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

Not Enough: The AE Report

Posted by heidi08 On September - 30 - 2015Comments Off on Not Enough: The AE Report

Did you ever have an arch enemy? I mean someone who thwarts your every move, foils your every plan, and seems to lurk just over your shoulder where you can never, never see them? AE’s are respected and listened to by all the wrong people and whatever work you do to dismiss what they say it’s too late because they’ve already gone on to speak to the next group that you’re going to have to try and re-educate.

The Martinez Beavers have had lots of enemies, city council, public works, hired environmental consulting firms, a few reporters, handsomely paid attorneys and various property owners. But we only ever had one AE. And if you don’t know who that was by now I’m not doing my job.  Here she is talking at the April 2008 council meeting. And here I am over her shoulder looking inceredulous. I believe among her many erroneous points were;

  1. that our beavers were leaving (or had already left),
  2.  that every flow device she had ever seen installed had failed,
  3. and that trees can be protected with blackberry bushes because beaver never eat them as they dislike the thorns.

Originally Mary Tappel offered her services when our city was responding to beaver problems and she was supposed to present formally to the beaver subcommittee. We all got copies of her resume in preparation. But I happened by chance to recognize her name from an article about the Elk Grove beaver fiasco in the Sacramento Bee, which my folks used to get delivered to their home in the foothills. I remember being jarred by her comment in the article at the time that the beavers had to be killed because being sterilized was stressful. I thought, ‘isn’t being killed stressful?’ Then heard later  that she was coming to Martinez to offer l her skills.

At the time she told the reporter for the Gazette that beavers “breed for 50 years”. I remember because when I read the article I wrote him and asked whether it was a typo. The editor said ‘no’ and called her to check that he got the quote correctly. And just like that my AE announced that she would  not present to the subcommittee, because we were too inflamed and hostile, and she would just meet behind the scenes with city staff.

This meant that she could whisper her poisons unchallenged into their willing ears. Telling staff once that the father beaver should be killed so that the mother would have to mate with her sons when they grew up and slow population growth in that way. No. really.

God only knows what else she said.

The mayor liked her council so much that he invited her secretly to the April 2008 meeting where the subcommittee  results were going to be presented. I remember how surprised we were to see her in the hallway outside. To this day I wonder what funds changed hands to get her there. That same night I had suddenly found out I was going to be the one to present our results. No warning, just like that go ahead and talk to 200 people. And then Mary would go after me and dispute everything I said.

It turned out to be okay though, because she was not very convincing with her waving cardboard sign. My luck. And she went away and we got what we wanted, so that seemed like a victory.

Imagine how excited I was when Jack Sanchez of S.A.R.S.A.S heard my talk in Santa Barbra and invited me to come follow her presentation on beavers in Auburn. The shoe was finally on the other foot! I was so happy. I pulled together the latest fish data and they said the talk was the best attended and the best delivered they ever had. I was on cloud 9 when it was over. Especially because of the intelligent comments of one listener from FWS who knew everything about the fish issue and could soothe anxieties at the end of the talk. Here’s what I wrote at the time:

One particularly knowledgeable young man introduced himself as Damion Ciotti from the Habitat Restoration Division of US Fish and Wildlife Service. We connected several years ago and he was very interested in our work in Martinez. I made sure he left with a copy of Mike Callahan’s DVD. You can’t imagine how helpful his comments were in soothing the beaver-disbelievers in the room. I couldn’t have orchestrated it better than to let fish savvy folk do the defending for me!

So I was stunned to hear a few months ago that my AE was invited BACK to S.A.R.S.A.S. to speak on beavers this September. Again? I got word yesterday from Damion that he attended her talk and was dismayed to hear her describe beaver as responsible for “Ecosystem Collapse“. He tried to ask pointed questions but realized she didn’t have any sources for her info but anecdote. She apparently said that there was no region in California where beaver should ever be introduced.

Ecosystem Collapse. If you google the phrase with the word beavers you get zero hits. Only articles about them being a keystone species. I guess the research world doesn’t think like Mary Tappel.

Damion said she introduced herself as working for the state, and he was worried about the influence she might have with policy. She is still staff on the regional waterboards, which is a division of the CAEPA. (Bravely protecting the environment from beavers, apparently). She is still marching around calling herself a beaver expert, and even boasts of her work with Martinez on her resume.

Mary also dealt with beaver management questions and in foothill areas such as Granite Bay, Loomis, & Roseville; and towards the Bay/Delta area in  Martinez, and to the south in Elk Grove, all in creeks and small retention basins. Mary’s involvement in foothill areas and smaller streams has always included salmonid passage concerns.

What a coincidence. With the exception of Martinez those cities are the very ones that issued the most depredation permits. Isn’t that just an amazing coincidence?


