Archive for the ‘Who’s Killing Beavers Now?’ Category

Beavers Bitter and Sweet

Posted by heidi08 On May - 31 - 2015Comments Off

So what kind of person are you? The one who says give me the bad news first? Or the one who happily opens all his Christmas presents even though his nervous looking parents say they have something important to talk to you about? What kind of person should I assume you are? Like me, get the hard stuff out of the way so that the easy stuff is easier?

Here’s the hard stuff. It starts with a hard hitting article in this mornings SF Gate and features two familiar faces (but only one of the pretty): Wildlife Services and Camilla Fox.

Wildlife groups take aim at lethal control of predators

Brennan, a 55-year-old trapper for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, has killed coyotes, mountain lions, bears, skunks, raccoons, bobcats and, by his own estimate, 400 dogs.

 “He represents a kind of mind-set, a culture,” said Camilla Fox, the executive director of Project Coyote, a wildlife advocacy organization that is calling for government support and training in nonlethal methods and techniques for controlling natural predators, and for widespread adoption of programs like one that has succeeded in Marin County for 15 years.

Brennan and his fellow trappers are the target of a nationwide campaign by Project Coyote and other wildlife conservation organizations to stop what they characterize as indiscriminate killing of wildlife by a rogue agency that still lives by the outdated slogan “the only good predator is a dead predator.”

 The latest sortie occurred in February when five conservation groups sued the Department of Agriculture for the “wanton killing” of wildlife in Idaho. They want the agency to promote nonlethal methods of control, including guardian dogs, fencing, hazing techniques, night corrals and lambing sheds.

So Camilla Fox and the Coyote Project teamed up with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Animal Welfare Institute  to sue Mendocino County for renewing their contract with WS without the necessary environmental review. The team already managed to pressure Sonoma away from renewing its contract.

You better believe this kind of work is making an impression on both politicians and a certain population of hunters and trappers who are deeply devoted to making the scrutiny go away. Case in point? When the John Muir Association named Camilla as conservationist of the year, our board was peppered with complaints from a few very difficult men who objected vociferously over and over.

Should WS maintain contracts all over California? Or the country? You can guess my answer.  I went through the numbers yesterday and saw where we fall in comparison. California USDA  doesn’t kill the most beavers, by any means, but we’re definitely in the top 10.

STATE COMPARISON 2014Congratulations Camilla on a very sympathetic article. You are really good at your job, which is apparently three times harder than ours. (WS killed 60000 coyotes nationally, and 22000 beaver).


Now for the good news. Rusty and Robin at Tulocay creek last night were delighted to find TWO kits instead of one. Although they never posed together in the camera frame they were clearly witnessed, and the smaller one generously hung out with mom for a while providing what is possibly among the top five cutest beaver videos I have ever seen. Watch it all the way through. If this doesn’t melt your heart you should see your cardiologist immediately because there’s probably something wrong with it.

So close and yet so far…

Posted by heidi08 On May - 12 - 2015Comments Off

There’s very encouraging news out of Alberta this morning, where Lorne Fitch is holding an all-day workhop on beaver management and benefits. He’s the provincial riparian expert at the extremely beaver-progressive Cows and Fish  which has done so much for beaver education in the province.Capture

Beaver education presented by Lorne Finch

A May 21 workshop will help educate landowners, municipal officials and anyone interested in the impacts of beavers on the surrounding area will be held May 21 at the Cremona Community Hall.

 “Beavers bring challenges, but they also bring benefits,” said Finch. “The challenge is what is the balance between the two?”

The purpose of the workshop is to highlight the impact Canada’s national animal has on watersheds in the area surrounding Cremona, values beavers provide for the community and issues and challenges presented by beavers.

“It has become recognized by many ecologists that beavers are one of the tools that help us adapt to climate change,” said Finch. “We recognize that climate is changing, it’s becoming more variable and uncertain. In some cases the climate manifested as weather events (that are) quite violent.”

 Finch said beavers have helped maintain safety for communities whether there is a drought or a flood. In the case of a flood beaver dams help moderate or dampen flood flows, while during a drought they naturally help store water and controls the effects of low stream flow conditions.

One of the key segments that will be offered during the workshop offers insight to better understand beaver ecology.

