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

In which Henry Ford walks to work…

Posted by heidi08 On March - 28 - 2014Comments Off

UF wildlife club wins seven awards at Clemson University

Hunter Slade, a 21-year-old UF wildlife ecology and conservation senior, and Tiffany Oliver, a 20-year-old UF wildlife ecology and conservation senior, coordinated the event for the UF team.

 Slade’s pottery sculpture of a turtle received first place in free-form art.  “It was a pretty simple design, but it was painted well,” he said, attributing his success to his attention to lighting and detail in the glazing process.

 If Clemson University sounds vaguely familiar to you, it should. It was the origin of the Clemson Pond Leveler, the most widely recognized flow device and the first to really make people think beavers could be managed without trapping. The Clemson was a rigid pipe with perforations that went under the dam – it was notorious for getting plugged, costing $$ and being a bear to install. But it was the FIRST and the easiest tool to find out about on the internet. In fact, a couple from Lafayette promised to donate one to Martinez when the beavers’ fate was in question.


Which makes it all the more stunning to read this next passage:

The highlight of Oliver’s experience, she said, was a field trip that displayed nuisance-animal trapping methods and solutions.

“We got to watch a beaver dam blow up,” she said.

Just so we’re clear, the Clemson inspired the more successful designs by Skip Lisle and Mike Callahan – and their pipes designs are much easier to install and more reliable, which is why we have successfully controlled dam height for 6 years.

Although, maybe not as reliable as dynamite.


Just six pages?

Posted by heidi08 On March - 26 - 2014Comments Off

 Emily the Trapper is 26, smart, loves animals, and thinks your ideas about fur trapping are all wrong

As a 26-year-old female, Lamb is a rarity among fur trappers, but her work ethic and foul mouth quickly endeared her to colleagues. While some of the fur she harvests is sold for use in the fashion industry, she also works closely with government officials, wildlife researchers and the oil industry to help study and sustain animal populations in the wild

Lamb has always found animals beautiful. She used to spend entire afternoons sitting in the hay feeder on her family’s Sundre-area farm when she was a girl just so she could see the cows up close when they came to eat. After graduating from high school, Lamb decided she wanted to be a veterinarian or a Fish and Wildlife officer. She eventually earned a diploma in Wildlife and Forestry Conservation online, then began an internship with the Cochrane Ecological Institute.

Joining the business as an outsider was a challenge for Lamb. So was being the first and only woman in the company. “You don’t expect a girl is going to be OK with going out and killing stuff,” she told me. Lamb found the physical demands gruelling. “It’s pretty intense work,” she said. “Tearing around with 70- or 80-pound beavers in your backpack for undeterminable distances. And setting traps with poundage enough to break your arms.” There is also, of course, the locker-room talk that comes with being the sole woman in a crew of men. “Trust me, I hear about a million beaver jokes a day,” she said with a laugh. She considers the ribbing good-natured. “Obviously, I am an easy-going gal.”

This is any trapping company’s wet dream. A cute, young, sympathetic girl they can push to the front of the line to put a humane face on their ghoulish activities.  No wonder the paper dedicated 6 entire pages to her story. (No word yet on when it will run a 6 page story on beaver benefits, or the rodent rebound from trapping coyotes, or why wolves help rivers.) There’s no time for fluff pieces like that when we have a cute 26 year old voyageur to write about.

Trappers are rarely paid for these contributions. They do it because they share a common commitment to wildlife understanding and sustainability. This is something Lamb wants the public to understand. “All of us–hunters, trappers, environmentalists, tree-huggers, hippies–every one of us, in the end, wants there to be as big and as healthy a population of wildlife as possible. Period.”

The style of beaver trap Abercrombie and Lamb use is a “body-grip killing trap”–often called a Conibear trap after inventor Frank Conibear–which a beaver springs by swimming into it. The trap is powerful enough to break a person’s arm. “That’ll wreck you pretty good,” Lamb said. The Conibear’s loaded jaws will catch a beaver around the neck and fracture its spine while compressing the carotid artery in its neck. Death comes painlessly and instantaneously.2 “The animal is living his life the way he lives his life, doing what he does every day,” Lamb said. “Then he’s not.”

