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

Beavers make Strange Bedfellows

Posted by heidi08 On July - 27 - 20142 COMMENTS

Let’s start with a word from duck hunters. Now everyone I’ve shared this with has reacted with a “let the ducks live” remark, but you have to realize the pragmatic value of articles like this. Right now we need ALL the beaver supporters we can muster, so if people let them be because they want more fish to catch or ducks to shoot, we should realize that they’re still allies. Beavers make strange bedfellows.

Ducks in Small Places

Matt Gnatkowski

 One of the best friends of hunters who like to hunt ducks in small places is the beaver. Industrious beavers create a lot of ponds and sloughs that make for perfect out-of-the-way duck habitat. Mallards, wood ducks and black ducks like using the flooded timber created by beavers. To find these duck hotspots you need to scout constantly. Keep track of where you see beaver activity during grouse hunting trips, during the bow or rifle deer seasons or when snowmobiling, and make it a point to visit them during the waterfowl season. If ducks aren’t using the ponds when you arrive, wait until evening. Many times the birds will be off feeding elsewhere and return to roost on the pond toward evening. The sky can be full of birds as the sun slips behind the horizon.

 Wildlife biologists can steer you toward areas that have high beaver numbers. Talk to hunters, trappers and anglers who might be able to lead you to beaver ponds. If practical, you might want to even rent an airplane for a short jaunt around areas of beaver activity to pinpoint ponds. Beavers can create a lot of small-water duck havens in a short period of time. Where there was only a trickle of water today can be a pond of several acres tomorrow. And it won’t take long for the ducks to find it.

Let’s face it. Duck hunters have more powerful friends then we do. They have magazines and sponsors and legislation and fawning politicians. And would it be so horrible if more duck hunters made the intuitive leap to realize that fewer beavers mean fewer ducks? No, it would not. I realized when I read Three Against the Wilderness that wise hunters and trappers could be among our best allies -  once they got the message. And in order for that to happen we need to stop being mortified enough to talk to them.

Consider this website de-mortification training.

(It’s a strange thing to be realizing in the same day that duck hunters help beavers and the Nature Conservancy kills them. But there it is. Life is full of surprises.)

On to Whidby Island in Washington State where so many folks are fond of beavers they don’t know what to do with them.

A beaver lodge sits at the southern edge of Miller Lake, about 30 yards from a beaver dam. Lake levels are on the rise, and along with other impacts, are raising concern among South Whidbey residents.
— image credit: Justin Burnett / The Record

 Whidbey’s beaver population: residents chew on problem, seek county help

 “When there’s nature and people, you have to come up with solutions,” Kay said.

 In some cases, however, beavers have won friends. A population at Miller Lake is credited with vastly expanding the lake, but also creating water views. For Bob Olin, the edge of his backyard that borders the lake was once dominated by poplar and willow trees. They are all now long gone.

 “There were 10,000 of them right out there,” said Olin, motioning to his backyard.  “No, I’m quite happy with the beaver,” he added.

 Jamie Hartley, critical areas planner for Island County, said county code defers to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for its guidelines. The state allows residents to shoot or relocate beavers as a last resort to other types of mitigations, including the installation of culverts or beaver deceivers.

Steve Erickson, with the Whidbey Environmental Action Network, said that shooting or trapping the occasional beaver is not going to really impact the population. However, farmers need to learn to deal with changing conditions and coexist with the beaver population.

 “The idea of a pretty farm where it’s all static and never going to change is a fantasy,” Erickson said. “People are going to need to change the way they are dealing with nature and work with it.”

 And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Washington is the most beaver-intelligent state in the nation – maybe world. Apropos of nothing, the beaver friendly Whiby website “Tidallife” has our website in their blogroll and it’s how we get a significant number of visitors every month.

Now back to Devon, where musician Adrian Forester has this to say about the River Otter beavers.

CaptureI’m trying a new spam filter on comments this morning, and it appears to be working. Every day we get about 20 comments that I have to weed through from spam-bots telling me to buy sexual aids or that my site could get more hits if I did X.