A whole day of beaver education? Don’t you want to be there? Cows and Fish has made a name for itself by straight talking right to the ranchers themselves. They have done amazing job making the smart beaver research done by Dr. Hood and others available at the hands-on level.  They have a great relationship with the media and they know how to use it well, and are firmly committed to letting beaver do their restoration all over the province. This video introduces there long-term restoration goals, and is nicely done. (Even if it DOES sport a famous muskrat photo….sheesh.)

It’s hard to understand how such a significant beaver IQ could plummet so dramatically if the boundary is crossed into the next province over, Saskatchewan. 850 miles from the Cremona, the even less populated untown of Kellross is doing everything it can to get rid of beavers. (Everything it can without actually learning, I mean.)

 Beavers are a nightmare for some in rural Saskatchewan

 Provincially, beaver numbers are up as well. The beaver control program is an initiative of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, with help from the province.

In 2014, a total of 37,645 beaver tails were turned in — a significant jump (about 56 per cent) from the 27,653 beaver tails submitted in 2013.

Despite the aggravation they cause, Patterson still has a grudging admiration for the engineering feats, and stick-to-it attitude, of the beaver.

“They are good workers,” he admitted. “They’re hard workers that’s for sure. They don’t give up.”

For reference, the province is about 3 times the size of Texas. They are so notorious for beaver slaying that they were in the canadian version of Jari Osborne’s documentary. And I first wrote about them on this website in 2011 when I was prompted to create the famous ‘exploding beaver’ graphic.

exploding beaver The province has 22,921 square miles of water which means they killed 1.6 beaver per mile. Considering that the numbers of beavers went UP every year you’d think they start to consider that maybe this technique wasn’t working. Instead of just doing it more, they could actually do something different?  With population rebound being what it is this might not be the smartest idea.

Apparently there’s no danger of any thinking going on anytime soon. Guess what the numbers will be next year?

Yesterday I spent some time working on the handout for children participating in the Keystone Project at the beaver festival. They will each get a laminated copy to use and hopefully return it to me and take part in the survey we need to use for our grant. I tried to make it fairly simple and straightforward. What do you think?

laminated card


Patagonia Beaver Paranoia

Posted by heidi08 On May - 6 - 2015Comments Off

On a mid week morning where news is slow, I have to ask myself, honestly. Am I ready for another beaver alarm from South America? This time on PRI for god’s sake. It is stunning to me that after everything that’s been done to the region from military coups, massive burning, agricultural campaigns that destroyed native plants, and ripping out trees at an alarming rate to plant soya for biofuels – we have the gall to blame BEAVERS for destruction in South America.

It’s open season on Patagonia’s voracious, disruptive … beavers?

Even furry, seemingly friendly creatures like beavers can become big problems when dropped into an ecosystem with no predators to keep them in balance.

That’s what happened in Patagonia, where the busy dam-builders are profoundly changing the once-pristine region that spans the southern ends of Chile and Argentina.

In 1946, 25 pairs of Canadian beavers were brought to Patagonia to kickstart a fur industry. That business didn’t take off, but the beavers flourished; there are now about 100,000 beavers in Patagonia that don’t belong there.

They’ve completely changed the entire ecology of the region,” says Derek Mead, editor-in-chief of Motherboard, a digital magazine and video channel.

The industrious beavers have chewed down trees and diverted rivers, reshaping the area’s river system. That’s a useful function in their normal habitat, but in Patagonia, they’ve turned beech forests into barren wastelands. The trees, cut down to stumps by the beavers, can’t regenerate or hold onto the soil. Rains and heavy flooding erode the soil, turning a previously dense forest and tight river into an open pit, Mead says.

 Lets start with “no natural predators”. I understand since they are 5000 miles away from their natural predators they are not likely to get eaten by a bear. But hmm I wonder if there are any predators in Argentina and Chile that might like a little exotic beaver meat? Let me just check what’s around there, “87% of South America’s carnivore population occur in Argentina”. The maned wolf for one, and a variety of others. This book outlines seven species of carnivores living in the Pampas. Not to mention a dozen different kind of Caiman (crocodiles) that can be found anywhere there’s water. And let’s not forget those in that Youtube video. I guess no “natural predators” but a host of “unnatural” ones. And It’s not like beavers can offer much self defense.

