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

Beavers in a whole new light

Posted by heidi08 On March - 21 - 2015Comments Off

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

I especially liked this one. Look at the feet:


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

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

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

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

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

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

beavers in towls 2

A wrinkle in beaver-time

Posted by heidi08 On March - 3 - 2015Comments Off

CaptureThis weekend I was working on putting together my presentation for the Salmonid Restoration Conference in Santa Rosa and thought I’d try to find some photos of the big multi-million dollar creek fix done in 1999 that everyone said the beavers threatened. Considering the fact that the work is talked about all the time, and changed our creek-scape fairly dramatically, it’s surprising that there is not a single photo of it on the internet(s). You would think Martinez would be proud of this accomplishment?

While I was looking about I came across a website discussing some OTHER work done in our creek, which is often dramatically added to the price tag of how expensive the beavers were to Martinez. The work was done in 2008 but was posted by the engineering firm in 2012. Maybe they were waiting for the dust to settle or for everyone to forget what actually happened?

I certainly never will.

CaptureProject: Alhambra Creek Beaver Dam

In 2008, litigation was brought against the City of Martinez for damage to private properties caused by beavers living in Alhambra Creek (owned by the City). Cal Engineering & Geology reviewed the site conditions and met with the City’s attorney regarding the merits of the claim.

The litigation put the City in a politically difficult position since the beavers were not a protected species but were greatly supported by the politically active environmental community group called, “Worth a Dam-Martinez”.

rIn the interest of striking a balance between nature, public interest, the City’s liability, and private property, CE&G suggested use of a sheet pile wall to both support the private properties and to act as a barrier against beaver dens extending below private properties.

Based upon conversations with a beaver expert retained by the City and the City Attorney, the sheet pile wall concept was approved.

You can understand at once why this got my full attention. Right off the bat I’m curious why this article is titled the Alhambra Creek beaver dam since even by their own definition this work had nothing to do with the dam. It had to do with the [completely fallacious] argument that they were tunneling out from their lodge like coal miners and undermining the property beside the creek. It’s surprising to see our name (or at least our name as it might appear on the internet) used. But the really interesting statement is the one in red. Exactly what beaver expert did the city confer with to hatch the sheetpile idea?

You understand. there is a sequence problem here. Obviously the city attorney isn’t routinely involved with creek maintenance. I’m sure she’s busy with abutments and ordinance challenge. Neither she nor  any expert were part of the decision which was made in some secret back room, I’m sure. The city attorney got involved when we tried to challenge their willfully misguided decision in court and failed. The beaver  expert was hired as a result of our outcry in attempt to mollify public opinion.

Credit where credit is due – the city council hatched that horrific idea all by themselves (actually I heard from several sources that one of the few members no longer on the council came up with the idea in conjunction with the disgruntled party). This member later had an ex parte conversation with  someone on the subcommittee and that member later called me saying would be no big deal to open the lid of the lodge, gently tap some sheetpile through, and then close it back up. Like a can of beans.

That terrifying  phone call followed a closed door meeting on a Thursday night. The following Friday the action was proposed, we hired an attorney, and paid a geomorphologist to walk and assess the creek on Saturday. The following week Worth A Dam went to court and our request for a temporary restraining order was denied. If the whole thing wasn’t burned into my memory, it would be helpful to look at the blow by blow available on this website. Next wednesday the entire proposal was approved and retained and I was invited to participate on a citizen oversight committee that would have zero capacity for oversight of any kind. I declined and left the meeting in tears.

City Approves All Resolutions

Including the exemption from CEQA. Bids for the work open at 11 tomorrow. Sheet pile will be driven through the beavers lodge. Council responded to comments for citizen inclusion with an offer to set up an oversight committee including Worth A Dam, but then discussed it with the attorney and city engineer who advised that any oversight body could not make decisions, slow decisions or influence them in any way. I declined to participate under those conditions.

 Supporters were in tears at the meeting’s end, including myself. Gary Bogue offers his condolences and wisdom.

Ahh Gary, we miss you. Sniff.

Dear Readers:

In other words, the city invited beaver lovers to sit on an oversight committee … that had no oversight. That kind of says what this is all about, doesn’t it?

 The city now plans to charge ahead on their “emergency bank stabilization,” causing a MAJOR impact on the beavers’ environment and their home … and of course on the beavers themselves.

 I guess we’re going to find out how tough those little guys are, whether we (or they) like it or not.