Why is it that if you say that beavers are good for fish or wildlife reporters have to talk to someone who thinks differently to present a balance – but if you say conibears never make wildlife suffer they just obediently write it down with a flourish? Is there nobody in Alberta who disagrees with Emily? I’m assuming from the 60+ comments that there are. Maybe you could have contacted Dr. Hood for a quote about the impact of trapping beaver on surrounding wildlife?

Furthermore, the selective trapping of overpopulated animals like beavers and coyotes sustains their numbers. Abercrombie “traps out” about half of the beaver lodges on Chip Lake. In this way, he doubles the resources available for the remaining colonies and reduces their competitive stress. “I am keeping the population at a consistent high level on the lake by employing trapping as a management tool.” Abercrombie told me that 10 years ago, without enough trapping on the lake, the beavers clear cut the trees off every island. “They literally ate themselves out of house and home.” Those that didn’t starve contracted parasitic infections due to overcrowding. Eventually, every one of Chip Lake’s 200 beavers died. Now, thanks to Abercrombie’s trapping, about 60 individuals reside on the lake, a little more than half of what he figures the area can support.

You do realize animals move locations right? I mean if they chop the trees in one lake they move to another lake while those trees are coppicing and coming back to life? If you drink all the beer in your refrigerator what do you do?  I assume there are more trees at the lake than there are in Alhambra Creek. Its been 7 years and our beavers haven’t eaten themselves out of house and home or died of tularemia. I’m surprised the Alberta beaver species must be way more greedy.

“As a trapper, this is my responsibility,” Abercrombie said. “I do it as a steward on behalf of the citizens of Alberta. I manage the fur-bearer resource in this area. That’s what trappers do. The government doesn’t do it. The animal-rights people don’t do it. We do it.”

Oh pul-eeze. I can’t stand this much selfless patriotism without a martini. I’m reminded of a certain self-justifying poem by Oscar Wilde.

And all men kill the thing they love,
By all let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!
Oscar Wilde


Let’s Pretend…

Posted by heidi08 On March - 24 - 2014Comments Off

I don’t know about you, but when I was a child I might play for hours with any classmate who started with that magical invitation. Let’s pretend we’re explorers on the moon. Let’s pretend we’re lion hunters on the Serengeti. Let’s pretend we’re butterfly princesses who run a restaurant. I was always a sucker for a good story.

So, apparently, is Nova Scotia.

It has decided to pretend that the reason it had to close Bayswater beach because of E coli this year is the result of a beaver dam across the street. No, really.


CaptureAhh those imaginative folk at the DOE! Not just imaginative, but cost-cutting! An unknown cause of E coli could mean months of study, or new toilets, or heavy fines. No one has to pay if it’s a beaver dam! Well, except for the beavers.

Can beavers carry e coli? Yes, like any other warm blooded mammal. But they have to catch it first. A local tells me that there are houses in the region that release sewage into the beach. And a fish farm near by.  I also read that 40 miles away there was an e coli outbreak this year a couple month ago that caught heat because it wasn’t released to the public for 5 days. Hmmm. Too bad they didn’t have a nearby beaver dam to blame.

Nova Scotia officials knew of E. coli outbreak 5 days before public: documents

HALIFAX — Public health officials in Nova Scotia knew they were dealing with an outbreak of E. coli five days before they informed the public about it in early January, documents obtained by The Canadian Press show.

Notes from that day’s meeting, which were released under access-to-information legislation, show that Health Department officials knew there were dealing with seven confirmed cases of E. coli 0157 affecting people ranging in age from 18 to 83.

Gosh that one little beaver dam caused a lot of problems! Thank goodness they’re going to get rid of it! But one wonders, what will they blame next summer? The birds?

Let’s have some good new after all that imaginary silliness. How about bigger megaphone for the ‘bring back beavers’ campaign in England?

Weatherwatch: Bring back the beaver!

