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

Beavers Across the land

Posted by heidi08 On December - 13 - 2014Comments Off

Danvers SwampWalk under water

The problem is not with the walkway sinking into the muck, said George Saluto, a former Conservation Commission member who was the driving force behind the SwampWalk.

Instead, beaver activity, a surge of rainfall and a stretch of boardwalk built slightly lower than the rest of the lumber pathway has led to its being submerged

Two families of beavers have been building dams and blocking culverts and outflows, raising the level of the swamp, Saluto said. The southern section of the walkway was built, he added, when the area was not getting a lot of rain.

 “We are off on a new adventure,” Saluto said. “We are simply responding to a very productive — two very productive — families of beavers.

Well, there you have it. Yet another beaver bemoaning story out of Danvers MA, who brought us so many greatest hits this year, like the beaver they trapped but weren’t allowed to remove, and the huge developer who wanted everything but the beavers.

Now beavers (and rain and snow) are raising the water level and flooding parts of their swamp path. I guess they have two lodges so they’re sure its two families, although that would be very, very remarkable. Research tells us that different families need their own territory of at least 2 miles, but if the habitat’s very very rich, like those beavers in the far reaches of Canada who built the dam visible from space, they will share.

Gee, do you think this is extraordinary habitat? Or do you think they possibly got it wrong?

It took 10 years to plan, three years to build, and the collaboration of two towns. The walkway allows visitors to walk into the middle of the swamp, providing views of plants, birds, turtles and beaver dams that can’t be seen from the rail trail. There’s an observation deck with seating, too. A grand opening was held in May 2013.

When volunteers first started the northern section of the SwampWalk in 2010, the rainfall in March, April and May was 20 inches, Saluto said. Before the group started the southern section in 2012, the rainfall in February, March and April was 7 inches.

In the past three months, however — even before this week’s rainfall — Danvers received 13 inches of rain, Saluto said, 6 more than when the southern walkway was constructed. The southern section was built slightly lower than the northern section.

Instead of trying to install beaver deceivers, devices that allow water to flow through beaver dams and keep beavers at bay, the SwampWalk team has decided to raise the walkway’s elevation.

Well that’s interesting. I mean why protect the culverts when you have the money to rebuild the entire walkway? Why fix a flat when you can afford a whole new car? I would ask what they plan to do when the water level rises higher still, maybe because of the next 13 inches of rain or the beaver dam that blocks the culvert, but I won’t bother. I know what they’ll do. They’ll say “We tried a 6000 solution to save the beavers but that didn’t work, so we’re going to have to kill them.” Let’s mark our calendars. I think it will happen sometime in April 2015.

Got any spare change? They end the article with a request for donations.

Now we head west a bit across the United States for a story about beaver from Illinois, the state where the 84 year old man was hit in the head with a log after blowing up a beaver dam. IL  has never been a hot bed of progressive beaver understanding. I believe I once said of them

“Remember this is Illinois where a cynical person might say you could fit all their beaver appreciation and knowledge into a teaspoon and still have room leftover to sweeten your coffee”

So it’s nice to read at least a benevolent article about beaver from the state.

Trail leads to adventure

Not long ago, I was set for a nice long hike in a nearby park to work off stresses. I had my binoculars, camera, and a little snack to enjoy along the way.

At the trailhead is a small creek that runs underneath a rock outcropping. No sooner had I entered the trail, when I observed a newly-constructed beaver dam on the creek. I paused to take a look at it. This led to following a few of the “beaver runs” away from the stream to the trees they gnawed.

 I thought to myself that I should take a few pictures of the beaver dam, runs, and gnawed trees to go into the Lowell Park Nature Center. We have a beaver lodge there for children to explore. I thought I might construct a photo montage of beaver activity.

The article goes on to describe his watching deer and woodpeckers. What do you wanna bet that the next time he visits that beaver pond he’ll see more wildlife? If it’s still there he will.


Beaver Friends & Foe

Posted by heidi08 On December - 4 - 2014Comments Off

Brock Dolman & Kate Lundquist

KRCB is the local public radio station in Sonoma and yesterday it featured beaver friends Kate Lundquist and Brock Dolman from the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center. Click and listen to three and a half minutes of beaver praises. The photo is from our fifth beaver festival in 2012. (You can tell by Bob Rust’s giant inflatable beaver in the background!)