Seven years ago they were whining that the beavers had grown SO LARGE in South America that they were eating FISH. Seriously. At least they seem to have stopped that nonsense. Now they are paying anyone to hunt them and selling the meat in local restaurants.  I’ve been in the beaver biz for so long, I  already wrote about it in 2008.

Never mind. Go ahead. Blame the beavers for everything that’s wrong in your lopsided countries. I admit they don’t belong there. And everyone deserves a scapegoat.

Oh and if you don’t think the PRI article and film is stupid enough for me to complain about, check out the comments on Youtube. Grr.

“More Killy – Less Frilly!”

Posted by heidi08 On April - 15 - 2015Comments Off

It wasn’t an accident that the poet said “April is the cruelest month”. Have you noticed how everyone and their cousin is deciding to trim their trees and hedges right during nesting season? It’s as if no one looks outside all the rest of the year but as soon as they want to barbecue they have to start killing some nature to make the yard nice. Apparently, it’s true for beavers too.

Beaver bounty considered for 2015-16 budget

 BOLIVIA — The Brunswick County Board of Commissioners has been asked to consider a beaver bounty for Brunswick County.

 Stephanie Lewis, director of operation services, proposed putting $10,000 into a pilot program to remove beavers and clear their dams that cause trouble throughout the county.

 Lewis added that while trappers would remove the beavers, the county is already removing the beaver dams except when explosives are required to clear them.

 Commissioner Frank Williams said he receives more calls about beavers than any other types of calls in his district.

 “Where are we in the curve? Are we ahead? Are we caught up?” Commissioner Marty Cooke asked regarding how the county has handled problems with beavers.

 “Right now I’d say the beavers are winning.”

They’re definitely winning in the IQ contest, I’ll give them that. And why on earth would you call a town in Prince Edward Island “Bolivia”? It makes zero sense. Which, is perfect I guess. Because paying more money to get more of something that’s not working is pretty senseless.

To save trees, Park Board approves beaver cull

FARGO—Experts will begin trapping and killing beavers living along the Red River this fall or next spring, in an effort to spare trees from the animals’ teeth.

The Park Board on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve the cull, which will be handled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

 Beavers have been chewing into too many trees, causing financial damage and much consternation, park officials said.

“Ever since I’ve been here, we’ve known there’s been beaver damage to our trees,” Parks Director Dave Leker told the Park Board. “It’s just gradually, over the past five years, getting worse.”

 Roger Gress, executive director of the parks district, said thousands of dollars have been lost due to beavers chewing into the city’s trees.

 ”We’ve planted new trees,” Gress said, “and then they’re gone.”

 Expert trappers, led by the USDA’s John Paulson, will handle the cull, which will take place at Lemke and Trefoil parks, at a cost of about $1,000.

 Paulson’s team will start by analyzing and locating the beaver colonies before laying the traps.

Yes, first hire  the hitman and let him figure it out. Never mind about those crazy beaver-huggers saying you can wrap the trees or protect them with paint. They don’t know how much easier it is just to kill them. Bring in the traps!

Dead animals discovered at Charlotte neighborhood park

At least this park in Charlotte North Carolina has the good sense to be mortified by the site of these grisly deaths. Which is almost like being appalled that they happen at all.Something tells me they’ll be more discrete in the future.

King County crews work to clear beaver dam breach

And let’s end on a slightly more positive note because Washington is refreshingly good to beavers. If I were one of our flat-tailed friends I would swim north until I crossed the Columbia River and then start looking for a place to settle down.

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding

A little life with dried tubers.

T.S. Eliot The Wasteland

Remember to watch Episode 2 of animal homes tonight on Nature PBS for first ever seen footage inside beaver lodges!

Beaver message trickles East

Posted by heidi08 On April - 14 - 2015Comments Off

Busy as a beaver: unique partnership helps maintain riverside trees

UI allows the native beaver to gnaw down invasive trees, while saving protected species.  Keeping the University of Iowa campus beautiful is a full-time job. Luckily, the UI Landscape Services team gets a little assistance each year in the form of some notoriously busy helpers: the nocturnal, semi-aquatic beaver.