Which is not to say she hasn’t learned anything over the years. She used to preach devotedly that beavers ruined salmon passage, and now she says the salmon make their way around dams. Which is something. But I realize, sadly and with no small amount of panic, it’s not enough. I haven’t done enough. People want to hear what she says because they want to get rid of things that are inconvenient. She has a resonant message to deliver. And they want to hear what I say less because co-existence seems like it means work. Screw the salmon. Or the frogs. Just let me do what I want to do, sound environmental and give me cover. So I can get away with it.

I haven’t done enough. And even though, if you google her name, the warnings of this website are nearly the only thing that come up, even though I was able to follow her talk on her home turf in the very county where they kill the most beavers in the entire state, and even though I talked BWW into taking her off their resource list for beaver experts in CA: It’s not enough. I’m not doing enough.

My arch enemy continues to influence the American River area and all its surrounds. She has a powerful platform and a respected government job to grant her credibility. And I haven’t beaten her.


Moving the problem in Wyoming

Posted by heidi08 On September - 12 - 2015Comments Off on Moving the problem in Wyoming

Sherry Guzzi of the Sierra Wildlife Coalition sent this yesterday. Her sister lives in Jackson Hole where the documentary will be having its American debut.

Nature club to screen movie about beavers


Drew Reed of the Wyoming Wetland Society releases one of two beavers into a wetland in the Gros Ventre in 2009. The film “Beavers Behaving Badly” documents Reed’s catch-and-release work. It will be screened tonight by the Jackson Hole Bird and Nature Club.

On Tuesday the club will present wildlife filmmaker Jeff Hogan’s one-hour documentary “Beavers Behaving Badly,” a BBC production. The screening is in conjunction with the club’s regular monthly meeting, 6 to 8 p.m. at Teton County Library.

The film explores the importance of beavers in the area’s ecosystem. Valley biologist Drew Reed is documented over the course of a year relocating beavers from private land where they were a nuisance to public land where they can create wetland habitat that is vital to wildlife and people.

“The film shows an ecological project come full circle,” said Bernie McHugh, a dedicated birdwatcher and secretary for the club. “Once the beavers are relocated to public lands all throughout Teton County they can help restore wetland, notably for trumpeter swans.”

Ah another feel-good solution! Move the problem out of our creeks and streams and throw them into the mountains! Maybe they’ll survive and do some good and maybe they’ll die or get eaten by a  coyote but either way it’s a win-win for us. Because nothing is going to be nibbling our hedgerows.

Drew seems like a nice enough fellow, and his intentions seem of the right kind. But I’m a little worried that a grown man whose job it is to solve beaver problems that doesn’t spend any time building flow devices or protecting culverts. He also shockingly says that he’s never seen a beaver chew through “netting” before (???) or eat grass (!!!). So I’m going to assume his beaver information has room to grow. Here, I’ll help get him started. This is a yearling chewing grass.

If you can’t make it out to Jackson Hole for the premiere, you can watch the whole thing online here. The title alone set my teeth on edge for most of it, but there’s some lovely video and footage of a beaver making a scent mound which is worth the price of admission by itself. Another attempt to copy Jari Osborne’s hard work, I’ll warrant. Drew is no Sherri Tippie, that’s for sure.

BBC.Natural.World.2014.Beavers.Behaving.Badly… by i-teach-U

Let me know what you think. My strongest impression is that Jackson hole is an insanely beautiful place with a lot of beaver sissies for residents. But that’s just me.

I worked longer than I should on this yesterday but was very happy with the result. I really thought Enos Mills’ great writing needed to be revisited, so I selected a few choice lines from my favorite chapter, along with a handful of select photos. I gave up on the idea of having a better voice read this because the  timing needed was a little weird anyway and I’m not smart enough to change it. I really hope you watch this. Or at least read the chapter.

ACapture final selfish note urging us all to wish for rain, or at least cooler temperatures to help calm the fray. The Butte fire is burning the hell out of Heidi’s favorite place, and grew so rapidly yesterday the firefighters actually lost ground. The land my parents brought when I was 7 and built a home to retire on for the last 25 years isn’t out of the woods yet. As a child I built and maintained a coral there to keep in my imaginary horses, and it is the place that Jon and I escaped to the snowy night we were married, lo these many years ago. The fire is mostly expanding away from our property but there is one wicked lick at the back that is marching up the canyon towards the wild place I know best in the world, so keep your fingers crossed.

It’s been a year for catastrophes, and sometimes that is contagious.

They’re still number one!

Posted by heidi08 On September - 5 - 20152 COMMENTS

Yesterday Robin got a clump of depredation permit records from her PRA for Placer County 2015. (Fridays are always document dump days.) I went through and spread-sheeted their gory details. 14 permits good for the death of 307 beavers. Not much improvement  after our meeting with them last November. Property owners still excused their behavior saying useless things like they tried ripping out dams or “hazing”  first but since that surprisingly didn’t work they needed to trap.

