the right and a muskrat or mink at the left hand corner of the screen swimming by at the end.

Defending England’s Beavers

Posted by heidi08 On October - 24 - 2014Comments Off

legal

FoE launches legal action to stop capture of beavers in Devon

The environmental charity Friends of the Earth has launched legal action to try to stop the government from ordering the capture of a family of beavers living in the wild in Devon.

 FoE lawyers have submitted legal papers seeking to challenge licences that allow the capture the animals, believed to be the first beavers to live in the wild in England for centuries.

 The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) plans to trap the colony and transfer the creatures to a zoo or wildlife park. It argues they are a non-native, invasive species and could carry a disease.

 FoE argues that because Britain was part of the beavers’ natural range before they were hunted to extinction, they are protected under European law.

Friends of the Earth has picked up the gauntlet and will challenge DEFRA under EU law. Unlike their English overlords, they think 500 years of extinction is enough, and want beavers back on the landscape. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me for those lucky beavers and for all of us who get to read quotes like this over and over in international media.

“We know that beavers can bring many benefits, such as boosting fish stocks, improving biodiversity and helping to prevent flooding – as well as injecting a little more joy into our landscape.

The story was picked up by the BBC this morning, and will be everywhere by tomorrow. The first step was to write a protocol letter to ‘Natural England’ who very unnaturally issued the license for the beavers to be trapped in the first place. This forces them to release more information and is the first step in a judicial review. If you would like to help you can donate to the campaign or sign up for alerts here:

CaptureLet’s hope the next step is “Liberty and Justice for all beavers”