 Beavers, a native Iowa species, typically gnaw down trees along the UI campus riverbanks, which is fine for some tree species, but not for others. Instead of stopping the beavers’ behavior, the tree care team decided to work with the beavers’ natural talents. By wrapping valued native and planted trees with protective wire, the invasive and common native species like Boxelder, White Mulberry, Siberian Elm, Willow, Green Ash, and Silver Maple, are left for the beavers to utilize in their underwater homes for food and shelter.

It is true that beavers can be destructive if their work is not redirected; however, under the right circumstances they can be used as an effective, low-cost management tool. Next to humans, no other animal appears to do more to take care of its landscape.

“While there may be a number of trees gnawed off along the riverbanks, the beavers’ work will not kill the tree as the root system is still intact, so the tree typically will resprout. As long as they continue to do this to the invasive species, we don’t have a problem with them. They’re a spoke in the wheel of life as are the trees, as are we,” says Andy Dahl, UI arborist. “We’re happy to have them as our partners to manage the riverbanks.”

Go Andy and UI! Awesome to read that the Hawekeye State has at least an island committed to coexistence. Sometimes I get the feeling that the beaver good news is spreading so far and permeating so deep that there eventually won’t be a single state where it doesn’t exist.

Except Oklahoma. Because, you know.

“The flood recovery is helping us to clean up and better celebrate the Iowa River. Those busy beavers are helping to contribute to that effort,” says Don Guckert, associate vice president of Facilities Management.

Even in Fargo ND the attitude towards beavers is changing. Just look at this:

Beavers beware: Fargo Park Board mulls trapping, killing

FARGO—Because of tree damage caused by beavers along the Red River, the Fargo Park Board will meet tonight to consider trapping and killing the animals in hopes of reining in their population.

“We’re not trying to eliminate all the beavers,” said Dave Leker, director of parks. “We’re just trying to reduce them.”

 Leker said the district has received a number of calls from residents worried about beavers harming mature, riparian trees. He said there’s no problem with beavers using small trees for food and dam building, but the destruction of decades-old trees concerns district officials.

 Sam DeMarais, the district’s forester, said he’s counted roughly 70 trees gnawed by beavers in city parks. Many of the trees have been felled, and in other cases, beavers have chewed off the bark all the way around the lower trunk. This is known as girdling, which is a death sentence for a tree, Leker said.

“Beavers are part of the natural ecosystem, and so are trees,” he said. “It’s kind of a no-win situation. You’re going to have people that, you know, are rooting for the beavers, and you’re going to have people that are rooting for the trees.”

Hmmm Fargo hasn’t exactly exhausted their resources trying to solve this problem. But it’s still better that they don’t want to kill ALL the beavers. An inquiring mind might ask how many beaver they have? And how they’ll chose which ones to kill?   The Sophie’s choice of beavers, I guess. They are going to contact USDA next. Now how could that possibly go wrong?

Lifetimes and Beavers

Posted by heidi08 On April - 13 - 2015Comments Off


The California Roadkill Observation System is operated by the Road Ecology Center at UC  Davis. Our friend Eli worked to get it to show the incidence of beaver deaths around the state caused by drivers, which is a grimly useful tool for getting a handle on population. We can infer where there are breeding colonies and where beavers decided to disperse. The interactive map tells you what was seen and where, The one near San CaptureJose is from highway 1 at Pescadero, which is  a colony we know about. The one that makes me sad is the yellow one (meaning a large beaver) which was trying to cross highway 37. This means he or she VERY nearly made it on his way to colonize Marin, which might be harder to do than we realize with all the lethal motorways in between.

I like knowing there is a resource to report these deaths at least. I’m especially troubled by highway deaths when those lethal spacers block the center of the roadway. There is no place for the animal to get through and they just are forced to wander aimlessly looking for an opening.

This is a depressing conversation for a monday, so I’m going to give you a LARGE DOSE of cheer.

Napa River restoration begins a new phase Upvalley

OAKVILLE — After 13 years and $21 million, restoration of 4.5 miles of Napa River banks in the heart of Napa Valley is complete, offering improved habitat and reducing flood damage.