Beavers could be one answer to many of Britain’s flooding problems. It sounds a crazy idea – after all, beavers make dams that create their own floods. But beavers build their dams on small shallow streams and rivers, and these mini-reservoirs slow down the flow of water feeding into larger rivers, which helps to cut major flooding during heavy downpours of rain.

 The problem this winter with much of the flooding was land drainage, dredging and straightening of rivers that all speeded up the flow of water into rivers and made them more likely to flood.

Not only are beavers good at protecting against floods, but they also provide cleaner water, boost fish numbers and enhance all sorts of other wildlife and also plants. And beavers have another enormously attractive advantage – at a time of severely stretched public finances their hard-work flood control work comes virtually for free.

As Louise Ramsay noted when this article came out, “Well done. I couldn’t have said it better myself!”


A tail in two cities

Posted by heidi08 On March - 15 - 2014Comments Off

Okay, there’s some significant beaver challenge to talk about this morning from Maryland, but before we brace ourselves for that bitter pill, here’s some ambrosia to start our mission.

The Awesome Things These 6 Cities Are Doing for Wildlife

With little effort, conservationists argue, cities can provide habitat for birds, butterflies, pollinators, and other creatures great and small.

When conservationists worry about the prospect of a world without wildlife, they often focus on two related developments: the sprawling growth of crowded cities and suburbs and the push to farm more land, and farm it more intensively, to feed those cities. Together, these two forces have worn the natural world down to tattered remnants.

 So it may seem contradictory to suggest that cities can also be part of the solution. But conservationists, who used to focus on protecting landscapes that were pristine and full of wildlife, now often work instead to improve the margins—to make roadsides, backyards, idle fields, and working waterfronts wildlife-friendly. They argue that with a little effort, cities can provide habitat for birds, butterflies, pollinators, and other creatures great and small. According to this line of thinking, re-wilding the cities will be better not just for wildlife but for the cities. The idea is that the metropolis is a far richer place to live—more magical even—to the extent that it is also a zoopolis.

Really! A zoopolis! Imagine how he’d feel if he walked into our festival? And  wait until you see his favorite example:

(Photo: Robert McGouey/Getty Images)

My favorite case study is New York City’s Bronx River. For much of the rest of the 20th century, the Bronx River {was} a ruin of rusting bedsprings and junked cars, along with sewage and industrial pollution. But an extensive cleanup effort by the Bronx River Alliance and other groups has restored the eight-mile-long lower river, with turtles, alewives, glass eels, great blue herons, and other species back at home there. Beavers returned in 2007—after an absence of several hundred years. City programs now focus on making the river a source of green pleasure for neighboring residents, many of them, like my great-grandfather, immigrants.

 The restored habitat is providing homes for wildlife—but it’s no doubt also producing new stories to entertain children, and to be passed down for generations. That makes the city a much richer and more magical place for everyone.

Isn’t that lovely? Richard Conniff is the author of The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth, which has been talked about everywhere including the Smithsonian. He also maintains the blog “Strange Behaviors“. He may not realize it yet but he SO needs to visit Martinez. Thanks Richard for a great look at how cities can contribute.

Now it’s off to Maryland, where contributing to wildlife is the very LAST thing on their mind.

“What they’re doing is taking what has been a public park for 77 years and turning it into a wildlife preserve,” Baker said. “You don’t allow wildlife to proliferate in your backyard. Why would you allow it in a public park?”

Destruction wrought by beavers at Buddy Attick Park

Barbara Simon, 71, said she has lived in Greenbelt for almost her entire life. The destruction she has seen the last few months at Buddy Attick Park is unlike anything she’s witnessed in the city.

She wasn’t talk about unruly teenagers or environmentally careless residents. It’s beavers who are tearing into dozens of trees and collapsing them in their wake. Simon said she and her husband, Tom, walk around the park every day and are dismayed by damage they’ve seen.

 “We’ve always had a few beavers in years’ past,” Simon said, “but I don’t remember the beavers ever being this bad.”

Yes, those wanton detructo-beavers, ruthlessly chewing down trees just so they have something to eat in the winter months. I don’t know how you can stand it. Certainly it’s not like you can wrap the trees and protect them, or paint them with sand. Or wait for them to coppice. Or plant more.