I love when beaver benefits are extolled on the air waves! Great work team beaver! (Although I’m not totally sure the west coast is without its own dramatic examples of cities living with beaver. Ahem.)

Yesterday saw some heavy, heavy rains in Martinez. So heavy that we were worried that filter had been knocked off the flow device again. Jean saw a confused beaver swimming at high tide during the day, probably when his bank hole was filled with water. But by afternoon the level was back down and we could see that the filter had not moved, and there was a huge snag on one of the stabilizing posts holding the pipe that we thought was the filter. The dam had been breached by the heavy flow. And more rain came later at night. In weather like this we’ve seen the beavers sit tight and wait for the excitement to be over before they begin repairs. Stay tuned.

As if to compensate for our worry yesterday, there was this headline  from Ohio which  provided us with the warm feeling one needs in terrible weather. Maybe it will warm you too.  And it might be time for a German lesson.

 Worker injured removing beaver dams near Hinckley

An 84-year-old man struck in the head with a log while blowing up beaver dams Tuesday remained in serious condition Wednesday at a Rockford hospital, DeKalb County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Gary Dumdie said.

Ivan Dremann of Ohio, Illinois, was using explosives to remove beaver dams from Little Rock Creek for a farmer on Lee Road west of Rimsnider Road northwest of Hinckley about 4:10 p.m. Tuesday, according to a DeKalb County Sheriff’s news release.

Ouch. This is a very good time to observe that I don’t believe a person of any age was ever injured installing a flow device.


German, from Schaden damage + Freude joy

“a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people”


Oh, what a relief it is!

Posted by heidi08 On December - 2 - 2014Comments Off

When I sat down with the numbers of depredation permits issued in California, one fact in particular kept catching my eye. The number of permits issued for Placer county. Contrary to expectation, it doesn’t have more water, or more people, or more culverts.  It consists of seven towns (Auburn, Colfax, Lincoln, Roseville, Rocklin and Loomis) and about 20 unincorporated areas which all have more permission to kill beavers than anywhere else in the state. Nearly 7 times more, which turned out to be significant at the p =<.02 level. This, in case you didn’t take statistics, pretty much means it ain’t random.

So I thought I’d write the two charming representatives from Placer county who wrote them and say, hi my name’s Heidi and I’ve been looking at the depredation permits for beaver in California and I’m curious why you issued a third of them.  Any thoughts? And I was more polite than I wanted to be, but still expected to hear nothing back.

To her credit, the most active member of the beaver-killing squad wrote back. She said Placer county has grown faster than any other region in the state, and permits to kill beavers are issued under 4181 which says that when property is damaged or (threatened)

The department, upon satisfactory evidence of the damage or destruction, actual or immediately threatened, shall issue a revocable permit for the taking and disposition of the mammals under regulations adopted by the commission.

 She said we assess the situation and educate where we can and grant permits when necessary. What she did not say, and which I was dying to know, is what consisted of satisfactory evidence (a site visit? A photo? A phone call?)  and how often did she actually turn down the request, telling the property owner to try something else?

(I’m guessing it’s a round number.)

She also thanked me for the resources I sent but said she already knew all about “beaver relievers” [sic] (Cross my heart – RELIEVERS she called them.) And I was sure it was a typo, or an UH-OH, but when I wrote Sherry Guzzi she pointed me to this paper by Colorado USDA scientist Nicholas Gerich, who (back in 2003) wrote a paper called “Working with beavers”, in which he outlines the pros and cons of several flow devices which he calls (wait for it!) “beaver relievers.”


Many of these solutions work well only if regularly cleaned. When these devices are not regularly inspected and maintained, they will fail with potentially disastrous results. Too many people think that once the device is installed that everything is solved and they can walk away from it.

 It seems Nick was not very impressed with their success rate and said they had to be onerously maintained to even have a hope of working. But given his location I was curious if he’d ever met Sherri Tippie so I emailed him and asked. He said he had taken a class with Sherri shortly before that was written, and had gotten interested in the work when the beaver population “exploded” after the 1996 law. (Deja Vu much?)

exploding beaver

In his experience flow devices “worked in some places” but “not in others”.

