Because the beaver isn't just an animal; it's an ecosystem!

The Martinez Beavers

Category: Who’s saving beavers now?

There are beaver heroes in every corner of the state, and our friends at the Sierra Wildlife Coalition are a shining example. I remember the very first beaver festival they joined way back I was so impressed that they decorated their booth with chews and a sand paint demonstration. Since damage to trees is the NUMBER ONE REASON folks for trapping, teaching people about this tree-saving tool is essential.

“We just sand-painted about 50 cottonwoods today in Washoe Lake State Park in Nevada (between Reno and Carson City). Toogee was alerted about beavers chewing there, talked to State Parks (who were going to use chicken wire… I know) and they were all into it, bought paint and sand and buckets and rounded up 8 volunteers to help! It will be on the late news 9after Olympics) but already on the KRNV website 🙂

Volunteers Use “Sand Paint” to Stop Beavers from Gnawing on Trees at Washoe Lake


About a dozen volunteers gathered at Washoe Lake State Park Saturday morning to ‘paint’ the trees along Washoe Lake. The paint was a mixture consisting of latex paint and sand, and it’s supposed to prevent beavers from gnawing on the trees.

Park supervisor, Jen Dawson, said this was necessary because beavers have damaged 60 trees from chewing on them.

Wonderful work by some wonderful beaver friends! If you had been doing this as long as I have you would remember that this whole advocacy group began in response to beavers killed in Kings Beach, right next to an daycare that had been following the family. Sherri, Ted and friends met with countless officials and neighbors trying to push this issue to a better direction for next time. They even asked our own Lory Bruno to come to a meeting and talk about what Martinez did once upon a time.

(It is so heartening to see their work and Sherry marching on after Ted’s death last year.  It is always the wrong people that die from cancer. But you knew that.)

We checked on our own little beaver dam yesterday which is looking quite healthy. A phoebe was sitting on it to capture flies and a squirrel used it as a bridge just before Jon snapped this photo – the framing of which I particularly like.

One of the things we have struggled to do here in Martinez is make our beavers more accessible, less misunderstood, and part of the community. The lion’s share of that work was done by the beavers themselves, who chose downtown for their home and lived fairly public lives showing off their habits and preferences. They were the original “Beaver ambassadors” and we just took our cue from them. We explained to people what they did and what they were seeing and doing our best to make the city not kill them.

Steven Murschel of West Linn Oregon takes it one step farther. I can’t believe this article slipped past me nearly 3 weeks ago, but I’m so glad it was brought to my attention now.

WL ‘Beaver Ambassadors’ group sheds light on misunderstood animal

It was at that point that the West Linn Beaver Ambassadors group was born. For almost a year now, Murschel and others have led activities with schools, organizations and groups of volunteers in an effort to “increase awareness for the community about the beavers that live in West Linn and why this species is so important to the natural ecosystem.” Most recently, on Jan. 11, Murschel led educational workshops with two classrooms at Willamette Primary.

“I work with schools a lot,” Murschel said. “And I’m doing a lot of community events so that the community is more aware of the beaver population and the incredible benefits beavers can provide”

West Linn’s beavers — which have made homes at Mary S. Young Park as well as the Willamette, Robinwood and Fields Bridge parks — are behaviorally nocturnal and thus rarely seen out in the open. But their handiwork is abundant, and it takes just a short walk along the paths at Mary S. Young Park to see several beaver-made ponds sheltered by dams and surrounded by trees that have been caged to prevent further gnawing.

Steven takes his work serious and is making a serious difference. I can’t even imagine what it would be like for EBRP, for example, to have a beaver educator on board to educate folks in every park about the animal. Steven came to the festival last year and will be an exhibitor at the event this year. (If you needed further proof about the role the story of Martinez played in his work check out the photo in the presentation he is giving to that classroom. It might look familiar.)

Very short beavers in WL?

“When they build the dam, the creek flowing through gets stocked up,” Murschel said. “Instead of a creek, you have a pond, and a pond is an excellent drinking source, so it will bring larger mammals for drinking. It’s a home for reptiles and amphibians and also for insects and smaller bugs — macroinvertebrates.

“When the smaller things start to come as a result of the slow of flow, then everything that eats those things comes, and everything that eats those things comes.”

In rainy Oregon, beavers also do their part to prevent flooding, according to Murschel. He compared beaver dams to the man-made bioswales and rain gardens that have become popular solutions for water runoff.

“People tend to think beavers cause a lot of flooding,” he said. “Flooding problems definitely happen, but in a bigger sense they’re holding back more water; they’re containing more water.”

