Archive for the ‘Beavers’ Category

Don’t fear the BOO-ver!

Posted by heidi08 On October - 31 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

Failure is an orphan they say, but success has many parents.

It must be true. Just look who’s eager to jump on the beaver bandwagon now? Capture

Butte, the “beaver deceiver” and the New York Times

 Here’s a sentence you probably never thought you’d read in the New York Times: “Enter the ‘beaver deceiver.’” It appeared in a story filed on Monday, in Butte, about beaver populations thriving in the West. And just so you know: We were all over beaver deceivers, long before the Times found out about the devices.

Ya ya ya, you were ALL over beaver deceivers before they were ‘cool’. (Not that you invented them or anything.) I was so dam impressed at the time that I wrote about it back in 2013. Just 5 years after Skip Lisle installed ours. Yes, Butte was 14 months ahead of the NYT, but I’m not sure that’s really a compliment anymore.

On the other hand, you’ll be relieved to know that I heard back from the Jim Robbins the reporter of that article, who changed the reference to beavers living IN the dam, and assured me that he did not, in fact, drop out of kindergarten.

Surprised Girl

There’s a nice article from Andover Massachusetts of all places about a resident fond of the wildlife in an abandoned beaverpond. He wants to keep the dam even though the town wants it gone. He talks about the way it brings birds and wildlife but sadly never once mentions how much better it would be if there were beavers there to keep it repaired. Apparently, a flow device was installed years ago but has since decayed and the beavers decided to move on. I got all excited when I heard the headline, but its not what you think.

 Beaver dam dispute rattles neighborhood

 “Wood ducks, Canada geese, mallards, catfish, snapping turtles, deer,” he says excitedly as he opens the gate that leads from his manicured backyard and swimming pool to a town-owned grassy area near the pond. “None of them were ever here before.”

 The Conservation Commission earlier this month ordered the removal of the mud-and-stick beaver dam, since the beaver that built it eight years ago no longer lives there. Dobbelaar says that would drain the pond and return the area to the muddy bog it used to be. “The beavers are gone,” Dobbelaar admitted. “But in the meantime, why tear it down? I would like to maintain it for the neighborhood and the neighbors. I would like to fix it, but they just want to tear it down.”

I’ve never read an article like this proclaiming the benefits from the ghosts of beavers past. But it’s fairly intriguing considering that all MA usually writes about is the horrible voter curse of  not being able to use conibears. This was my favorite part thought:

He said when the beaver first came to the neighborhood, he wanted to tear the dam down because it was causing flooding.

 “I wanted to break it,” said Ikemoto, who is 81. “I went to the town and they wouldn’t allow it. They only permitted a beaver deceiver.”

 The beaver deceiver worked, he said. 

Is such a thing possible? Are there really towns that don’t let you remove beaver dams and require you put in a flow device instead? Someone pinch me, I must be dreaming. Andover is just outside Boston and 95 miles East of Mike Callahan and beaver solutions. So I can’t imagine how that happened.

The article says the beavers came 8 years ago and the neighbors figured out how to install a pipe. Hmm before our time AND before the Beaver Solutions DVD. Which I guess is what explains the parts all being decomposed and washed away now. The town’s worried the old dam will wash out, and he’s worried that no dam will mean no more wildlife.

Can you guess my solution to both their problems?


Happy Halloween, btw. And remember not to be afraid of this:

don't fear the beaverNow I just need a band to record it.

And beavers for all

Posted by heidi08 On October - 30 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

Say what you want about my idiosyncratic reporting, but this has sure been ONE HELLUVA WEEK for beavers. This morning a retied librarian beaver friend sent this my way with best wishes. It was published online exactly two days ago.