She said they volunteered with the city’s Public Works department to put bands around trees. That may have protected some trees, but dozens — maybe a hundred — have been felled.

 City Administrator Michael McLaughlin said that last fall, the Department of Public Works met with Peter Bendel, a wildlife response manager for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, to evaluate the spike in beaver activity.

 According to a report provided to the City Council, Bendel said a second, younger beaver colony at the park is likely the cause of the increased activity — due both to its proximity to the first colony, which is unusual, and to the beavers’ inexperience.

Those young beaver thugs! Moving in and chewing everything in sight. Funny how the older beaver tolerate them, I mean because beaver are territorial and all and generally kick out anyone that’s not a family member…Ohhhh. You mean these young beaver are yearlings? Living a little apart on their own before seeking their own fortune? Exactly like ours do? And chewing more and bigger trees than they need because they are teenager who want to show off? Ohh that almost never always happens.

In February, volunteers and members of Greenbelt Public Works put wire fences around trees in beaver-threatened areas. Alex Palmer, a volunteer coordinator with the Greenbelt-based environmental nonprofit Chesapeake Education, Arts and Research Society, said approximately 250 trees were caged.

 Resident Justin Baker said the city needs to do more than place wire cages around trees. Baker declined to make any specific suggestions, but said the city needs to do something to curb the beavers’ appetites.

Force the beavers to go on a diet? How do you do that? Oh I get it. The LAST diet. The one where you never, ever eat food again, and you’re sure to loose weight every single day. Well, except for maybe the first 1 or 2 where you’re soggy from being trapped  underwater.

Maryland gets a letter.

Oh and speaking of wildlife preserves, Jon saw three beavers this morning and a little skunk in the annex so it seems a great time to re-post this.

Save-everythings, Save-somes and Save-ours.

Posted by heidi08 On March - 10 - 20141 COMMENT

Lesley Fox, executive director of The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals, shows Kent council members the dangers of a Conibear trap, during a presentation discussing alternatives to trapping in urban areas.
— image credit: Jessica Peters/ OBSERVER

I would like to comment on the article “Group aims to reduce trapping,” Observer, Feb. 13, 2014.

 Leslie Fox claims that installing a pipe in a beaver dam will force the beavers to relocate. This is true, but if the beaver moves doesn’t this essentially become someone else’s problem? And should the municipality (a.k.a taxpayer) be required to pay $300-$800 for each beaver dam pipe installation when a trapper can remove the beavers at a fraction of the cost?

This is the second time I’ve read about people getting this wrong idea from FBD about what flow devices do. I’m sure Adrien or Lesley don’t actually SAY that beavers will leave, but they might leave it a little fuzzy and people fill in with their expectations. If you were going to pay money to put in this contraption, the point must be that beavers LEAVE right? Why else would you do it? They need to say SPECIFICALLY over and over that the flow device is installed so that the beavers can safely REMAIN and perform their ecosystem magic while using their naturally territorial behaviors to keep others away.

I don’t think a single person in Martinez ever had the idea that Skip’s installation would make our beavers leave. This is a misunderstanding that can clearly be avoided.

This is as good a time as any  to talk about the difference between the “Save-everythings” and Worth A Dam.  The work we both do is important, and I  respect them, but Worth A Dam is beaver-focused and FBD is beaver-inclusive. Because their focus is NO TRAPPING they might offer several alternatives, of differing qualities, with less clarity for how they work because they want people to know they have options. I am less concerned about trapping than I am about allowing beavers on our land and water scapes. And in order to do that I want to clarify alternatives and outcomes exactly.

But both of us are a separate category than the “Save-somes” who want beaver services for salmon, or drought, or frogs, without particularly caring about the animals themselves. Beavers are a means to an end for many, many of our friends, and if a particular beaver or family dies in relocation, there is always another to fill the gap.  Over the years I have been alternately heart-broken and frustrated with the “save-somes”, but I have come to peace with them for the most part. In the vast scheme of things we need the “save-everythings” and the “save-somes” to help turn the tide against beavers intolerance. There is no way to move forward without them.