Steven  gets pretty excited about his work with kids, teaching them why beavers matter. He’s happy to share his ideas and is ready to learn from everyone. This is what it says about us on his website. Sometimes I like to imagine what it would be liked if he worked for Martinez and was hired to manage their beaver ambassador program. Then I break out into a hysteric fit of giggles and have to lie down.

“What we’re really trying to do is bring a lot of awareness to the fact that beavers are back, and we have these rare opportunities in some of our parks to showcase what they do,” Worcester said. “People — especially kids — are really interested … and we’re doing more outreach and some nighttime programs to kind of see beavers in different parks.”

I”I want to build in some mechanisms to have it continue in perpetuity,” he said. “And how you do this is certainly a challenge. But the website and all of the social media will certainly be there, so maybe they can continue to have interns work on it at a lower capacity.

“What they’ll definitely get out of it are management plans for this site and a couple of other sites in the city where beavers have impacted massively — that will be incredibly helpful to the city.”

Yes it will. And it’s incredibly helpful to every city to see what you’re doing and remember what’s possible. Steven is making such a difference in the lives of so many people and beavers I’m so glad that he was received the credit he deserves with this excellent article.

Martinez is looking forward to learning from you in June!


I’m suddenly feeling like an old retired ballerina watching my protege take the stage. I have to be honest, it does feel a little wistful – that used to be my life kinda thing – but man-o-man it mostly feels WONDERFUL!

Beavers an education for residents, city

A new beaver management plan could yet turn Port Moody into a paradise for the resourceful rodents.

But it will have to respect the science about the animals’ habits and lifestyle while finding a balance within urban environments where they’re settling.

Judy Taylor-Atkinson and Jim Atkinson look out over the beaver pond on Pigeon Creek that was created by a family of industrious beavers that moved into the area in 2016.

That’s the best-case scenario, according to a pair of local advocates for fur-bearing animals, Judy Taylor-Atkinson and husband Jim Atkinson.

They were observers when a beaver pair made Pigeon Creek, in their Klahanie neighbourhood, home in 2016 and then became a family of four last summer. And they shared the community’s anguish when one of the young kits drowned in December as city crews attempted to trap and evict it from a den the beavers had constructed in a storm pipe that drains rainwater and prevents flooding.

Ahh how glorious! I’m beside myself with glee. And should our mayor be too to think that Judy and Jim are driving from B.C. to Martinez to attend our beaver festival! I’m told they already made their reservations;

Taylor-Atkinson has been studying the science of beavers and their management for years while her husband helps install flow regulators into dams to diminish the chances of damaging floods. Both are on the board of the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals (The Fur-Bearers).

Beavers are notoriously nocturnal, Taylor-Atkinson said, but once they settled into their new home in the stream that runs amidst low-rise condo buildings, they grew accustomed to the human hustle and bustle around them. A curiosity quickly became a real life neighbourhood nature show.

While nearby trees that had been planted by the developer were wrapped to protect them from the beavers’ toothy toil, the natural habitat along the creek’s banks was left alone and the beavers’ activities respected. One neighbour even attached a log book in a plastic sleeve on the bridge railing so visitors could note their observations.

Taylor-Atkinson said the transformation of the creek to a beaver ecosystem was remarkable. The still water attracted bugs like dragonflies to alight, which attracted birds and bats and salamanders to eat them. The cool, sheltered eddies created by fallen limbs and branches in the water were perfect resting places for salmon fingerlings, which attracted ducks and even a juvenile heron to make the occasional visit for a snack. The dam filtered sediment, clearing the water and pushing it into the creek’s banks, encouraging new growth like bullrushes to take root.

“They were repairing the habitat,” Taylor-Atkinson said, adding beavers are considered a “keystone species” around which an entire ecosystem revolves — a marked contrast to old-school thinking that beavers and their industrious ways are a nuisance, especially in urban environments.

Those two paragraphs! SNIFF! I’m sooooooo proud. To think of how many people will be inspired by this story and think maybe they can maybe do something just a little bit different in their own city when the time comes! Ahhhh, Go read the whole thing and send it to your cousins. I’m going to bask in the thought that Martinez own hard fought story made this just a little easier to happen. And their story will make it that much easier for the next one.

“When this creek was built, nobody knew they were creating an ideal beaver habitat.”

Keeping it that way will be a matter of education and good science, she said — and a legacy for the young beaver that perished.

“We didn’t lose that kit for nothing.”

No you did not. That unfortunate kit played a crucial role in his entire families story. And his cousins. And extended family. And in ours. Thank you so much, Judy and Jim.