Now I know exactly how much maintenance our flow device has required, (none) but I didn’t know if it might have worked less well in Tahoe or Colorado, so I asked Mike and Skip. I particularly liked what  Skip said,

As for the “physics” of the issue, beaver behavior and the properties of moving water are largely the same everywhere.

Now as to that exploding beaver population, I was particularly interested since I had learned that very refrain in Massachusetts many times. You can imagine how happy I was to see this in the paper yesterday from the Prescott Peninsula beaver count

 The beavers are all right: Data returned from survey at restricted Prescott Peninsula

Researchers from the Department of Conservation and Recreation, along with affiliated volunteers, conducted the annual Prescott beaver survey Nov. 16 at the Prescott Peninsula — an area usually off-limits to humans. The survey data, which was compiled last week, shows 15 active inland beaver sites.

 And they ran this:

Real numbers in MA

I know graphs can be hard to read, but that high pointy part on the left shows the highest density of recorded beaver population in 1980. For us following along at home that was 16 years before voters insisted on those pesky humane traps.  The population went up a little after 1996 but settled out with much lower levels than it used to support. Mind you this is just a particularly lush, inaccessible region in the state. Not the whole state. But knowing how beavers feel about trees, water and privacy we can guess its at least equivalent to what we would see all over if anyone was looking. Which means that every single person who tells you that the population of beavers exploded after they made conibear traps harder to use, should look behind them to see if their pants are on fire:



Glass Farm Beaver YS Ohio – photo Scott Stolensberg

A final update from the photographer Scott Stolensberg who graciously gave permission for me to use the photo and was so supportive he wants to donate to the silent auction! Thanks Scott!

Beaver Strategist

Posted by heidi08 On December - 1 - 2014Comments Off

Yesterday an article from Georgia caught my attention. You may remember that Georgia is the state where the original Clemson Pond Leveler was invented, and the state where I first read about beaver tail bounties. Let’s say that in addition to having alligators and very nice peaches, it has a fairly schizophrenogenic stance on beavers in general. Which is why I wasn’t surprised to see this.

Carole Currie: Talking ’bout the wildlife, again

Almost everyone around us at the Georgia farm has a wildlife story, and when there’s a gathering, there’s a lot of storytelling. There are skunks under houses (we’ve had that), deer eating everything (we’ve had that in spades), coyote sounds in the night and bobcat sightings.

Our story continues to be about the critters that keep stopping up the outflow drain at our pond, threatening to cause it to flood over the dam. Once we found the lodge, we knew it was beavers stopping up the drain. We are threatened by the beavers because of the damage they can do by flooding the pond and ruining the dam and to the surrounding trees. But the more we learn about the beavers, the more we have to admire them.

A recent “Nature” program on public television shed a lot of light on these overgrown members of the rodent family. The sound of running water to a beaver is like a call to work. They want to stop it, and they do so by packing the drain with mud. Somewhat blind and slow on land, they are fast in the water.

They are sociable, family-oriented critters who earn their reputation as being “busy as beavers.” They just don’t give up. Walt unstops the pond, and the next morning it is stopped up again. With their long orange teeth, they can fell a large tree overnight to pile onto their dam.

Once beavers were valued for their furs to make hats. When the hats went out of style and beavers overpopulated, many were eradicated but they are coming back. There are either eco heroes now because of their ability to create wetlands for wildlife and cattle or pests who want to dam up our pond.

It makes for a good critter story but one without a good ending for us or the beavers.

This made me think Carole needed a letter. So I wrote her about protecting the overflow on her pond and the benefits beavers could bring if she let them stay. I told her how it would be saving money because if she trapped them out more would just come next year.  I told what we had done in Martinez (did you know there’s a Martinez in Georgia? My niece used to live there. They pronounce it mar-tin- EZ.) I was careful not to sound too ‘California’ in my email and said if she needed regional resources she should talk to the folks at the Blue Heron Preserve in Atlanta or Stephanie Boyle in West Virginia.

And whadaya know, she promptly wrote back!

Heidi, thanks so much for your thoughtful and informative e-mail. It casts things in a whole new light.

