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

The MacDuff’ing

Posted by heidi08 On July - 10 - 2015Comments Off
All my pretty ones?
Did you say all? O hell-kite! All?
Macbeth IV: iii

There’s a scene at the end of Macbeth that has always bothered me. The rising hero and supposed good guy Macduff is visited by Ross who tells him that Scotland is in pretty dire straits, but not to worry about it too much and concentrate on the battle at hand. Macduff eventually gets him to admit he’s trying to avoid giving him bad news, and Ross blurts that back home his castle has been beseighed and his wife and children slaughtered.

Macduff is visibly shaken and repeats several times, “All? Did you say all?” Which is the part that always bothered me. Like his children were interchangeable and if one survived (any one – no one in particular) it would be okay.  The girls or the boy might die but as long as ONE lives everything is alright. Because for him his children are like a bouquet, pretty and ornamental but no single flower matters more than any other.

But yesterday, I kind of started to understand.

Jon found a third kit dead around noon, this one had been dead a while. No signs of injury. Just  floating near the new dam. We assume it was from whatever killed the others. UCD was slightly more interested that a third had died thought they might expedite the necropsy. I spoke to the city, county, Regional Water Board, and East Bay Regional Parks, but since no other animals or fish had died they felt it probably wasn’t the water. .

Last night the somber Worth A Dam members gathered watch. They saw Jr. and two 2 year olds and maybe Mom. No kits. But also no dead kit. One very important thing they saw was a muskrat, at the old dam. Very definitely. This is important because it means that we can probably assume it wasn’t a water-caused incident. Since muskrats are small like kits and most likely would have died too. Which means we should not be speculating about water but about disease…Moses said he’d keep watch last night and let Cheryl know if  he saw anything, but since there’s no word this morning I’m guessing there was no dead kit last night either.

So not “All.” Not yet anyway.

I received this yesterday from Dr. Suilin at Edinburgh University I found it so comforting I thought we all should read it. Have a hankie at the ready; word to the wise.

Dear Heidi,
I just wanted to tell you that I was distraught when I logged into the blog this afternoon. And I wanted you to know that however this turns out, Worth a Dam and the Martinez beavers have done more than anyone to put beavers and their importance right back on the ecological agenda.
 
My one reassurance is that they are probably the most well-cared for and supported urban beavers, and that everything you and your team will do will be in their best interests.You have supporters worldwide with their fingers crossed for your beaver colony,  and wishing them all the best.
 
-Suilin
Dr. J. Suilin Lavelle
Lecturer, Philosophy 
School of PPLS
Dugald Stewart Building
3 Charles St.
Edinburgh, EH8 9AD
www.philosophy.ed.ac.uk
www.suilinlavelle.co.uk

 Thank you so much for your kind words. They warmed me in the coldest moment and made me feel like what we have done matters even if our ‘pretty ones’ didn’t make it.

Beavers, like tides, come and go

Posted by heidi08 On July - 8 - 2015Comments Off

This is a much better headline than it is an article. A more accurate title would be “Doing nothing and complaining about it anyway”. Or maybe “Learning nothing and blaming others for your ignorance”.

5596a2e758003.image

Stick-built Home
(Photo by Clara MacCarald): A beaver lodge stands near where beaver activity has flooded the trail around Teeter Pond in the Finger Lakes National Forest.

Engineering A Balance Between Beavers And People

Sixteen years ago, when Cherie Ackerson and her wife moved out to their country home in Pompey, they were thrilled by the creek flowing through their new property. They found evidence of beaver activity, which struck them as interesting and wonderful. They built a wooden boardwalk along their creek to enjoy it better.

Then the beavers multiplied. Females can have one to nine pups and young stay with their parents for up to two years. The large rodents, which weigh 45 to 60 pounds, or even more, took out more saplings, enlarged nearby ponds, and changed the course of the creek. Eventually the boardwalk was affected by the changing water levels. “We had a plan and they had a plan,” said Ackerson.

Could your plan possibly be to look up information on the internet and learn that a flow device could control your water issues once and for all?

Wherever water enters an area, beavers can start damming it up, explained Matt Sacco, director of programs at Cayuga Nature Center. Valleys, small drainage creeks, wooded ponds – all these places, he said, have the potential for a colony. Sacco hears about flooding a lot. One farmer who called him had lost five acres of corn. Tree loss is another problem, either because the trees are desirable or because the trees cause damage or block roads when they come down.

In general, “The beaver population is pretty steady,” said Tiffany Toukatly, a fish and wildlife technician with the DEC. She didn’t know for sure because the population size in the region is not being tracked and the numbers of permits vary every year. The beaver has to be present and causing damage for a permit to be issued. Toukatly said sometimes people with recurring problems will try to call to get a permit before a new family moves in, or people will call when they see a beaver on their land even though there is no evidence of damage.

Last summer three adult beavers were trapped out of the pond, but young beavers were left behind. Even if managers wanted to, “we can’t trap them all out,” said Widowski. Where there is beaver habitat, there will be more beavers. Like other rodents, beaver populations can grow quickly, Sacco pointed out, and two-year old beavers who have left home are always on the lookout for vacant territory.

We like beavers so much we only kill the parents. How thoughtful. In case you couldn’t tell already, this article bugs me.

_______________________________________________________

And finally, a memorial for the kit that Cheryl found last night, dead on the shore. We retrieved it and were ready to bring it for necropsy but found it had been long dead, and would offer little information. Since we saw four on July 1st, and not since, its reasonable to assume it was the fourth. Although it could just has easily been a fifth that no one knew about. We will have to watch and see. And hope our other kits fair better. It has been so long since we had four, I had completely forgotten what its like to have one die. I remembered soon enough.

poemFor comfort I offer this beautiful healthy kit footage from Robin Ellison of Tulocay kit in Napa.

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?