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

No Problem a little Explosives can’t Cure.

Posted by heidi08 On November - 23 - 2014Comments Off

Silly me, all these years I’ve been working to ‘solve problems’ when I could have just blown them up instead!


Dam Bustin – Country Style

Woodlands County offers a service to it’s ratepayers with explosive results. The beaver flood control program provided by the county uses dynamite to blast away beaver dams that are flooding resident’s properties.

Dawn Fortin, Woodlands County manager of agricultural services, says that the intention of the service is to relieve flooding on private property and near roads to protect infrastructure. “We call it our beaver flood control program,” Fortin said. “We’ll remove the dam using dynamite or sometimes we use mechanical means like a backhoe.”

Ahh yes, no one is happier than a technician with explosives at a beaver dam. Sure it destroys wetlands for fish, birds and wildlife, does nothing to prevent flooding, destroys creek channels and will need to be repeated next year, but at least the price is right:

Glen Renfert, agricultural services technician, performs the service and is an employee of the county. The service costs only $70 and according to Renfert, just covers the cost of materials.”We don’t want to make a profit on it,” Fortin said. “If you get a whole bunch of dams on the property and there are some that are not causing an issue. We don’t just blow them up just because. If we only need to remove two or three out of five, we’re going to save them that much money. We don’t want to incur more costs for them unnecessarily.”

Of course you know that beavers would just rebuild right? And that all those materials from the blown up dam might still snag and cause flooding.

Prior to blasting, the county sends trappers out to the location to trap the beavers. Once the beavers are removed, then the removal of the dam can begin. “Our trapper is a licensed trapper so he can harvest the beaver for its pelt,” Fortin said. “Other trappers use the animal for bait, the pelts aren’t worth much in the summer.”Woodlands County has a permit from AESRD to be able to perform the service during the off-season for trappers. Starting on May 1, and until Oct. 31, the county can perform the service for residents.

Well at least you’re thorough.

A story this funny needs a punchline. And I have one. The article is from Alberta, Canada. Which puts them around two hours from the top beaver researcher in the world. In fact, Dr. Glynnis Hood is currently doing research to establish the effectiveness of flow devices to regulate flooding. She might even be willing to send some students down to install a flow device for free. But go ahead, spend the 70 bucks.

And speaking of willfully misguided beaver decisions that don’t work anyway, guess who I heard from last night? Our old friends at the 4 seasons senior complex outside El Dorado Hills. Where neighbors got together to protect some beavers in 2012. They were eventually thwarted by the Orwellian HOA who hired USDA to kill the beavers and swing the dead bodies dramatically past the protesters. Blood under the bridge. Guess what’s back not two years later?

We have a new beaver population that has just moved into four seasons.Their fate is up in the air even though we have a new HOA board.They have tentatively agreed to work with us on the issue but I am not convinced of this. Would you be willing to send and email to HOA board telling them of your success and expertise in this area? Let me know. 

What do you think? Would I be willing?

No Beavers in Mars

Posted by heidi08 On November - 10 - 2014Comments Off

I was very worried by this opening paragraph.

There can be fewer more-Canadian endeavours than sending a beaver to Mars, but a Canadian technology company with a Newfoundland connection plans to do just that.

I thought immediately of Laika, the stray dog captured by the Russian to stuff into Sputnik in 1957. They  said she died painlessly in orbit, but it was recently reported in the BBC that she died just a few hours after blast off of panic and overheating.

There was NO WAY I was going to let this be repeated with a beaver. Before I chained myself to a missile, I decided to read the next paragraph.

“Beaver” is actually the name of a micro-rover that Thoth Technologies Inc. wants to send to Mars in 2018. The company and Northern Light Canadian Mission to Mars, as it is called, is being led by St. John’s native Caroline Roberts and her husband, Ben Quine. Roberts is the daughter of former lieutenant governor Ed Roberts, whom she says named the rover.

Well, okay then.

Actually it makes perfect sense, since Popular Science already reported in 1930 that beavers had dug the canals on the surface of Mars. I know because Michael Pollock gave me the article framed at our first working beaver meeting in 2011 and it proudly  hangs in my dining room.

Now don’t you feel better?

Yesterday, I got an email out of the blue from Beaver friend and supporter Robert Rust. He said he had a bunch of old beaver books he’d like to give me and asked if he could drop them off. Just so you know who we’re talking about, Bob is the creative genius behind the mechanical tail-slapping beaver this year, AND the giant inflatable beaver a few years before that.

giant beaverBob taught science to lots of kids in Martinez, and kayaked the creeks for years cleaning out trash and tires. He is a complete indirecatable genius, smart enough to invent anything, connected to everything, but living entirely by his own rules. I expected him to drop off dog-eared copies from his youth or college days. Instead he bicycled up to my porch with three perfect first edition copies of beaver giants that left me speechless.