Hellogoodbye 1

Kits coming and going over primary dam – Cheryl Reynolds

Worth A Dam started out as a “Save-ours” organization. It took everything we had to protect a single family of beavers in Martinez. And against may odds we did a great job. When danger was averted we transitioned to a “Save-more” organization. And at this point there isn’t a single beaver story that I’m content to end in trapping although I know many, many do. Somewhere along the way the focus shifted to education, which is a longer-term goal and less inherently disappointing. If your mission is to stop any beaver from being killed you will always face failure – but if your goal is to teach people why to do it differently, there is always a modicum of hope.

All this is to say that there is an inherent prejudice in how these three groups are treated by the powers that be. The “save-somes” get the most respect, ostensibly because they have a justifiable interest in the cause and they pragmatically don’t mind a few casualties along the way. The “save-ours” are indulgently tolerated for the most part, as an amusing child with a pet cricket that she wants to take to bed. But the “save-everythings” face the worst – reviled by the trap-friendly community, politicans who want easy answers and dismissed by the scientists out of fear of getting accused of being a supporter. Their path is very stony.

I first became aware of this divide from beaver contact Jake Jacobsen who was the watershed steward for Snomish County in Washington. He was one of the early installers of flow devices. We were in contact for many years before he retired. One day he idly sent me a short video taken of blowing up a beaver dam. I was more tender-hearted in those days and was pretty icked and said so. He wrote back “that I should be able to laugh at these things. I shouldn’t act upset or people would accuse me of being a hugger“.

This really surprised me at the time. Would I have worked as hard to save our beavers as I did if I wasn’t a hugger? But overtime I’ve come to realize what it  says about the tightrope he felt he was walking his whole career – and the tightrope “save-somes” have to walk to be taken seriously in what they consider to be the ‘real’ world. If the truth were told, I am more like a hugger who has learned to camouflage myself as a ‘save-some”.

Maybe this is an odd way to talk and think about the different groups, but that’s probably what you get when you turn a psychologist into a beaver advocate. I’m a snail and my shell comes with me. Maybe someday the lines between the three groups will be more blurred and you won’t be able to tell them apart – but for now they are pretty distinct.

Which of the three groups are you?

Oh look! It’s noble misunderstood trapper season again!

Posted by heidi08 On March - 6 - 2014Comments Off

 A country built on fur

 Trapper Gordy Klassen works to build awareness about Canada’s oldest commercial enterprise

Not everyone likes what he has to teach – people in Israel once called him a wolf murderer – but Klassen has carved out his “own little brand of activism” by educating the public on the importance of managing animal populations in urban river valleys, for ranchers, oilfield workers and municipalities.

“Trapping and fur trading are traditions dating back long before Alberta became a province, and they remain important commercial and recreational activities today,” reads an Internet message from Diana McQueen, former minister of environment and sustainable resources development. “Modern trappers have a deep respect for the land and its wildlife – and are proudly carrying on this long standing commercial enterprise.”

How many pages has the Vancouver Sun dedicated to this noble savage, you ask? FIVE. Obviously it takes a special kind of man to justify doing exactly what people want him to do to protect property interests and make it seem like the right thing. Once it would have surprised me, but now I understand how this game is played.

CaptureEdward Albee: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf

 What I don’t understand is why people assume trappers actually KNOW THINGS about the species they kill. I mean I can understand that they have to know where they hang out and what attracts them, but that doesn’t mean they know anything at all about their natural history, does it?

 Moving beavers or other animals isn’t a good option, says Dave Kay, commercial wildlife and priority species specialist at Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resources Development. Beavers, for instance, then have to compete for territory and often end up killing each other. Leaving the rodents to their own devices also doesn’t work, Kay says. When beaver populations become too big – the rodents reproduce many kits, he says – natural forces such as the disease tularemia move in, killing them off in unhealthy masses.

First of all, if beavers killed each other, wouldn’t that be easier than having you kill them? Saves everyone time and money, right? And second of all, have you never in your trapper life heard of dispersal? Do you really think kits stay with their parents forever if it wasn’t for you and your trusty conibear? Maybe your kids did?