Federal, state and local leaders celebrated the accomplishment Thursday as they prepared to launch phase 2: 9 miles of bank restoration from Oakville to Oak Knoll costing another $21 million.

Almost 100 people turned out for the by-invitation morning event along the rivers bank at the Opus One Winery in Oakville, including Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St Helena.

“This river is part of what makes Napa County the iconic landscape that it is,” said Samuel Schuchat, executive officer of the California Coastal Conservancy. “I strongly believe this is the future of river restoration in California.”

One of the most exciting things at the Salmonid Federation Urban Streams Workshop I attended, was this talk

A “Living River” Runs Through It, The Napa Creek Flood Management Project – Leslie Ferguson, San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board

which described the 20 year job of restoring the Napa River. No kidding, 20 years of involving stake holders, wooing business leaders, and politicians. 20 years of weekly meetings to talk about letting the river return to some of its natural state, which means vintners had to agree to give up some of the most valuable land in the entire country.

 More than a decade ago, vineyard owners in the group called The Rutherford Dust Society started the effort. The result is the newly completed Rutherford Reach project between Zinfandel Lane and Oakville Cross Road.

 Twenty-eight landowners participated in the $21 million project. The county’s Measure A flood control sales tax provided $12.5 million, with federal and state agencies contributing $7.9 million. Landowners gave up 30 acres of vineyard land worth an estimated $9 million and agreed to pay a maintenance assessment.

Davie Pina of the Rutherford Dust Society and Pina Vineyard Management has seen a difference with wildlife along the river. He’s seen beaver dams and ospreys and Swainson’s hawks.

 “Things are coming back, and we are doing the right thing around here,” he told the gathering.

Once again, the arrival of beaver dams are recognized as a reward for the very hard restorative work done.  I say ‘again’ because I was lucky enough to once have a lovely conversation with the revered Hughlet Hornbeck about just this topic in terms of cleaning up the Marina, Granger’s Wharf and the mouth of Alhambra Creek in a sustained effort of 50 years that lead to the arrival of our beavers. He said the beavers were a reward for their effort. He wanted to meet the young lady who had “scared the city council” into letting them live.

( A memory to treasure until the end of my days for sure.)

Back to the topic at hand, learning about the marathon efforts at work in Napa have helped me understand just why their response to the beavers has been so uniformly idyllic. They are river-smart in Napa because they spent literally decades studying. Meeting every week, arguing with landowners, persuading the thick-headed and zealous over patient dialogue, compromising and never getting half of what they wanted. They did a remarkable thing,

We should all hope to be a part of something beautiful that is so long in the making.

Beavers in a whole new light

Posted by heidi08 On March - 21 - 2015Comments Off

vanilla_nice_beaver_IG_2Have you been seeing these around? They are advertisements for the new XXX vanilla, promoted as vegan and gluten-free and pointing out that most imitation vanilla’s are made from beaver castoreum, the glands in their nether region. Don’t know if that’s true, but the ads are fun.

I especially liked this one. Look at the feet:


There is more to entertain us today from the LA Times review of the soon-to-be-cult-classic new movie Zombeavers! Sounds like someone let the pun carry him away.

‘Zombeavers,’ about coeds and zombie mutants, is schlocky fun

 ”Zombeavers” is the mutant love child of horror specialist Troma, early Peter Jackson, Japanese kaiju flicks and Canadian television sketch comedies — a film that disgusts, terrifies and tickles in equal measure with grotesque creatures and a sickening sense of humor.

Three self-centered sorority sisters check in to a remote lodge for some girl time after Jenn (Lexi Atkins) discovers a photo of Sam (Hutch Dano) cavorting with another woman. After spending the afternoon disrobing, rubbing sunscreen on one another and checking out a beaver dam, they return to find that their boyfriends are paying a surprise visit. But the dudes aren’t the only uninvited guests for the weekend.

 A barrel of biohazard material from a medical research facility falls off a truck, rolls down the stream and spills the toxin within. To the surprise of no one, it turns beavers into zombies that will chomp on anything in sight.

 Hmm…I think I might skip this one….and honestly, do you really expect me to believe that beavers after a spill are terrifying? These one were adorable! Remember the heroes of Willard’s Bay?

beavers in towls 2