One was a copy of the 1937 Beaver Pioneers signed by both authors. One was the 1947 first edition of the several times reprinted “One Day at Teton Marsh” by Sally Carrighar (complete with gorgous woodcuts in every chapter) And the third was an original Grinnell’s fur-bearing  mammals of CA. No I’m not kidding. There was also a fun copy of “the Beaver is eating my Canoe” just to round out the day.


How excited am I? Back when this all started someone bought me a signed first edition by Grey Owl and I thought I was in heaven. Now I’m sure of it.

I’m a sucker for old books. One time when Jon and I were in Norwich, England we visited an used book store and asked about older books. The grey-haired owner smiled and took us across the street down these stone stairs into a trove of 15th century manuscripts and said we could explore at our leisure, locking the door behind him on his way back to the shop. I swear there was a hand copied Iliad. Now thank goodness we were so poor that we could only afford three slim volumes or I would now be the proud owner of an entire book store. One of the books we bought was a personal almanac from the 1600′s that told you when to plant crops and had personal pages for notes that some grandson had scribbled on in the 1800′s. One of the books was a volume on how to raise a good wife from the 1700′s. I could not resist when I read how girl children should be praised for being compliant and dull. And frowned upon for any signs of creativity. Ahhh.

But these treasures PALE in comparison to original works about beavers! Thank you SO MUCH BOB for your generous contribution to Worth A Dam and beavers over the years. Everything you’ve done for us has been surprising, and this is no exception. You can bet I’ll be sending over a care package this afternoon. Right after I’m done re-reading.

Give me the Bad News First

Posted by heidi08 On November - 9 - 20142 COMMENTS
Alpine County 4
Amador County 1
Butte County 7
Calaveras County 1
Colusa County 5
Contra Costa County 20
El Dorado County 9
Fresno County 3
Glenn County 3
Kings County 7
Lake County 2
Lassen County 5
Madera County 10
Merced County 24
Modoc County 6
Mono County 2
Napa County 2
Nevada County 7
Placer County 51
Plumas County 9
Sacramento County 32
San Joaquin County 8
San Luis Obispo County 2
Shasta County 20
Sierra County 3
Siskiyou County 3
Solano County 8
Sonoma County 3
Stanislaus County 9
Sutter County 16
Tehama County 5
Yolo County 18
Yuba County 6

Need I say more? A special thank you to Robin Ellison from Napa who  pursued the PRA request and processed the last 50 handwritten permits herself yesterday. Just, (as she said), when she was starting to get over her PTSD from last time. Thanks also to NCHEMS which allowed me to turn these stats into a handy map for free. The total number of beavers permitted for killing from 2013 to July 2014 was 1028 + 132x  (unlimited wildcards issued where any amount could be killed). That’s a lot of beavers. And a lot of water storage that drought-ridden California threw away,

straight flush


On an entirely different note, I need to take a moment to say that 29 years ago today I had no degree and Jon was without a country or a job. Who ever knew those crazy kids would make it work?


Jon & Heidi over the Aegean

Visitors & Casualties

Posted by heidi08 On November - 8 - 2014Comments Off

setupLast night’s visitors from San Francisco were 30 high school students with backpacks and notebooks who came to see the beavers.They were accompanied by their energetic and fearless teacher/handler Catherine Salvin. I gave a little talk on the footbridge about beavers as ecosystem engineers and described their physical adaptions to walclife in the water. Then Jon took them on a tour of the dam and up to ward street to look for the kit. On the way she made sure they sketched the dam, the flow device, and the chewed trees.

There were some great questions, some  appreciative listeners and a few who  predictably couldn’t have been more bored. They had read the New York Times article beforehand, and were fairly schooled in the basic story. (Someone couldn’t exactly remember the word and said they were ecosystem technicians, which I loved.) I’m happy to say that not one student thought beavers eat fish or live in the dam. That’s Catherine right front below.

Heidi WALCAfter their tour our smaller yearling made several appearances, swimming obligingly and foraging for them to watch. When it first emerged  30 noisy bodies trampled for a closer look and it dove immediately. I was surprised how quickly they learned to watch silently so they could see and sketch the beaver at leisure. A second beaver appeared later on and a great egret fished ostentatiously at the bridge during the quiet moments. everyone watching

All in all it was a good night, for beavers, for ecological education and for Martinez. Thanks WALC!

This morning I heard from Robin that the second wave of depredation permits for beavers (the not-computerized ones that had to be scanned by hand) had arrived. She wrote,

“Yes, we have Region 4 well represented with counties Kern, Fresno, San Luis Obispo, Madera. Also Region 6 with Mono county. Nothing in the Southern coastal region- Los Angeles to San Diego.”