Ecological engineering and aquatic connectivity: a new
perspective from beaver-modified wetlands


1. Habitat fragmentation and wetland loss due to anthropogenic causes are usually attributed to physical modifications of the environment; however, the loss of key species can compound these impacts and further reduce the connectivity of aquatic ecosystems.
2. Ecosystem engineers can play a critical role in modifying aquatic systems by altering the bed of ponds and streams, increasing water coverage and influencing biogeochemical processes within and adjacent to freshwater habitats. However, there is a paucity of research on how these organisms enhance connectivity among aquatic habitats, especially in otherwise isolated wetland systems.
3. In this study, we collected field data at natural and agriculturally impacted sites to quantify physical alterations to otherwise isolated, morainal wetlands modified by beavers, and to determine how these modifications might enhance connectivity. For finer-scale analysis, we collected and modelled bathymetric data for 16 wetlands, eight of which were occupied by beavers and eight abandoned by beavers.
4. We demonstrated that beavers actively increase the volume-to-surface area ratio of wetlands by almost 50% and that their digging of foraging channels increases average wetland perimeters by over 575%. Some channels were 200–300 m long, which enhanced the interface between the riparian zone and upland forests. A coarse estimate of soil displacement due to the digging of channels by beavers exceeded 22 300 m3 within the total 13 km2 natural area. Additional measures of wetland depth, basin complexity and basin circularity revealed other dramatic differences between wetlands with beavers and those without in both natural and agricultural landscapes.5. Exclusion or removal of beavers could limit ecosystem processes and resilience, especially in areas with otherwise isolated aquatic habitats and limited connectivity. Conversely, reintroduction of such an ecosystem engineer into areas targeted for restoration could result in significant increase in habitat heterogeneity and connectivity.Keywords: beaver channels, Castor canadensis,

CaptureBefore we even launch into the article or the full awesomeness that is Glynnis, take a close look at this graphic showing the difference between beaver-present ponds and beaver-absent ponds. They differ in average increase of perimeter by 575%. No, seriously. Because you know Dr. Hood of the impeccable credentials and methods has had her graduate students meticulously measure and GPS it twice. Check out this quote from the discussion section.====

The increase of wetted perimeter of morainal wetlands by more than 575% on average demonstrates the important role one species can play in patch dynamics, spatial connectivity and habitat creation.Complex configuration of these perimeters (Fig. 5)also increases within-pond habitat heterogeneity byincreasing shoreline complexity, cover for waterfowl(Nummi & Holopainen, 2014) and potential dispersal corridors for other species to upland and adjacentaquatic habitats (Anderson, 2013).

If there is a rock star of beaver research it is Glynnis Hood. She is thoughtful, observant, charismatic, research driven, and she loves beavers.  If I could be twenty years old again and a graduate student in ANY campus, I would pick the University of Alberta, sit in the front row, take notes in two colors and hang upon her every word.

High shoreline complexity is one of the most important factors for enhancing biodiversity in wetlands (Hansson et al., 2005). In our study, the influence of beavers on shoreline and basin complexity at the local (wetland-specific) scale was easily observed; however, this complexity was also readily apparent at the landscape scale. Beaver channels were used not only to link a wetland with its adjacent upland habitats; they also joined one wetland with another over 10s or in many cases 100s of metres. Those wetlands would similarly be joined through the same process over increasingly larger scales.

Go Glynnis go! Here’s my 2012 interview with her. Oh and this is my very favorite part of what is now my very favorite paper, proving the inherent inter-connectivity of all things:

Many of these beaver-modified wetlands (active ones in particular) had an outward appearance resembling neurons with dendritic extensions into the ‘tissue’ of the surrounding landscape (Figs 2 & 5). 

You want to know the funny thing about the word DENDRITE? (I mean besides the fact that mine are busy de-mylinating at an alarming rate.) The funny about the word Dendrite is that it comes from the word Dendron in Greek, which means “Tree”. “Dendritis” means tree-like in Greek. So those fractal neural connections in our brains were called Dendrites because of trees.

Which beavers eat.

About frickin’ [NY] Time[s]….

Posted by heidi08 On October - 28 - 20144 COMMENTS


Reversing Course on Beavers

BUTTE, Mont. — Once routinely trapped and shot as varmints, their dams obliterated by dynamite and bulldozers, beavers are getting new respect these days. Across the West, they are being welcomed into the landscape as a defense against the withering effects of a warmer and drier climate.

 Beaver dams, it turns out, have beneficial effects that can’t easily be replicated in other ways. 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 perhaps most important in the West, beaver dams do what all dams do: hold back water that would otherwise drain away.