Just one question. Do you think they make everyone wear jackets that match the sign all the time? Or just for photo shoots?

There are wonderful things from Canada today, from the western side to be precise. The first is an almost entirely fine article about the Elk River Alliance embracing our flat-tailed friends (if by embracing you mean holding with two fingers at a distance.)


Elk River Alliance makes beavers their friends

Beavers can be a real pain.

The traditional solution is to simply rid of them—but the Elk River Alliance says that there’s a better solution for these animals, who also provide critical benefits to the ecosystem.

The group has launched an initiative called Accepting Beavers and enhancing Wetlands, which is a partnership with the City of Fernie to enhance the McDougall Wetland, as well as the West Fernie Wetland.

ABEW? Seriously? That’s the best acronym you could come up with?

“Beavers are rather vilified creatures,” said Lee-Ann Walker, with the Elk River Alliance. “They create problems for landowners.”

She says that while many see the animals as nothing short of a nuisance, they in fact provide key benefits to wetlands.

The dams act as sediment filters, and habitats for many beneficial insects like dragon flies and even juvenile fish.

“How do we learn to live with beavers and use beavers to our benefit?” she said.

The solution is a device called a pond-leveling device. The mechanism is a pipe that allows water to flow through the dam, with caging around it so the beavers can’t stop the flow.

Well I’m almost a fan. I’ve seen some images of your ‘pipe’ though, and you clearly weren’t trained by Mike Callahan or Skip Lisle or even Adrian Nelson. Still, I’m hopeful.

“It’s a balancing act,” said Walker, explaining that the device manages the water, protects the beavers and satisfies landowners.

The group is also wrapping trees with wire in order to prevent beavers from felling them.

“We’re humans, we have bigger brains than beavers—can’t we outsmart them?” said Walker. “Pond leveling devices are a much better solution.”

She says that as rodents, they’re difficult to eradicate. She says that residents should also avoid breaking out beaver dams not only because the beavers come back and build it twice as large, but because the dams are highly beneficial to wetland ecosystems.

They’re not doing it because they want to make your life difficult,” she said. “We’re not going to get rid of beavers. Let’s just learn to live with them.”

Is it appropriate to call that advocacy really? Well if saving beavers has taught me NOTHING else its taught me that there aren’t enough allies in the world to be picky. WELCOME ABOARD ABEW! We need all the friends we can get!

This was uploaded yesterday to the Canadian Geographic photography page with the following description. Isn’t it lovely?

Uploaded by James Brohman on 28 Jan 2018

“Beavers play a critical role in creating and maintaining wetlands in North America which many plants and animal species require for survival. Without these masterful animals, much biodiversity would be lost.”

“THAT staff be directed to develop a Beaver Management Plan that promotes coexistence, outlines best management practices, and implements strategies that use alternatives to extermination and/or relocatiwherever possible as recommended in the report dated January 11, 2018 from Councillor Meghan Lahti regarding Beaver Management Plan.”

The city of Port Moody continues to amaze. After endless hours of struggle and a terrible stupid loss caused by many sneaky decisions, last night one of the council members put forward a beaver management motion that stressed coexistence and it was unanimously approved. Judy wrote me this morning with delight. The mayor even thanks Judy her and her husband personally at the end of the comments.  You probably want to watch this video.

Councillor Meghan Lahti’s motion passed unanimously at tonight’s city council meeting!! Every councillor spoke in favour and Councillor Zoe Royer thanked us for “holding our feet to the fire”. Some things take “endless pressure, endlessly applied”. I love that quote now. The motion is, for me, a legacy for the kit we lost.

Judy Taylor-Atkinson


Congratulations Judy and all of the people who made this happen!

As I listen to the council saying how much this process taught them about beavers, I hear echoes of our own council lo these many years ago – (although nicer of course, they’re Canadian, after all!). Our reformed city leaders all claimed to have learned so much about beavers. And acted like they listened and learned from the community. (Hrmph!) All Kum-by-yahs aside,  I remember writing here once in frustration while our city was cheerfully patting themselves on the back for doing the right thing one of the very favorite sentences I have ever composed:

Never mind that there are deep claw marks down the length of Castro street where we had to drag them kicking and screaming every beaver dam inch of the way.

Ahh memories! The important thing was that they got there eventually (or at least were forced to behave as if they had) but it took way more hard work than I ever dreamed possible. Endless pressure indeed!

Enjoy your success Judy and Jim! We are thrilled at what you’ve achieved and your beavers are so lucky to have you!