P1070029That was easily the darkest hour in beavertown, maybe of my life because I felt so personally responsible for failing to avert the decision that I believed would kill them. But Gary was right, we did find out how tough our beavers were. Pretty dam tough is the answer. Every beaver survived and adapted pretty well to the intrusion.

The whole thing introduced an element of freedom to how politely constrained I needed to be in dealing with the city. Up until then, I felt my hands were tied by always feeling obligated to assume they meant well. Now I understand better whose interests they really serve. After the shock and heartbreak wore off, the clarity was truly liberating. With the benefit of hindsight I can look at my remarks and Gary’s remarks and think they probably had something to do with this creative narrative:

Additionally, the beaver expert, who monitored construction at all times and had the authority to stop work, was satisfied with the project.

P1070035I’m so glad that our website was able to put together enough information so that Cal Engineering would know intimately how to lie about in their post. We tried not to leave anything out. I’m rankled that they are offering this whole dangerous charade as an example of their environmental engineering. Although to be fair, I’m not mad at CE, they were just getting paid. I’m mad at the liars and schemers who used the excuse of the beavers as a way to turn a legal award from an old oil spill into a personal flood protection barrier for one property owner.

But that’s all blood under the bridge, now.

Funny thing, it turned out the only thing really being undermined in this whole process was my faith in the city. But no amount of sheetpile will repair that.

In the end, they won the battle. But beavers won the war.cooper crane

Sometimes traffic can do what trapping cannot

Posted by heidi08 On February - 25 - 2015Comments Off

CaptureDam shame: Bike path beaver may have bitten the dust

THEO DOUGLAS The Bakersfield Californian 

 The body of a large paddle-tailed rodent was found early Tuesday in the traffic lanes of southbound Mohawk Street north of Truxtun Avenue, suggesting Bakersfield’s fabled bike path beaver — scourge of local saplings — may have died.

 Exact identification will be difficult for although the decedent appeared in excellent condition, conclusively proving its origin will be nearly impossible for obvious reasons.

 Its time in these parts may date back about 15 years, according to residents who have told The Californian they remembered it in the southwest before the Park at Riverwalk was built.

 A relatively harmonious co-existence with city officials and bike path users was shattered in 2007, when — for reasons best known to itself — the bike path beaver quickly downed nine trees, causing $4,500 in damage near Riverwalk.

 California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials issued a kill permit after an appeal from city officials — then relented after residents called for a stay of execution.

 Instead, city officials made plans to ship the animal off to Tehachapi, and wrapped 20 Riverwalk tree trunks in orange construction mesh — which, you know, sticks in the teeth.

 ”Isn’t that a sad thing? We get a little rain and the little guy comes out and he gets hit. He was too happy,” said Revelo, who offered to pay to have the animal stuffed and donated to a local museum.

In every possible way Bakersfield has eschewed education on the topic of beavers. They wrapped trees with plastic fencing and now claim the damage of a lone beaver spanned over 15 years. After gunning for him over the course of three presidential terms, Bakersfield believes it was finally run over on the highway. And a generous lawyer has kindly offered to stuff it and put it in a museum.

Mighty white of you, Bakersfield.

Of course WE can look at the calendar and see that it’s February and know that means dispersal month. We know that this was never a single beaver but a family. And some two year old disperser was heading out to seek his own territory and was hit by a car, which apparently surprises people every single time it happens. But we know it happens a lot.

Just think how surprised they’ll be when the ‘ghost’ of the bike path beaver starts chewing those new trees!


Thanks to Robin from Napa who painstakingly filled in the dates on this, we now can see exactly what happened to beaver trapping in California over the last 65 years.

real list

Total Beaver Trapping Take in California (Does not include depredation)

And they wrote back her query with this blow by blow.

  •   Beaver reintroductions occurred from 1923-1949.
  • In 1939, legislation was passed to allow for control of beavers where they interfered with infrastructure.
  • In 1950, the counties within the Sacramento and San Joaquin valley were opened to year-round beaver trapping.
  • In 1955, the California Fish and Game Commission to institute a quota system for the take of beaver in northern counties and on the east side of the Sierra.
  • In 1956, the quotas were lifted from the counties opened in 1955.
  • In 1957, the beaver was classified as a furbearing mammal and provisions for their take when found to be damaging crops or property were instituted (FGC §4180, 4181).
  • In 1958, some Sierra Nevada counties were opened to beaver trapping.
  • In 1959, Inyo, Mono and Siskiyou counties were opened to trapping.