“People realize that if we don’t have a way to store water that’s not so expensive, we’re going to be up a creek, a dry creek,” said Jeff Burrell, a scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society in Bozeman, Mont. “We’ve lost a lot with beavers not on the landscape.”

e5e46c4c-4ae7-49bc-8834-45cc0ce4fd61-1020x612Experts have long known of the potential for beaver dams to restore damaged landscapes, but in recent years the demand has grown so rapidly that government agencies are sponsoring a series of West Coast workshops and publishing a manual on how to attract beavers.

 “We can spend a lot of money doing this work, or we can use beavers for almost nothing,” Mr. Burrell said.

 Beavers are ecosystem engineers. As a family moves into new territory, the rodents drop a large tree across a stream to begin a new dam, which also serves as their lodge. They cover it with sticks, mud and stones, usually working at night. As the water level rises behind the dam, it submerges the entrance and protects the beavers from predators.

Lookee what I found in the New York Times! (Three people have sent it to me this morning so far. Make that four.Five.) It is so VERY much better than the last beaver article in the Times that I can barely bring myself to be sarcastic, which, as you know, is rare for me. This is big news. Big Beaver News.

This pooling of water leads to a cascade of ecological changes. The pond nourishes young willows, aspens and other trees — prime beaver food — and provides a haven for fish that like slow-flowing water. The growth of grass and shrubs alongside the pond improves habitat for songbirds, deer and elk.

 Moreover, because dams raise underground water levels, they increase water supplies and substantially lower the cost of pumping groundwater for farming.

 And they help protect fish imperiled by rising water temperatures in rivers. The deep pools formed by beaver dams, with cooler water at the bottom, are “outstanding rearing habitat for juvenile coho salmon,” said Michael M. Pollock, a fish biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle, who has studied the ecological effects of beaver dams for 20 years.

When the NYT talks to Michael Pollock about beavers and fish, I pretty just want to sit back and enjoy it. Go Michael!  I’m not sure why they didn’t ask you to comment on the BOGUS research quoted at the end of the article that says beaver dams benefit invasive fish like carp and bass, but then all reporters like a good horse race. Every now and then they jar my perfect appreciative moment with something like this.

As a family moves into new territory, the rodents drop a large tree across a stream to begin a new dam, which also serves as their lodge.

I’m sorry. WTF? Did you just say that the dam also serves as their lodge? Are you in Kindergarten? Wait. Kindergartners know better than that. Did you drop OUT of Kindergarten? It’s a very nice idea to think that beavers maintain a live-work space like the metal artists in Greenwich, but actually, the dam holds back water, you know? Which sometimes pushes really hard.So it would be a very,very bad structural idea if it was hollow.

Talk to your engineer friends. They’ll explain it.

Overall this article is FULL of positive things about beavers. It’s the article we need to talk about drought and salmon and beaver solutions in the west. But don’t worry, they make sure to end the article with a little mystery.

“There’s a lot of unknowns before we can say what the return of beavers means for these arid ecosystems,” he said. “The assumption is it’s going to be good in all situations,” he added. “But the jury is still out, and it’s going to take a couple of decades.”

Ahh Jim, you must have looked so long to find someone to give you that quote. I know I’m not a fancy NYT science reporter or anything but do you wanna know what Michael Pollock said to me about that research? You know, the guy you interviewed from NOAA earlier?

This sounds like a certain person’s master’s thesis. This poor graduate student was sent out to sample beaver dams in remote regions of Arizona and didn’t really have time to come up with a good study design. There were all kinds of sampling, methodological and logistical problems with their approach and they really didn’t end up with much in the way of data that was very analyzable.

There are a lot of exotics throughout the system and little to suggest that beaver dams are responsible for that problem. Beaver have been part of natural stream and riparian ecosystem in that region for a long time and the native species have adapted, and potentially benefited from their presence. To conclude that beaver dams “could” negatively impact native fish populations is misleading. It would be just as reasonable to conclude that beaver dams “could” positively impact native fish populations, since that is what we see everywhere else, but that the timing and very low frequency of data sampling didn’t occur during the times of year that native fish might use beaver ponds.

 The reality is that this was a poorly designed study that produced little in the way of meaningful results, but perhaps will guide future research efforts. Pretty typical for many Master’s thesis in natural resource fields-a good learning experience, but not a lot of useful information applicable to management.