Which was nice. And maybe because I finished watching West Wing on Netflix last night, made me realize something: I’m kinda political strategist for beavers. A national beaver strategist? An North American beaver strategist? More like a  Global beaver strategist! (GBS) and at the moment, weirdly enough, I’m the only one. Which is pretty amazing if you think about it in this day and age to be the only one of anything is fairly surprising. (Don’t believe me? Go ahead, take your wildest and most creative thought and google it. A million people around the world have already thought it and written it down.)

national map`

So it means something to be the only GBS. But it won’t last  forever. I may be the only one now, but the only one so far. There are so many more regional beaver strategists than their were eight years ago when we started this campaign, that I’m sure many more GBS will come soon. Which is wonderful in a way I can barely describe.

I can’t wait to be redundant.

No Problem a little Explosives can’t Cure.

Posted by heidi08 On November - 23 - 2014Comments Off

Silly me, all these years I’ve been working to ‘solve problems’ when I could have just blown them up instead!


Dam Bustin – Country Style

Woodlands County offers a service to it’s ratepayers with explosive results. The beaver flood control program provided by the county uses dynamite to blast away beaver dams that are flooding resident’s properties.

Dawn Fortin, Woodlands County manager of agricultural services, says that the intention of the service is to relieve flooding on private property and near roads to protect infrastructure. “We call it our beaver flood control program,” Fortin said. “We’ll remove the dam using dynamite or sometimes we use mechanical means like a backhoe.”

Ahh yes, no one is happier than a technician with explosives at a beaver dam. Sure it destroys wetlands for fish, birds and wildlife, does nothing to prevent flooding, destroys creek channels and will need to be repeated next year, but at least the price is right:

Glen Renfert, agricultural services technician, performs the service and is an employee of the county. The service costs only $70 and according to Renfert, just covers the cost of materials.”We don’t want to make a profit on it,” Fortin said. “If you get a whole bunch of dams on the property and there are some that are not causing an issue. We don’t just blow them up just because. If we only need to remove two or three out of five, we’re going to save them that much money. We don’t want to incur more costs for them unnecessarily.”

Of course you know that beavers would just rebuild right? And that all those materials from the blown up dam might still snag and cause flooding.

Prior to blasting, the county sends trappers out to the location to trap the beavers. Once the beavers are removed, then the removal of the dam can begin. “Our trapper is a licensed trapper so he can harvest the beaver for its pelt,” Fortin said. “Other trappers use the animal for bait, the pelts aren’t worth much in the summer.”Woodlands County has a permit from AESRD to be able to perform the service during the off-season for trappers. Starting on May 1, and until Oct. 31, the county can perform the service for residents.

Well at least you’re thorough.

A story this funny needs a punchline. And I have one. The article is from Alberta, Canada. Which puts them around two hours from the top beaver researcher in the world. In fact, Dr. Glynnis Hood is currently doing research to establish the effectiveness of flow devices to regulate flooding. She might even be willing to send some students down to install a flow device for free. But go ahead, spend the 70 bucks.

And speaking of willfully misguided beaver decisions that don’t work anyway, guess who I heard from last night? Our old friends at the 4 seasons senior complex outside El Dorado Hills. Where neighbors got together to protect some beavers in 2012. They were eventually thwarted by the Orwellian HOA who hired USDA to kill the beavers and swing the dead bodies dramatically past the protesters. Blood under the bridge. Guess what’s back not two years later?

We have a new beaver population that has just moved into four seasons.Their fate is up in the air even though we have a new HOA board.They have tentatively agreed to work with us on the issue but I am not convinced of this. Would you be willing to send and email to HOA board telling them of your success and expertise in this area? Let me know. 

What do you think? Would I be willing?

No Beavers in Mars

Posted by heidi08 On November - 10 - 2014Comments Off

I was very worried by this opening paragraph.

There can be fewer more-Canadian endeavours than sending a beaver to Mars, but a Canadian technology company with a Newfoundland connection plans to do just that.

I thought immediately of Laika, the stray dog captured by the Russian to stuff into Sputnik in 1957. They  said she died painlessly in orbit, but it was recently reported in the BBC that she died just a few hours after blast off of panic and overheating.

There was NO WAY I was going to let this be repeated with a beaver. Before I chained myself to a missile, I decided to read the next paragraph.

