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

Asked and Answered

Posted by heidi08 On July - 18 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

We’ve entered the phase of the festival planning where things are falling into place. The brochure proof from the printer was ready yesterday and it’s fully ADORABLE. Our grant from Kiwanis arrived in the mail and an unexpected treasure floated our way in the offer of help from this group.

Have Fun, Give Back, Run!

I was surprised I’d never heard of this group before but read they were formed this very year, which is as good a way as I know to demonstrate the beaver spirit still exists in Martinez. Their lovely website says:

The Martinez Beavers Run Club (MBRC) was established in 2017 as a way to bring people together through a shared interest in running. The club is a fun way to meet new friends, explore new areas and continue to strengthen the sense of community that is being cultivated by the people of Martinez.

Which makes enormous sense because if the Martinez beavers symbolize nothing else, they surely  represent a sense of community! With glowing eyes, I immediately suggested a million jobs for which they could be wonderfully appreciated, and maybe they had a flag or shirts with their logo and wanted to run in the parade? I know Jon would be VERY happy about any cheerful worker who wanted to help set up or take down the event! This is the kind of thing that makes the beaver festival seem imminently possible. Here they are gathered for their coffee run in May.

I hope the Martinez Beavers Run Club is around for many, many years and reminds people cheerfully of the plucky spirit of our beavers which did what no one thought they could (or should) for a decade. They brought out the community in Martinez, and truly they brought out one other thing. Which is the subject of our NEXT discussion.

Alan McDonnell: Do beavers have to be made into a political issue?

It is less than a month since we discovered a family of beavers on a river near Beauly. Watching footage of two kits playing in the water near their lodge, we did not foresee how abruptly their fate would be determined by politicians’ need to be seen to be doing something. We know beavers have been controversial on Tayside, but this corner of the Highlands isvery different.

There is no way of knowing where this population has come from. It is possible they were released, but we think it is more likely they have escaped from a private collection. From evidence along the river, we know beavers have been in the area for at least five years and do not appear to have caused anyone any problems. Trees for Life has supported the return of beavers to Scotland for 25 years. They can improve the health of rivers and lochs, reduce flooding, and create wetlands that benefit many species. So following the announcement from environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham’s last November, that reintroduced beavers can remain in Scotland, we have been looking into the scope for establishing a population in the Highlands.

When we found the beaver family near Beauly, we spoke with Scottish Natural Heritage and proposed engaging with local people to discuss whether these animals could be allowed to stay where they are or look at other options that could work well for both the animals and the community. But shortly after the news reached the Scottish Government, Ms Cunningham announced that the beavers are to be trapped and removed. She is determined to avoid a repeat of the experience on Tayside, where arable farmers have seen crops damaged by an unauthorised beaver release with no measures in place to manage the impacts the species can have on farming. This is understandable – but we disagree with the idea that this should drive a decision to remove a beaver family in a completely different area.

Actively managing how their natural behaviour can affect farming and fishing has been key to these successes and has allowed them to benefit from the positive ways beavers affect the river environment and added to an area’s appeal to visitors.

A knee-jerk response to remove this beaver family will do nothing to address the impacts of beavers in Tayside, but it may deprive the Beauly community and environment of something very special. We have an opportunity here to have a different kind of conversation about wildlife – one that doesn’t lead to conflict and stalemate.

We need to listen to the concerns of farmers and fishermen, but let’s consider the opportunities beavers bring and see if any solutions can work. What have we got to lose?

Alan McDonnell is conservation projects manager at environmental charity Trees for Life

Nicely done Alan! Great letter. And I’m interested in the response you get for that. I’m not convinced they came from a escaped private collection OR an illegal release, since waterways are highways and beavers go long distances even over land. But who knows? It actually makes me think Scotland might be the very place to answer the question no one else could ever manage. Namely: What habitat do beavers prefer?

The impression I got from watching our beavers all those years, and seeing the beavers that tried to break into the habitat, was that beavers PREFER being in a small creek where they can dam, and have a lodge and a pond of their own, but when none is available they’re content to live in a bigger waterway where no dams are possible. (Like  the carquinez strait.) But Dr. Duncan Haley said that he thinks beavers PREFER to be in a large river and only move upstream and do all that work to live in smaller ones when things are over crowded.