Michael M. Pollock, Ph.D.
Ecosystems Analyst
NOAA-Northwest Fisheries Science Center
FE Division, Watershed Program

Still and all, it’s a great beaver day. And I look forward to a full inbox telling me how great. There’s an awesome article from Mary Holland that we need to talk about and a deeply stupid one from National Geographic that will require my undivided mocking. But we’ll get to those soon. In the mean time, think about it. Beaver benefits in the NY Times. It’s a victorious dam. A day that will go down in history. The article is also on podcast, so listen for yourself and send it to a couple friends.


Click to Listen

Beavers Make New Friends

Posted by heidi08 On October - 27 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

Claire Wright giving itv beaver interview

The Devon beavers have all kinds of allies. They have farmers, and shop keepers, and school children, and politicians. And their number is growing. When the people lead the leaders will follow and Martinez knows first hand that is true about beavers.

Claire Wright is the Independent (unaffiliated) member of the Ottery County Council. I assumed she’d be pro-beaver until the day she was elected, but apparently I misjudged her commitment, because she won the election and she’s still advocating beaver sanity. Here’s her blog post today:

Why DEFRA should abandon plans to capture our beavers

On Friday I received a letter from Lord De Mauley via Mr Swire, confirming that DEFRA intends to capture them this year.

 Friends of the Earth has launched a legal challenge on the basis that the animals are protected by EU law and so cannot be lawfully captured. So now, the government, with its massive financial problems could face a huge legal bill, on top of the capture and testing programme bill, which is likely to cost tens of thousand of pounds….. and for what?

 To remove a group of native animals that local people have fallen in love with and that are living happily and harmlessly on a local river.

 Our beavers are the only wild beavers in England. Leave them alone!!

swireThe freedom of the beavers is now so popular in England that the East Devon MP has also asked for them to be returned to the Otter  (albeit after first testing them to make sure the don’t have the parasite no one is really worried about).


Hugo Swire: Return beavers to the River Otter

 East Devon MP Hugo Swire has called on Defra and Natural England to process a licence that will allow beavers to return to the River Otter, providing that they prove disease free after their capture and testing.

In July, Mr Swire held a meeting with Defra Minister Lord de Mauley along with representatives from the Devon Wildlife Trust to discuss this matter.

Mr Swire said: ‘The logical way to proceed now is for Natural England to capture the beavers and test them for the dangerous Echinococcus multilocularis (EM) parasite.

 ‘In the event of the beavers testing negative, I believe that they should then be released back into the River Otter, under licence, and monitored for a specific period. This, of course, must be done in close consultation with the local landowners and farmers’

Otherwise known as the “In the event that people do exactly what we want, I think we should let them” answer. This wan support was not good enough for the robust Ms. Wright who responded with:

It is encouraging that Mr Swire is doing something to put pressure on the seemingly paranoid DEFRA, however, the answer is surely to abandon the expensive and unnecessary capture plans, rather than risk the animals becoming ill or dying in captivity either before or after they are operated on and tested for a disease that Public Health England are apparently unconcerned about them having.

If the kits are separated from the parents, they will probably die, either in captivity or on the river. They rely on their parents for warmth and food.

 I have asked Mr Swire twice now if he will urge DEFRA to abandon the plans, to no avail.

I’m trying to imagine Rob Schroder and Mike Menesini scrambling to show that they defend our beavers more than their opponents. (Give me minute, that’s a nice image and it makes me giggle.) The beavers in the river Otter must be really, really popular. More popular than the the beavers in Martinez. More popular than ice cream in July.  I mean like Beatles popular.

poulinBack in California I’ve been hard at work on a grant for our 8th festival. Yesterday I heard confirmation from artist Marc Poulin that he is excited to make buttons for our event and going to hand design the images himself, offering us an amazing deal. Each child will get a burlap tail where earned pins can be displayed, and since the price is lower we can offer 20 designs and involve more exhibits.pinsMarc has generously donated to our auction in the past and is excited about coming on board. You’ve seen his creativity in boutiques, cutting edge shops and pet stores across the country. His designs are made here by his team at his warehouse in Oakland California and no one ever looks at his artwork without smiling. Here, I’ll prove it.

If I were you I would find a child to bring along with me on August 1st, because you are going to want one of everything. Thanks Marc!