And from 1960 onwards trapping went down and depredation became the drug of choice. Which brings us to where we are today when the vast majority of beaver deaths go uncounted and unreported and we have no idea how many we kill ever year.

And no idea what effect these beavers could have on our salmon and water storage if they were allowed to live.

Back to reality

Posted by heidi08 On February - 24 - 2015Comments Off

Coming back from the conference one is left with this beaver haze. There are follow-up emails and last minute touches from people who wanted to say something appreciative but couldn’t find time in the moment. There are last minute ideas and connections. There’s a sense that, finally, everyone understands beaver value, and we are living in the golden age of beavers.

And then there you see things like this and come crashing back to earth.

Beaver problems in pond dams

 Oklahoma State University- Not only do they build their own, but beavers can cause significant structural damage to pond dams.  Dam problems can turn into big problems.

 “The typical Oklahoma farm pond dam was built with too narrow of a top and is too steep sided,” said Marley Beem, Oklahoma State Univesrity Cooperative Extension aquaculture specialist. “Such ponds are at high risk of failing when animals burrow into the dam.”

“First, I would recommend calling USDA Wildlife Services to see if they might be able to send out a trapper,” Elmore said. “Beaver are not too difficult to trap if you have a little experience. But, if you miss them in a trap, they are very tough to get, so you need to get them on the first try.”

 If Wildlife Services cannot help, pond owners can take matters into their own hands by trapping or night shooting.

 “I advise shooting, as the only legal trap a private landowner can use is a leg hold trap in a drowning set, which is a little tricky,” he said. “Night shooting works well but you will need to call the county conservation officer and/or sheriff to let them know what you are doing.”

 Using a shotgun is preferred and is much safer when shooting at water. Once the pest has been eradicated, repairs to the pond dam can commence.

Better hurry and get rid of them pesky beaver, you wouldn’t want them sticking around and improving the fish and birds on your property would you? How nice of the University system to offer advice for how to kill them. Higher education at its finest.

Honestly, why does Oklahoma even have a university anyway? They’re clearly aren’t capable of learning new things about beavers.

Marc Murrell: Leave it to ‘Big’ Beaver

Mark Brannock, 51, has been trapping in northeast Kansas since his days growing up in Perry. He admits that trapping for him isn’t necessarily about the money when he sells his furs, but a tie to conservation and simply a way of life passed on from previous generations.

 “My biggest beaver ever was 72 pounds,” said Mark Brannock, 51, an avid furharvester who grew up in Perry. “I caught one this year almost as big and he was 71 pounds.”

 Beavers don’t normally get quite that big.

 “I’d say the average adult beaver weighs between 40 and 55 pounds and those are 3-plus years old,” said Matt Peek, furharvesting program coordinator for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. “One that big into the 70’s isn’t uncommon, but it’s atypical and that’s definitely towards the bigger end of what trappers are likely to run across.

 “Beavers can get to over 100 pounds, but I don’t ever recall ever seeing one that big from Kansas,” Peek added.

There’s no shortage of beavers in the Sunflower State. They’re found in greatest numbers in the eastern part of the state as one might guess — that’s where most of the water is located. Peek admits the beaver population is generally good in those locations based on annual harvest data and damage complaints.

“They’re particularly fond of the same types of trees we are in a lot of cases, especially in suburban areas where people have nice, ornamental trees,” Peek said. “The beavers prefer to cut these down, rather than other undesirable species like cedar or hedge or locust.

 “And maybe the bigger issue is most Kansas beavers don’t build a lodge and they live in bank dens so they can cause some problems with dams (bank erosion, etc.) and then the other problem is flooding and they can back up a lot of water in places in agricultural fields and flood different areas that landowners don’t wish to have flooded,” he added.

 Kansas beavers don’t have a lot of natural predators, other than humans.

 “Coyotes and bobcats will take them if they can get them on land, particularly the younger ones,” Peek said. “Or if a creek goes dry they’re pretty susceptible to predation from those two.”

 Beavers, like many species of wildlife, are fairly short-lived animals.

 “Most of them don’t make it beyond two years, but those that do are capable of living to 10-12 years or more,” Peek said.