“Beaver” is actually the name of a micro-rover that Thoth Technologies Inc. wants to send to Mars in 2018. The company and Northern Light Canadian Mission to Mars, as it is called, is being led by St. John’s native Caroline Roberts and her husband, Ben Quine. Roberts is the daughter of former lieutenant governor Ed Roberts, whom she says named the rover.

Well, okay then.

Actually it makes perfect sense, since Popular Science already reported in 1930 that beavers had dug the canals on the surface of Mars. I know because Michael Pollock gave me the article framed at our first working beaver meeting in 2011 and it proudly  hangs in my dining room.

Now don’t you feel better?

Yesterday, I got an email out of the blue from Beaver friend and supporter Robert Rust. He said he had a bunch of old beaver books he’d like to give me and asked if he could drop them off. Just so you know who we’re talking about, Bob is the creative genius behind the mechanical tail-slapping beaver this year, AND the giant inflatable beaver a few years before that.

giant beaverBob taught science to lots of kids in Martinez, and kayaked the creeks for years cleaning out trash and tires. He is a complete indirecatable genius, smart enough to invent anything, connected to everything, but living entirely by his own rules. I expected him to drop off dog-eared copies from his youth or college days. Instead he bicycled up to my porch with three perfect first edition copies of beaver giants that left me speechless.

One was a copy of the 1937 Beaver Pioneers signed by both authors. One was the 1947 first edition of the several times reprinted “One Day at Teton Marsh” by Sally Carrighar (complete with gorgous woodcuts in every chapter) And the third was an original Grinnell’s fur-bearing  mammals of CA. No I’m not kidding. There was also a fun copy of “the Beaver is eating my Canoe” just to round out the day.


How excited am I? Back when this all started someone bought me a signed first edition by Grey Owl and I thought I was in heaven. Now I’m sure of it.

I’m a sucker for old books. One time when Jon and I were in Norwich, England we visited an used book store and asked about older books. The grey-haired owner smiled and took us across the street down these stone stairs into a trove of 15th century manuscripts and said we could explore at our leisure, locking the door behind him on his way back to the shop. I swear there was a hand copied Iliad. Now thank goodness we were so poor that we could only afford three slim volumes or I would now be the proud owner of an entire book store. One of the books we bought was a personal almanac from the 1600′s that told you when to plant crops and had personal pages for notes that some grandson had scribbled on in the 1800′s. One of the books was a volume on how to raise a good wife from the 1700′s. I could not resist when I read how girl children should be praised for being compliant and dull. And frowned upon for any signs of creativity. Ahhh.

But these treasures PALE in comparison to original works about beavers! Thank you SO MUCH BOB for your generous contribution to Worth A Dam and beavers over the years. Everything you’ve done for us has been surprising, and this is no exception. You can bet I’ll be sending over a care package this afternoon. Right after I’m done re-reading.

Give me the Bad News First

Posted by heidi08 On November - 9 - 20142 COMMENTS
Alpine County 4
Amador County 1
Butte County 7
Calaveras County 1
Colusa County 5
Contra Costa County 20
El Dorado County 9
Fresno County 3
Glenn County 3
Kings County 7
Lake County 2
Lassen County 5
Madera County 10
Merced County 24
Modoc County 6
Mono County 2
Napa County 2
Nevada County 7
Placer County 51
Plumas County 9
Sacramento County 32
San Joaquin County 8
San Luis Obispo County 2
Shasta County 20
Sierra County 3
Siskiyou County 3
Solano County 8
Sonoma County 3
Stanislaus County 9
Sutter County 16
Tehama County 5
Yolo County 18
Yuba County 6

Need I say more? A special thank you to Robin Ellison from Napa who  pursued the PRA request and processed the last 50 handwritten permits herself yesterday. Just, (as she said), when she was starting to get over her PTSD from last time. Thanks also to NCHEMS which allowed me to turn these stats into a handy map for free. The total number of beavers permitted for killing from 2013 to July 2014 was 1028 + 132x  (unlimited wildcards issued where any amount could be killed). That’s a lot of beavers. And a lot of water storage that drought-ridden California threw away,

straight flush


On an entirely different note, I need to take a moment to say that 29 years ago today I had no degree and Jon was without a country or a job. Who ever knew those crazy kids would make it work?


Jon & Heidi over the Aegean