But there was one big difference.

One of the most unique things about Placer County that struck us in our initial review was the number of permits they issued for an “unlimited number of beavers”. They were the only place in the state that did it. In our 2 year review there were  51 permits issued for unlimited beaver. Meaning however many you kill that’s fine with us. One of things we talked about at the powow meeting was how unique this was, and how unnecessary. I also wrote it in my letter to the head of fish and wildlife and tried to rattle as many cages as I could.

Flash forward to spring and the discovery of the piebald beaver in Winters. I contacted the folks we had talked to in Placer and they directed me to the representative for Winters. Jason Holley, who was a nice guy and willing to chat by phone. Fresh from the horrors I mentioned something about unlimited trapping and he corrected me and said they weren’t allowed to do that. Since I had just reviewed 51 times where they had done just that  I challenged his assertion and he defended by saying that there had JUST BEEN A BIG MEETING and they weren’t allowed to do that anymore.

Then he stopped for a moment and seemed to calculate things. “Maybe it was you?” he wondered.

Which of course was a lovely thought but not one I believed for a moment until yesterday when I saw this. I spoke to Jason in early April so their big meeting would have happened late March.CaptureMarch 19 was the last permit issued for an unlimited number of beavers all the way through last month. Which I have to think is a kind of victory, however small. It means that sometimes when you poke hard enough you make a dent. Something about my yammering must have at least drawn attention to their time-saving procedure of issuing permits without borders. Someone said just ‘stop it’ and they apparently did.

They are still authorizing the kill of many more beavers than they could possibly have, though. With two permits good for 50 beavers and one for a staggering 99. 99? Is placer county a beaver factory? To explain, the 99 was issued to all county parks in Placer, of which there are 66. I went through and checked how many were had water. Around 27 contained a lake, a stream or a river. Remember, the upper left half of Lake Tahoe is in Placer county.

Griff Creek, the death camp featured in yesterday’s article where pointless beaver slaughter  near a daycare started the Sierra Wildlife Coalition, is a Placer county park. Small world.

So all the county parks were issue a single permit good for any problem that might arise over the coming year, with authorization to kill 99 beavers or around 3.8 per water-containing park. That sure seems like a sneaky time-saving device to me.  This kind of mass issue didn’t show up in our last review, I wonder if it’s a new invention? It’s sort of like getting a depredation permit for Contra Costa County, and any beaver that shows up from Antioch to San Ramon can be dispatched without the burden of paperwork.

One thing it made me realize is that all those little aspen-lined clear mountain streams pouring into Tahoe are actually a death trap for beavers, I mean people assume Martinez is a terrible place for a beaver to be, and think the beavers in the sierras are lucky- but that just isn’t true. Any beaver showing in any county park in the entire green section of this map can now be reliably dispatched without even the minor inconvenience of getting a permit – because a kill-beaver wildlcard has already been issued and can be used everywhere it’s needed.


Fargo’s valuable cargo

Posted by heidi08 On August - 27 - 2015Comments Off on Fargo’s valuable cargo

KVRR:  Beaver Backers Won’t Back Down: Nearly 60,000 Sign Petition

This clip couldn’t be embedded so I had to get it on youtube as best I could. You recognize that’s BEAUTIFUL beaver photo over the reporters shoulder right? That the iconic photo by our own Cheryl Reynolds taken in 2008 of a truly handsome yearling grooming. (Youth are so focused on appearance!) What a fantastic way to start the newscast about citizens demanding to do beaver  things differently.

It’s all over the news today, and you have to think about the time the park district is spending answering calls and holding meetings and wonder whether trapping is REALLY less expensive.

costMartinez knows how this goes. Why not give our mayor a call? I’m sure he could share some memories. The truth is you had one chance to do this quietly, before everyone knew about the beavers. That chance has passed like morning mist on a hot day. It’s over. Now you have to do it the right way. You can protest as long as you want, like a child refusing a nap, but you know I’m right. Yes, it is 10% more work wrapping trees than paying a hitman. But after you finish adding up the amount of money you’re wasting to defend your ignorant decision to do this the wrong way it’s going to seem CHEAP by comparison. Honestly.

There’s religious music over my talking in this version for unknown reasons, but that doesn’t matter. all of Martinez was SO smart and well spoken at this meeting. nearly a decade ago. I realize that my input hardly mattered. And, in retrospect, to paraphrase Voltaire, if I didn’t exist, I surely would have been invented.

The MacDuff’ing

Posted by heidi08 On July - 10 - 2015Comments Off on The MacDuff’ing
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.
Dr. J. Suilin Lavelle
Lecturer, Philosophy 
School of PPLS
Dugald Stewart Building
3 Charles St.
Edinburgh, EH8 9AD

 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 on Beavers, like tides, come and go

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”.


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 on Beavers Bitter and Sweet

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.