Leave it to Kansas and Oklahoma to provide the reality check we need after a beaver conference that seemed to suggest that everyone has learned the things they need to know. Apparently Marc has been killing them so long he has concluded they only live for two years. That is a stunning bit of self-prophecy isn’t it?

Do you know when we were just starting out with beavers, before the beaver subcommittee even formed, the pretend expert who tried to tell our city all about them (Mary Tappel) told the the Gazette that they could breed for FIFTY years. I called the editor in alarm and asked whether that was a typo. He insisted it w as not and called Mary back to verify. At that time Mary was supposed to testify to the subcommittee, and ‘help’ answer our questions,  but after that drama she decided we were too challenge-y and only met privately with city staff to spread her lies.

It all happened such a long time ago I practically forgot until I was talking to someone at the conference about it. Water under the bridge I guess. Anyway a trapper saying they never live longer than two years because I kill them myself is much more accurate. And I for one believe HIS story, don’t you?

Speaking of scientific errors,  there’s a new illustrated book on the subject that Robin sent my way. And the artist chose a wonderful illustration for correlation not being the same as causation that I know you’ll admire. Thanks Robin!

bad argument beaver


Trapping vs Depredation

Posted by heidi08 On February - 23 - 20152 COMMENTS

Yesterday was a lovely day of post conference glow, but now it is monday and the ominous week awaits us all. There is never enough time to do all the things for beavers that we imagine. Yesterday I poured my free time into puzzling over the trapping records which were meticulously maintained since 1950. I got thinking about it listening to Mike Settell’s presentation about trapping in Idaho.

CaptureYou see, fur-bearer trappers have to report their take of species by county at the end of the season. And Fish and Game has been compiling these records back since 1950. They have to also indicate how many of the furs they sold and for what price. Over the years the very most lucrative fur has been muskrat, with a decade of interest in bobcat as well. Beaver prices have never been worth much, varying in price from a high of 21 in 1980 to a low of 4 in 1970.

If we were to take these beaver trapping records and plot them on a graph they would look like fairly steady slope downwards. There were 1686 beaver reported trapped the year I was born and only 60 last year. Now you might be thinking, wow that’s great! Less beaver killed! But you’d be wrong. Because while trapping has gone down, depredation has gone UP.

It is illegal to sell fur after depredation. And you can imagine that the rugged outdoorsy trapping has gone down as we’ve become more urbanized. Clearly the conflicts with landowners has gone up as we moved into every nook and cranny of wild space.Theoretically the two systems are independent and have different unredeeming qualities For example, there is no limit of ‘take’ on beaver so you could trap all you want. But there is a limit to ‘depredation’ and you can only kill what you have permission to remove.  However, when you trap there is at least some record of how many were killed because you need to report what you took and where it was from, whereas no one has to report their totals in beaver depredation at all. Trapping records, such as they are; are public and online. They are fairly comprehensively organized by county and species. Depredation permits are private, hard to access and cryptically maintained.

In fact, I would argue that depredation is the vast black hole into which our beaver resources are being poured today.They disappear and no one records the loss. Robin and I will be working on a spread sheet of the declining trapping business on beavers, but here is a little taste of the numbers.

CA trapping

You can see the pattern fairly clearly here. The big surprises for me were the numbers taken in specific counties. The year I was born  there were a whopping 96 beaver trapped in Contra Costa County. The 60 year record goes to Plumas county with 282 beaver trapped in 1955. Butte county is a consistent high water mark regardless of year, Stanislaus and Sacramento are high until depredation takes over.

The shocker to me came in the very first record for 1950. when it reports an impossible 182 beavers were trapped in Riverside county in Southern California. The arid region boasts .3 square miles of water. And zero depredation permits in our last accounting. There are minimal numbers of beavers all the years since. So where does this boom come from? I can only conclude it’s a data entry error. Riverside is right next to Plumas in the list, and Plumas often has large numbers. So that’s probably what happened.

Unless there was a beaver invasion in Southern California in the 50′s?



Talking about beavers

Posted by heidi08 On February - 15 - 2015Comments Off

Beaver-in-Knapdale_eating-c-Steve-Gardner-660x496Knapdale scientists to discuss beaver studies

People interested in hearing about studies of Knapdale’s famous beavers are being invited to attend an event in Argyll next week.

The beavers were released in May 2009 by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland on land managed by Forestry Commission Scotland as part of the five-year Scottish Beaver Trial.