Help me try it out by leaving a comment, will you?

Every day, from here to there, Beaver things are everywhere.

Posted by heidi08 On July - 24 - 2014Comments Off

There is glorious news this morning, but before we appreciate its warm glow we need to pay attention to this bit of horrific gristle from Calgary. Mind you this is about 300 miles south of renown beaver researcher Dr. Glynnis Hood, 400 miles west of experienced flow device-installer Adrien Nelson and Fur-Bearer Defenders, and 500 miles north of beaver management expert Amy Chadwick of Montana. Calgary is surrounded by intelligence, but it apparently just isn’t sinking in.

Animal lover furious after beaver found trapped in Calgary park

CALGARY- An animal lover who came across a disturbing scene in a popular park has gone straight to the city to complain.

 Linda Lelonde says she and her husband were walking in Fish Creek Park on Tuesday evening, when they came across a beaver struggling in a trap.

 “I just happened to see the beaver laying in the grass in the ditch, and I said to my husband ‘something’s wrong, his tail is flapping.’”

 A jogger happened to come by moments later, and that’s when they realized the animal was in trouble.

 “[He] came up and was horrified, and told us [the beaver] was biting off his leg and was basically bleeding to death,” Lalonde remembers.

It’s not known if the beaver survived, as it was not in the trap when city workers showed up to collect it.

Why are city workers checking the trap anyway? Isn’t that the trappers job? Are you saying the city workers set the trap? That’s a horrifying thought. No offense, but I would have night mares if someone gave public works in Martinez a conibear. Are there any trapping regulations in Alberta at all? The article goes on to say that the beaver was blocking the culvert and baby strollers could have been blocked on the path if they didn’t do something. No, they didn’t think of installing a culvert protection fence, why do you ask?

The good news is that it was a sufficiently horrifying demonstration of trapping that folks are upset and there are many comments and a lot of interest in alternatives with the article. Keep at it Calgary. You’ll get there if enough people worry about their pets to push for change. And when your ready to change, we’ll help you get started.

Speaking of which, this new film of Urban Beavers was made by Daniel Pinker, Americorp intern for the Gresham Department of Environmental Services, just east of Portland. danielsDaniel wrote me a while ago asking if I might be willing to share footage of urban beavers for a film he was working on about beavers in cities. I’m sure you can guess what I answered.

This is an excellent place for my footage to be, but I had to fight waves of territorial reflex when I first watched it, especially dad coming over the primary with kit, and the tiny kit glimpsed in 2012. (They were such emotional moments after mom died!)

But it’s impossible (even for me) not to share with such an enormously pro-beaver message. This is really effective work. I only wish the film specifically said “Cities can live with beavers, in fact all the images you are watching happen to be  from one smart city that DID”.  I want this played at every city council meeting along the pacific states. And Daniel was very nice to add this.
more creditIt’s 1,274 miles from Calgary to Martinez. But you spanned the distance  this morning with a few short sentences.

Thank goodness we got those beavers out!

Posted by heidi08 On July - 20 - 20146 COMMENTS

Trout restoration pays off in Oxford’s Barber’s Hollow Brook

Environmental consultant Glenn E. Krevosky measures the water temperature of Barber’s Hollow Brook near Prince Road in Oxford. (T&G Staff/PAUL KAPTEYN)

OXFORD — The 13, 3-inch Eastern brook trout swimming at the bottom of the bucket provided all the proof he needed.

 Eight months ago Glenn E. Krevosky of EBT Environmental Consultants Inc. knelt beside a stone-faced, groundwater-fed incubator he built off Prince Street, and placed 400 Eastern brook trout eggs into a gravel nest.

 Mr. Krevosky said he was fortunate that the one obstacle he didn’t have to face was the work of beavers in creating impoundments that would slow the stream flow, raise the water temperature and reduce clarity.

 ”The stream temperature is constant and the reduced flow is to be expected during the summer months. A stream temperature that doesn’t spike from the heat of summer storm road runoff, and a steady flow across a gravel and cobble stream bottom are essential for trout,” he said.