The relatively untapped puzzle can best be settled by following a population of beavers in an area where there have been NONE for 500 years so there’s no competition. You see why Scotland is the perfect place to answer this question? Bring on the researchers!

But as for your original question, “Do beaver issues always have to be political?” After a decade of careful research, Martinez can tell you firmly that the answer is



The whole enchilada

Posted by heidi08 On July - 14 - 2017Comments Off on The whole enchilada

Just as predicted the beaver battle in Beauly, Scotland is heating up. With folks attesting that the beavers have been in the area and all over the area for years – and officials saying the beaver have to be trapped and captured or the salmon will be eaten and the very life of the lochness monster is in danger. If it all sounds vaguely familiar to you that’s because we’ve been here before, way back in 2009 when the first “unofficial beavers” were reported on the river Tay. The government claimed that each unauthorized beaver would be captured and put in zoos. They brought in specialists and managed to capture one unlucky beaver (Eric – who later became Erica when it was learned that she was female).  Erica died in captivity shortly after she was caught, right around the time that officials were realizing that they were way more illegal beavers than there were zoos. I sense another learning curve coming soon, but stay tuned to find out how it all works.

willow wallIn the meantime. we are happy because the good people at bluehost and filezilla taught me to do a backup of the gargantuan website yesterday, our willow fascines we planted with the Riley and the watershed stewards at the annex are fairing splendidly, the bookmarks arrive today and the very talented Amelia Hunter finished this on Wednesday night. It is now at the printers waiting to become beaver brochures.  As always it will take a moment to load but is fully browse-worthy so enjoy!

From the beaver sublime to the beaver ridiculous

Posted by heidi08 On July - 6 - 2017Comments Off on From the beaver sublime to the beaver ridiculous

Some days are just huge demonstrations of that fact that beaver knowledge isn’t evenly distributed.Take today for instance where there is a wonderful article about doing a beaver installation in Alberta, juxtaposed with an stunningly ignorant article about beavers chasing fleeing motorcycle-riding trappers by leaping on their pogo-stick tail.

No. I’m serious.

Keep in mind that it’s summer and beaver parents are protecting their new kits by getting rid of anyone that doesn’t belong there. Meanwhile, dog walkers let their hot pooches take a swim, (and to be perfectly honest yearlings are probably in a fowl mood anyway because they are just realizing they aren’t the baby anymore). July and June are the time of year we read frantic articles about beavers attacking dogs. And no one seems to get that the assault pattern is seasonal.

Canada’s beaver problem

Not expecting to get chased by a beaver that he claims had aerial capabilities, Donnie Springer once set out to hunt a moose. He drove a three-wheel dirt bike in front of his father-in-law, around Devil’s Lake, Man., but soon realized his father-in-law was missing. Springer turned back, and found the man speeding away from a bucktooth terror. The beaver then turned on Springer.

The beaver first chased him using its typical method of running on its legs. However, Springer was riding at about 25km/hr, he recalls of an incident around the year 2000. For the beaver to catch up, Springer claims it deployed its tail as a spring. “It would sit on its tail, and it would go shooting itself about 10 feet in the air,” he says. “It would use its tail to propel itself … he was just a givin’ ‘er”

There is a perception in several parts of Canada that beavers are invading. In June, CTV reported that the city of Edmonton put up signs warning dog owners about dangerous beavers after several beaver attacks on pets, and the Winnipeg Free Press reported recently beavers “wreaking havoc in parts of Manitoba on a scale not seen in a lifetime.” Saskatchewan inaugurated a controversial beaver-hunting derby last spring, which reaped 589 kills, and some municipalities have introduced bounties. Farmers continue to bereave the flooding of fields; drivers, of roads, and cottagers, the loss of their favourite trees. The population is in fact surging, and the species even became a recent fascination of genome researchers.

What to say when an article uses the ‘springing beaver’ accusation as a story’s lead? The mind reals, the jaw drops. It’s not the first time I’ve read these allegations from a Canadian trapper either. Do you think they watched too many ‘Tigger’ cartoons as youngsters? There was a story about Yellow Knife that had a trapper accusing them of lunging forth by bouncing on their tails. Maybe it’s a collective hallucination?