And a series of independent scientific research projects were carried out into the effects of the beavers on the area during the trial, which finished in May of last year.

Dr Martin Gaywood, of Scottish Natural Heritage, who managed the independent scientific monitoring of the trial, said: “We’re keen to bring local people up-to-date on the studies that have been carried out over the last five years.

 “There are some interesting and quite surprising results and this is a one-off opportunity to hear about them from the scientists themselves

Don’t you wish you could be there? I love that they’re taking the results straight to the public and starting the conversation. Of course I and Derek Gow and Paul and Louise Ramsey can’t be there because we’ll be in Oregon presenting at the Beaver Conference! In fact I actually present on the same day! Do you know what that means? They’re 8 hours ahead so for an entire 16 hours over the span of 6000 miles the people will be talking and learning about beavers.More if you count the days before and after! The planet will hum with beavers!

Isn’t that awesome?

Beavers causing headaches for Berrien Co. residents

Bad news for beavers in Berriens county Georgia, which is just a little above Florida. Our retired librarian friend BK says the region is very flat, with lots of beaver problems. Apparently when they rip out one beaver dam the road gets flooded. Say, I’ve got an idea for them! (Don’t rip it out)

Some of you might remember that Berrien county is the home of the beaver-kill tail contest that upset me so much I sent a pack of children’s beaver drawings to the commissioners many years ago. They were from our very first Earth Day event. I even had a friend of a friend in the state send them so it would look like they were coming from constituents. It did no good at all but it made me feel better. Apparently they are still up to their old tricks.

Also there must be PLENTY of alligators to keep their beavers in check!, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Too bad that culvert fence isn’t a trapezoid- or fenced on bottom, because you know beavers will be incorporating it into their dam soon.

Now I thought yesterday there needed to be a better graphic for a beaver conference. And I’m happy with this one.

the gathering

Beaver Art, Craft and Vandalism

Posted by heidi08 On February - 13 - 2015Comments Off

Ohhh whew. Thank goodness the heroes at Trout Unlimited got rid of those pesky cheerleaders just in time for the football team to arrive at the party. You know how much they hate hanging out with each other.

Capture1Tell me when fishermen are going to stop removing beaver dams as if they were water condoms, blocking the creek’s manly flows? I was alerted to this article from Joe Wheaton who was alerted by Chris Jordan of NOAA, so you know much smarter minds are trying to change this stubborn behavior. Apparently with little success in our middle states.

Much better article this morning from Manila of all places…

 Beavers, ecosystem engineers

Previously their dams are obliterated by dynamite and bulldozers because of causing flooding, but now they are becoming respected as a defense against the withering effects of a warmer and drier climate. They raise the water table alongside a stream, aiding the growth of trees and plants that stabilize the banks and prevent erosion. They improve fish and wildlife habitat and promote new rich soil. And most importantly beaver dams do what all dams do: hold back water that would otherwise drain away.

The beaver is famed for its industriousness and its building skills. Beavers burrow in the banks of rivers and lakes. But they also transform less suitable habitats by building dams. As a family moves into new territory, the beavers drop a large tree across a stream to begin a new dam, which creates a pond for their home called lodge. They cover it with sticks, mud and stones. As the water level rises behind the dam, it submerges the entrance to their lodge, which makes entry nearly impossible for any other animal. By constructing dams they create wetlands – lush environment which host a variety of animals, fish, birds, frogs and other creatures.

And why is it that people in the Philippines know why we should coexist with beaver but people in North America don’t? Well, I guess we should just be grateful and not speculate on whether it’s easier to admire beavers when you don’t actually have to deal with them plugging your culverts.

This morning I heard from Suzanne Fouty that she is coming to the state of the beaver conference and looking forward to my talk! I’m so excited! She said she was coming in 2011 but got tied up with another job. Then said 2013 but that didn’t work. Then she and Jari Osborne of the beaver documentary talked about coming to the beaver festival last year and that didn’t work out either.  Fingers crossed she and I will finally get to meet in person in five days time! In this clip she’s carrying the  backpack on the right.

Finally a smile sent by Rusty from Napa, whom you should all be getting ready to welcome because he’s taking over website duties while I’m in Oregon. (Thank you very much!) Now I would find this comic very witty IF I hadn’t already seen Dad beaver personally do that when kits brought wood to the dam. He’d let them enthusiastically stick it in any which way, appear to approve, watch them swim away and then very quietly move it to the proper place.  :-)