 He explained that in addition to temperature and sediment concerns from storm runoff, Barber’s Hollow Brook water quality for coldwater fish species had become compromised by beaver dams and invasive aquatic plant species.

Thank goodness Mr. K. was able to hatch those fish without all those pesky beaver dams around. Now the fry will have plenty of fin-room to swim around in – certainly there won’t be as many of those award multi-legged BUGS taking up their space.

One  wonders what the precious fish will eat?

But never mind. Mr. K. is committed to his beaverless streams and his factless theories. He’s so committed that I’ve written him two other times in the past six years. The first was in 2009 when he was famously referenced as an expert in the great case of the “invasive purple loosestrife” – for which he blamed (who else) beavers.

Trouble is, no one really wants to eat it, it’s hard to pull up, it survives horrific conditions, and it ruins things for the shoreline critters. There’s some effort to introduce a beetle that is controlling it naturally (how could that possibly go wrong?) but in the mean time, guess who the great state of Massachusetts has decided to blame?


Remember, this is a state that outlawed cruel traps in 1996, and has been whining about it since the moment the bill was signed.  Massachusetts bemoans the change and says that their population has increased by 60,000 beavers since the law was passed.

Are you following me? Because there are more beavers, there are more wetlands, and (insert horror music here) more pernicious purple loosestrife!

Goodness I have been in this beaver biz a long time. I can’t believe I recognized him right away. I wonder if Mr. Krevosky knows about me? Or if I have any kind of starring role in his nightmares? Well, he abandoned the loosestrife meme fairly quickly, and marched boldly into water temperature by 2013. I actually wrote one of my favorite  columns EVER about it.

Urban Legends of Beavers

 Do you remember that story, back in fourth of fifth grade, you heard at a sleepover with friends? Two of the friends you had known since 2nd grade but one girl was someone else’s friend, or neighbor, or cousin and she was rumored to have slightly more street cred on account of her parents were divorced, or her mother had died, or her brother was in jail. And when the last pizza had been eaten and all the lights were out and you were huddled in sleeping bags on the living room rug or the back yard, she started with that spooky story in that absolutely chilling and unforgettable voice:

 “Who stole my golden arm?”

 And of course, even at 10, you knew the story was impossible and that ghosts weren’t real and that even if they were people don’t ever make arms out of solid gold, and you might have mumbled so all the way through at intervals but once Elvira leaped from the grave and shouted “YOU GOT IT!” and that terrifying story was over you couldn’t wait to think about who you were going to tell it to next. All the other kids must have too because pretty soon the story was all over school and was starting to get little adjustments, like the woman had been murdered for her golden arm, or it was actually a golden leg. It was a self-reproducing meme that was perpetuating itself like a virus through the primary grades. And even today, just saying the words has a kind of ring to it, and you can remember something of that chill. And it doesn’t matter whether its true, because its not that kind of story.

 Which brings us naturally to the topic of beaver dams, water temperature and fish.

I like writing about beavers best when I can figure out a way to make the topic seem absolutely relevant to your life. Then after a nice populist intro I can throw in the science I need to back it up and wrap the whole thing up with a bow. That column I buttressed with Michael Pollock’s breathtaking graphs on stream temperature and hyporheic exchange at beaver dams. I guess Mr. K. never read it. Or read it with his eyes closed.

I’m reminded of the quote at the end of Rick Lanman’s emails.

“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.”
- Thomas Paine

 Just remember, the arc of ecology is long, but it bends towards beavers.

Goofus and Gallant – Beaver Version

Posted by heidi08 On July - 18 - 2014Comments Off

Do you remember those days at the dentist reading Highlights as a kid? There was a cartoon describing a boy who did things right, and one who got everything wrong? (Before you ask, there were no girls at all, because we obviously weren’t important enough to have moral development).

I couldn’t help but think of that looking at this mornings beaver news from Canada. Let’s start with Goofus from (where else) Saskatchewan.

Red Willow Run and the need for beaver management

A combination of excess rains and beaver dams letting go led to a large mass of water flowing through the Red Willow Run in the northeast of Moose Mountain Provincial Park territory, which affected not only parkland but farmland and roads further down the run in the R.M. of Wawken.