What I will say is that Moses did tell me one night while filming he saw what looked like a beaver fight, and see what appeared to be a beaver lunge on it’s tail. He was so surprised he didn’t get footage, so he has no proof and isn’t always the most reliable reporter so who knows? When I was 11 I was certain if you said ‘bloody mary’ over and over at a pajama party she would appear in the bathroom mirror. And I saw it twice!

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that beaver male leap on his tail
    And bounce after Sam McGee

Ahh, my apologies to Robert, but you knew it had to be done. Now that it’s on your mind, go read that poem again, it’s such a fun tale, er tail!

Thank goodness for this other story in the morning, which is every bit as wise as the former was stupid,  proving that the entire country has not all lost it’s collective minds.

Michichi boardwalk project approved

As a new way to engage people into real-time educational experiences, the Michichi boardwalk has now been approved. The three-phase project is set to begin in late fall with construction of the boardwalk to be closely monitored as not to disrupt too much of the surrounding environment.
    “We’re going to have a bit of frost in the ground and that’s going to help a lot with the equipment going in and making ruts and stuff like that,” said Starland County Agricultural Fieldman Dara Kudras.
    “There will be some damage but that is the price we have to pay to get this boardwalk in there.”
    They have hired a company that has smaller equipment to cause a tinier carbon footprint.
    “What we are aiming for is minimal disturbance just because it is a sensitive area,” said Kudras.
    The project has three phases to smoothly add the boardwalk into the region as well as create a healthy riparian monitoring program and pond leveller. 
    The beaver dam which is built every year, is located where the spillway is. By springtime, the water level becomes too high causing the dam to break and the water to drain.
    “If the beavers weren’t there building that dam, then all the water goes out and there is no habitat area,” said Kudras.     A pond leveLler is a large plastic tube that is put through the middle of the dam where a cage is placed on one end of the tube.
    “It’s so the water can go through and the dam won’t blow out and the beavers won’t have to build so high either,” said Kudras. “It will allow water to go through without wrecking the dam.”
    Instinctively, if the dam does happen to break, beavers will find trees to repair and rebuild. Instead of allowing them to take out new trees in the area, Kudras and her team have been gathering other already fallen branches or vegetation for the beavers to use.    

“That’s part of the coexistence part of it that we want to be able to grow trees there and keep beavers happy at the same time,” said Kudras.

$12,000 of the grant is going towards signage along the boardwalk to help explain the usage of the pond leveller and other interesting facts about the riparian area and what it has to offer. Different types of birds and other animals will be on the signs as well. Of the total budget, the largest cost of $80,000 will be going towards the actual construction of the boardwalk.
    A 20-foot by 16-foot viewing deck area with seating and a gazebo close to the dam will be a special addition to the boardwalk with the possibility of up to two bridges depending on the budget.
    “If local craftsman or local schools want to come and a have like a wetland field day and learn about the ecosystem in the area and stuff like that, then they can come out and use that,” said Kudras. “We’re just trying to make it really accessible for everybody.”
    Starland County is putting $32,000 forward as the lead administrator and will be partnering up with the current landowner of the area as well as Cows & Fish and the Red Deer River Watershed Alliance.
    After the project is finished, an established riparian monitoring program will be put in place, a pond leveller will be constructed and implemented, and the half kilometer long boardwalk will be complete.
 A grand opening is expected to happen shortly after everything is in place.  Kudras plans to increase awareness and get help from local farmers to build up drought and flood resilience.
    “This project is a cornerstone going into the future with the rest of the watershed resilience restoration program,” said Kurdas.

Have you hugged Cows and Fish this morning? I think I might name my firstborn after Mr. Kurdras. This is just such a smartly designed and coordinated project. I can’t think of anywhere better to spend an early morning than on their finished boardwalk watching beavers that have had trees planted for them to do their work. And a trail with interpretive signs explaining what everyone is seeing. This is fantastic! Maybe you want to use this?

BeaverPosterFinal_revisedA final note comes from Napa where Rusty says that he met up with Brock, Kate and Ben on a field trip to visit some urban beavers. Rusty invited county supervisor Brad Wagenecht to join them and they all hung out for a bit with our Napatopia beavers. Maybe the wine country beavers will even make it into the book?