What does this mean? 4 – Central Region  Serving Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Stanislaus, Tulare and Tuolumne counties. Region 6 Serving Imperial, Inyo, Mono, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. That means permission to kill the water-savers in the driest regions of the state. Robin will generously donate her weekend to get the stats together. But she can’t possibly go fast enough for me.

I recently was talking to a reporter from the guardian about depredation in California, and she wanted to know if the numbers were going up or down. I realized we couldn’t know for sure, but might glean something from earlier records. I don’t have access to earlier depredation permits, but I do have the stats from a FOIA request by reporter Thomas Knudson on beavers killed by the USDA in 2010. Comparing the two is kind of like apples and oranges, because one is ‘permission given’  and the other is actual beavers killed, and just because a permit is issued the beavers could be killed by someone else and never wind up in the USDA stats. Think of it like “All mothers are women” but “not all women are mothers” grouping problem. Remember the column on the left is the actual number of beavers killed by USDA. And the column on the right is the number of depredation permits issued (which might valid for an unlimited number of beavers).

However you slice it, we still have our grim winner:

what a differenceSo Placer county is still the leading beaver killer in the entire state.  No surprise there. Even more interesting to me is second place. USDA killed 108 beavers in Colusa County in 2010. But in 2013 the entire county got only got 4 permits. What gives? Did they suddenly have a change of heart and think that killing beavers was wrong? No indeed. Those 4 permits were issued for the incredible number of 94 beavers PLUS one unlimited wildcard of dead beavers. And they were all awarded to USDA. Let’s assume that those US killers are good at their job and always get their beaver. 94 + X (make that at least least 10 probably a lot more) and that puts them right back in their number 2 spot.

Some things never change.

Bemoaning Beavers Broadly

Posted by heidi08 On November - 5 - 20142 COMMENTS


Lake Wylie is a man-made lake just south of Charleston in South Carolina. Every now and then it has sightings of alligators and snake fish, and is the product of a 1904 hydroelectric dam made by the power company.  Guess what kind of dams it doesn’t want?

Beavers causing concern on Crowders Creek

LAKE WYLIE — Al Morey says there’s “one heck of a nuisance” on Lake Wylie, and he isn’t sure anyone is doing anything about it.  Lakefront resident Ed Lindsey wants to do something about it.

 ”We’ve had beavers for a while, but they’ve always kind of been in the water,” Lindsey said. “They’ve never done any damage.” Until now. Lindsey had three small plum trees taken down on his property, and six larger tree. A neighbor lost a couple more trees, he said.

 ”They would chew the bark all around a tree,” Lindsey said. “They’re really destructive.”

 Morey works at Clawson’s Pile Driving & Construction. He estimates he has seen 80 or 90 trees in a 10-mile area with beaver damage.

 ”Lately what I’ve been seeing is they’ve been coming out in broad daylight,” Morey said.

 The most extreme damage he has seen has been in Crowders Creek, Morey said. He’s seen five or six dams from the island beneath the S.C. 274 bridge, upstream.

Oh those destructive beavers, coming out in broad daylight to eat your trees for no reason! Better call the trapper right away. Or your pretend lake could get altered by real nature! I wasn’t at all surprised by this article from SC but I was surprised by the final paragraphs.

Nonlethal options for beaver management include water flow control devices and wire barriers or fencing around trees to prevent gnawing. The state department also provides information on those routes.

According to the state, a beaver colony can be as large as 20 to 30 acres. They help produce habitat for waterfowl, fish, reptiles, amphibians and furbearers such as minks and otters.

 The wood duck, which nests in large numbers in South Carolina, often is attracted to beaver ponds. Beavers are located in every county in South Carolina.

surprised-child-skippy-jonRemember, we’re grading on a curve. So any mention of beaver benefits, wrapping trees and flow devices is a big win for South Carolina. I don’t have much hope for these beavers, but I’m pleased that the reporter included options, and have some hope for him.

As the weather picks up, more beavers are being blamed for power outages. This one in Colefax, Washington. (I guessed they plugged in too many devices?)

Beaver knocks out power at Colfax

 COLFAX, Wash. — Avista Utilities says a beaver is to blame for a power outage at Colfax.

 The utility says a beaver chewed through the tree that fell on a line about 2 a.m. Monday, cutting electricity for about 600 residents. Service was restored by 7 a.m.

I mean, it’s not like power companies are responsible for trimming and removing trees around power cables or anything. Mark my words, when Colfax moves the wires underground they’re going to blame gophers.

And here’s a story celebrating salmon and their glorious triumph over those ruinous, obstructing beavers.

Writer’s Voice – Honoring Salmon by Robin Song

For me, the bright spot in this time of year is the Coho Salmon. Theirs is the last of the salmon runs in our area, and they choose the cold autumn waters for their spawning beds. 