Weatherald says there used to be trappers in the area who dealt with beaver east of Hwy 9 for the park, but that beaver management in this area hasn’t been a priority lately. The trappers who used to work in this area are mostly too old for the work and younger generations are not picking it up, which seems to be a trend in trapping.

Not only are those poor trappers too old to work. They are obviously  too old to LEARN. Just a thousand miles west they are a a lot smarter about beaver management.

Trying to get along with neighbours

Not far from a spot where a beaver toppled a tree on to a power line, sparking a brush fire last summer, four volunteers work to ensure the industrious rodents can’t chew through another pine.

They’ve spent the morning behind a townhouse complex which abuts Kanaka Creek wrapping trees with wire to protect them from a family of beavers.

“Coexistence is the new strategy,” says Leslie Fox, the executive director of the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals.

 The “Fur Bearer Defenders” were called in after several trees nibbled by the semi-aquatic animals fell on to townhouses.

 Instead of calling a trapper, the strata opted for a more humane approach. “I think trapping’s days are numbered,” said Fox.  “One of the things we’ve noticed with trapping is the conflict it causes in the urban environment.

“What ends up happening is people’s pets get caught. It doesn’t solve the problem and it creates a danger for people who live near [the traps].”

But maybe you’re thinking, sure that’s fine for protecting trees. But what about the real problems beavers cause? Like flooding and blocked culverts?

Mission, like many other municipalities, had a long history of manually breaking apart dams, as well as trapping and killing beavers.

 But since last year, Mission has embraced methods that prevent beavers from building a dam in the first place.

 Besides tree cages and pipes in dams, Mission has also been building wire fences around culvert intakes, to interrupt the beavers’ natural instinct to build where there’s current and the sound of flowing water.

 Dale Vinnish, the public works operations supervisor told Black Press last year, the devices “work awesome.”

 “We don’t have to trap beavers. They moved elsewhere. They’re not causing a problem,” Vinnish said.

 The “beaver deceivers,” at $400-$600 apiece and built in one day, save the District of Mission thousands of dollars, because workers no longer have to pull apart dams.

 Previously, the municipality would break down two to three dams daily, several days a week, in addition to paying for the capturing and killing of about a dozen beavers annually.

And that’t the beaver version of Goofus and Gallant, which if you’re lucky is coming to a country near you soon. For our readers following along at home, which story do you like better? Who do you think is doing better  on the graph below?learning curve


Three New Obstacles to DEFRA’s Plan

Posted by heidi08 On July - 16 - 2014Comments Off


Wild beaver kits born in Devon’s River Otter

 A wild beaver which is due to be taken into captivity has given birth to three young. Two adult beavers, one juvenile and the three young, known as kits, are now believed to be living on the River Otter in Devon.

 The government had said the beavers would be rehomed, as they could be carrying a disease.

 But wildlife campaigners said they hoped to get permission for them to stay. Sightings of the animals in the River Otter were believed to be the first of their kind for centuries.

 What great timing! This whole escapade has a perfectly timed campaign-air to it. First make international news everywhere by getting a farmer to film beavers for the first time in centuries and then – just when DEFRA has argued that they need to be taken to the zoo, release video of the new KITS. Which will go viral very quickly. I can’t embed it but click on the photo to go to the BBC site and see for yourself.

I feel like this could mean something – not for DEFRA obviously because they’re soulless badger killers, but for the public campaign to tie DEFRA’s hands.  If I were an English beaver supporter I’d put this footage EVERYWHERE and install 5 more cameras to get more adorable glimpses into beaver life.

I think at the moment the scoreboard looks like this.


Seems DEFRA hasn’t forgotten it’s sinister lines yet…

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs said the animals could be carrying a disease “not currently present in the UK”.

 ”We are taking precautionary action by testing the beavers,” a spokesman said.

 ”This will be done with their welfare in mind.”

 He added the department would wait until the kits were a suitable age before testing them.

Call the WAAmbulance! More beavers hurting fish.