It’s passages like these that make me want to swallow paint-thinner while singing “Oh Canada”.  Read for yourself.

Klassen is motivated by managing the ecosystem – yes, even manipulating it – to use its renewable animal resources while balancing its health with the health of people and industries around it.

 ”It has to be done sustainably,” he says, explaining that if someone traps too many marten or beaver one year, there won’t be any left for the next. “I can’t think of a trapper where sustainability is not in the best interest. … You get as much as you can without hurting things.”

Why is it that when reporters write about Bosnia or fracking or the robbery on 23rd street they present different opinions to get the full story, but when reporters write a trapping homage they let them spew their rugged lies without any hint of a challenge? As I’ve said before, I think the reporter spends so much time typing at the computer that they have walter-mitty fantasies about chucking it all and living off the land to strangle animals (and their editor) with their bare hands. They admire trappers because they live the life they can only imagine.

The article comes with a video, but be warned it’s not for the feint of heart. In fact, watching it I’m reminded of that sneaky camera man who filmed Palin’s interview in front of the turkey slaughter. Someone behind that camera just might have an agenda that’s not too far from our own.Capture

“The fur trade and traditions date long back before Alberta became a province and they really are what defined Canada in its day,” Kay says. “When you hang around trappers enough, you really get a sense for how much they actually do care about wildlife and wildlife habitat. It’s a passion. It really is. They do care deeply for them.

And I care about trappers. I really do. I care deeply for them.

What’s wrong with Renton?

Posted by heidi08 On March - 3 - 2014Comments Off

City of Renton is dealing with beaver problems

Apparently beavers chew cottonwood trees! Who knew? After most of the horses were gone Renton closed the barn door and wrapped some of them, but sooooooo tightly. (They better not dare grow!) Why are these horrid rodents attacking the trees now? I mean it’s not like beavers survive on wood in the winter and plants in the spring and summer.  It’s not like the head of the urban forestry department should know anything about coppicing, or beaver behavior for pete’s sake.

And it’s not like Renton is 40 minutes away from the smartest beaver county in the entire nation.

They got a letter, but I’m not holding my breath for these beavers. In Washington State you have to work hard to be this beaver-challenged. Sigh.

wire wrapping trees


Life as Performance Art

By Fr. G. Corwin Stoppel

I was doing a bit of archeological work in my closet during a recent snowstorm and unearthed a “Beaver Stick” carved by the late writer and historian Grant MacEwan.

 MacEwan believed beavers were nature’s perfect animal. He wrote often about how industrious they are, look after their families, balance work with play and more. To be presented with one of his Beaver Sticks was a sign of honor and friendship.

I’d never heard of Grant MacEwan before so I visited wikipedia. He was a Canadian politician who became a well written historian and instructor after his retirement.  MacEwan continued to be physically active, and was not known to waste any time. He believed that if you were awake you better be doing something. In his eighties, he still rode horses, hiked and walked, outpaced reporters while on morning jogs, built a log cabin and chopped logs with an axe. 

He sounds pretty formidable, and to imagine a pro-beaver politician in Ontario makes me a little dizzy. Fr. Stoppel goes on to disagree with his praise of the animal:

 As much as I appreciate Dr. MacEwan’s dedication to this species, it may have been shortsighted. All that hard work and industry comes when beavers build dams to create small lakes deep enough for their lodges. But after a few years, the ponds behind the dams start to fill with everything coming down river.

 Eventually the water level drops and the lake turns into a pond, then marshland. The water flow was impeded and could not keep draining because of silt. The result oftentimes is flooding.

Yes, its horrible when beavers turn perfectly reasonable streams into functioning meadows. The geologists at USFS hate it, which is why they wanted to use beavers to do just that in the Sierras and needed to prove they were native to do so. (Which started the basis for our whole papers! Memories).

Well, it’s not the worst thing to remind Michigan that SOMEONE used to like beavers. They need about a million more reminders. Thanks for the history lesson!

I have no more donations to show you for the silent auction at the moment. Find me some! And wish me luck. First day back at the office post-hospital today.