That’s why I consider these fish heroes. They have come through so much. Even the creek itself presents challenges. Winter snows sends trees crashing down across the creek and the fish have to negotiate tangles of logs and branches. Beaver have constructed dams along the creek, lowering the water in places to where it is just a few inches deep and the salmon have to thrash over rocks and pebbles as they make their way to pools to rest.

The creek twists and turns, some bends so narrow that the water gushes through and the fish fight their way along, always driven to go farther. At last they reach the final obstacle-a large beaver dam across the west end of the pond, laying west of the lake. In the years when the beaver have been in the valley, they have kept the dam tightly constructed, repairing any breeches immediately. a pair of male Cohos head upstream. In those years the salmon have not been able to leap over the high dam with its many sharp-ended logs and branches bristling against their assault. In those times the salmon have to spawn in the pool below the dam, and along the creek west of that.

But this year the beaver left the pond and moved up to the lake and a breech opened in the dam and was left open. I walked out onto the old dam and stood watching for salmon in the pond and was glad to see some had made it over the dam and were swimming near it. I just caught glimpses of them before they moved into the deeper water of the pond. There were still many salmon in the pool-those who just couldn’t leap up the breech in the dam. And many were spawning in the creek itself.

Of course I posted a comment to Kristin, explaining how that beaver dam would also make deep pools for eggs to grow up in, not freezing in the winter or drying in the summer, and how it would be rich with invertebrates because of the beavers digging and mudding. But my comment must not have been poetic or honor-y enough, because its not there this morning.

And if you woke up like me and looked at the wasteland ashes of the election you might be comforted by this quote from Churchill, who famously said;

“Democ­racy is the worst form of gov­ern­ment.
Except for all the oth­ers”

Turkey before Halloween?

Posted by heidi08 On October - 25 - 20142 COMMENTS


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.

Three scoops of stupid

Posted by heidi08 On October - 22 - 20143 COMMENTS

Every now and then we pass through a news cycle that is so full of beaver benefits and so absent of stupidity I begin to feel like we’ve finally turned an important corner – that all across the country people are understanding more about the good beavers do and why they should solve problems without trapping.

Then there’s a day like today when I remember that people from one side of this country to the other (and everywhere in between) are still deeply committed to their stupidity about beavers. And it shows zero sign of evaporating.

We can start with the tail bounty they’re increasing in Winnebago County in Iowa. From now on, every person who brings in a cut tail will get 50.00$ instead of 25.00. Don’t worry, they have to prove it was from that county. I don’t know how. Maybe the beavers in Iowa have license plates?

Dorchester Struggles With Beaver Troubles

Then we can march 1000 miles across the state to Salem, Maryland where they’re tossing around ecological phrases to justify killing beavers by aiming the USDA at them. These are my favorite quotes.

“They’re damaging the ecological forests, as well as the timber value, because no one is going to be able to go in there and harvest that timber now,” said Libby Nagel of Salem.

“It’s killing the trees and the branches that absorb the nutrients. It’s killing a lot of habitat, mainly causing flooding in fields,” said Eberspacher.

Ecological forests? Absorbing nutrients? Did someone drop out of college after ecology 101?  We should all be reminded of Alexander Pope’s Essay on criticism.

“A little learning is a dangerous thing.
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring;
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
and drinking largely sobers us again.”

Apparently someone stopped reading before they sobered up.

Capture1Click on the photo if you want to see the newscast. The only good news from Dorchester is that when I first saw the story last night they were running it with my very favorite  KIT PHOTO by CHERYL!  I summoned all my doctoral indignation and wrote the station manager that if they were going to rifle through our website and STEAL anything they wanted they might at least have read the information while they were there.

This morning it’s magically swapped for an NPS photo. I thought it might be, so I took this screen shot last night.

changedAnd just when you thought the world couldn’t be any more ridiculous about beavers, there’s this.

Ravens, beaver cause power outages in Willow

According to MEA spokeswoman Julie Estey, the main outage — first reported on the MEA Facebook page just after 11 a.m. — cut power to roughly 3,700 customers. Estey estimates the second incident temporarily left fewer than a dozen people in the dark.

 “It was actually caused by two ravens,” Estey said. “They were actually in a substation, and they took out one of the breakers.”

 The Douglas substation where the breaker was located covers much of Willow all the way north to Talkeetna. Estey says the outage was first detected at 10:56 a.m., with power restored by 12:18 p.m.

 A second, smaller outage reported between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. affected fewer than a dozen people on Willow Fishhook Road. While crews were quickly able to repair the line, the area was within the substation’s coverage area — which meant customers there lost power twice.

 “A beaver cut down a tree and it actually fell onto the line,” Estey said. “So they got their power restored, and then they got hit by the ravens.