Posted by heidi08 On July - 11 - 20141 COMMENT

Hermosa Creek restoration to help native cutthroat trout

The Five Rivers chapter of Trout Unlimited is soliciting volunteers to help with a cutthroat trout restoration project Saturday on Hermosa Creek behind Purgatory.

The work involves restoring disturbed areas around the fish barrier built last fall on the East Fork of Hermosa Creek. Volunteers also will breach beaver dams and perhaps install “beaver deceiver” devices to stabilize flows.

 While cutthroat thrive on the upper end of the East Fork, non-native species have taken hold in the lower end and in other Hermosa Creek tributaries.

 Beaver dams harbor refuges for non-native species.

Let’s pretend, for the sake of argument, that you’re actually right. And that beaver dams make big hidey holes for non-native species. Let’s pretend we could go INSIDE those holes, under the water, and look around to see the bad bass and wrong kind of trout lurking next to all that woody debris. Terrible.

What’s that? Right beside them? Oh that would be the NATIVE SPECIES which also are sheltered in a beaver pond. In fact they are MORE adapted to the area because they evolved with beaver for millions of years and understand conditions and passages. One might even say the ponds are a REFUGE for them. Certainly during the dry summers. And the frozen winters. And all the days in between.

But why use logic. Just rip out the beaver dams. I’m sure that will make everything better. Well it will make everything drier. That’s good for cutthroat trout, right?

Protecting Banks from Money…

Posted by heidi08 On July - 10 - 2014Comments Off

Campaign to keep Devon’s beavers from being evicted

Yet despite this, the apparently thriving beavers on the River Otter are being handed an eviction notice. Last week Defra announced it would round up the errant beavers.

 “There are no plans to cull beavers. We intend to recapture and rehome the beavers and are currently working out plans for the best way to do so,” Defra said in a statement.

 The stated reason for their decision is that the beavers, if introduced from an eastern European country, could be carrying an undesirable tape worm.

 The tape worm called Echinococcus multilocularis is a nasty parasite, mainly if you’re a fox or a coyote. In North America and Central Europe, where it is endemic predators, can pick it up from rodents like mice. The worm slowly works its way into organs like the liver and can, if left untreated, kill. Very rarely it infects humans.

However, all the beavers imported into England are from Norway or Bavaria where the parasite isn’t found.

Wildlife groups say the parasite is a smokescreen for a government acting in haste to placate a well connected angling lobby that is opposed to the animals returning.

 For their part anglers told Channel 4 News they have nothing against beavers themselves, its their impact on England’s poor-quality rivers that must be avoided.

 “Beavers could have lots of benefits for rivers, like bringing in woody debris,” said Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust. “But our rivers have other problems like low flow, pollution and habitat damage. But by putting in barriers to fish migration right now beavers bring more minuses than pluses.”

That’s right, the fishermen of England have drawn a line in the sand and said, we’ll put up with concrete and pollution and shopping malls but dammit! We won’t tolerate beavers! Milling about and mucking our damaged creeks doing who knows what to our migrating salmonids.

How many times have I written that protecting fish from beavers is like protecting banks from money? A million?

Just because some crazy American (and Norwegian, and Canadian, and Dutch) scientists have consistently argued that beavers have a hugely positive impact on salmonids by creating deeper pools, more food, cooler temperatures and essential habitat, never you mind. English fish are different. They’ve been without beavers for 500 years and they like it that way!

“Mis-placed concerns over fishing have superseded all of this,” said Derek Gow. “There is a huge opportunity being missed here.”

 Mr Gow had just returned from a meeting with Defra ministers about the beavers. He said he was hopeful that a way could be found for the animals to be tested for the disease but remain, under close observation, in the wild.

DEFRA wrote me and everyone else this week defending their decision and pretending not to understand why it was outrageous. They are clearly hell bent on making the broadest mistaken intervention since we went to war with Iraq. And like that botched decision this one is being fueled by yes men, ignorant advisers and bad science. And will be paid for for years to come.

If I were DEFRA I’d be very, very careful moving forward.