Defending your Beavers

Posted by heidi08 On October - 23 - 2014Comments Off

 Beaver habitat topic of concern

Now after yesterday’s horrors, any sane person reading this headline from The Cabinet in Milford, New Hampshire, would obviously suspect that the concerns were mosquitoes, flooding or giardiasis. But any sane person would be WRONG because this is actually the exceedingly rare and absolutely best kind of concern.

MILFORD – Residents were back before selectmen last week to complain about the breaching of a beaver dam at Heron Pond. It was the second time since the Department of Public Works breached the dam in August that residents, lead by local environmental activist Suzanne Fournier, went to a selectmen’s meeting.

Fournier said removing part of the dam, which was done by hand, resulted in mud flats and harmed many kinds of wildlife.

 Ahh Suzanne! We read about her  almost exactly a month ago – the last time they did this. Apparently they haven’t learned much although Suzanne has been doing her homework. The good news is that this time school is back in session and she brought friends.

Several other residents went to the microphone at the Oct. 13 Board of Selectmen’s meeting to say they were unhappy with the dam breaching, including Suzanne Schedin, a teacher at Heron Pond School, who said the town should reconsider the decisions made 14 years ago when the 270-acre Brox property was purchased to see if development is a good idea.

 Chairman Gary Daniels conceded that town officials should have involved the Conservation Commission in its decision about dam breaching, and Audrey Frazier, commission chairwoman asked the board if they could be informed the next time work is done to the pond.

 Have you noticed how development is always lurking in the wings? The article describes how the selectman responded with the usual weaseling, saying the pond had just been altered, not drained and they shouldn’t worry so much and “Work together for the town.” Grr.  But if I were one of these very select group of men I would pay attention to the fact the Blue Heron School is an elementary and if they’re not very, very careful they will wind up at the next meeting with a room full of these: (The original weasel deflectors).


beaver armythree

(That reminds me, I have to send an email to some teachers.)

In the mean time, if you haven’t seen the scathing editorial from the Contra Costa times about one of our own ‘select men’ you really should read it. And I know this website isn’t supposed to be political but the endorsed candidate Mark Thompson is a friend of our beavers and came to the recent Beaver Safari. Incumbent Lara Delaney who is also endorsed, faught for a chance to be on the beaver sub-committee. And Gay Gerlack who is running for mayor spoke up for the beavers at the original meeting in November 2007.


“Made beavers” vs. “Beavers that have Got it Made”.

Posted by heidi08 On October - 21 - 2014Comments Off

I came across this video the other day and thought you might find interesting too. It’s a fairly concise description of the fur trade – well, one PART of the fur trade. Calling HBC the fur trade is like calling Shell the oil industry. Remember that there were many other companies all doing the same thing at once.

It’s amazing any survived at all. Lets not think any more about ‘Made Beavers”. Let’s think about “beavers that have got it made”.




Wonderments of the East Bay Celebrating 80 years of EBRP

 The East Bay Regional Parks abound in wonderments: animals, plants, sounds, geological formations, histories, and languages that stimulate our curiosity and expand our capacity for awe. In exquisite, lyrical essays, Sylvia Linsteadt and Malcolm Margolin—with help from their friends—revel in these wonderments.

Our complimentary copy arrived yesterday with 4 pages of the Martinez Beaver story. They declined to use Cheryl’s excellent photos (or my accurate writing, ahem) but gave a gallant tale of civic response and public interest. The story  puts Martinez in a community-building light and says we had people from all over coming just to see our beavers. I remain fairly picky about the details. (If you’ll remember the original chapter had said Martinez brought in a “Team of engineers” to fix the flooding problem and I was terrified everyone would think it was expensively hard work  saving beavers.) I managed to get that wording fixed, but sadly the chapter still said mom had three babies and we discovered the first ever tulle perch in Alhambra Creek, which makes me mortified that my name was dropped in the passage without a corresponding footnote saying, “Heidi never said this and didn’t write it.”

A reasonable woman would be content that it makes it clear that the beavers had a positive effect on our creek and grateful that they sent me a copy. I strive to be such a woman. I’m not worried about the idea of giving EBRP credit for our beavers, (since they’re on city land), because I crisply remember a lively conversation I had with park wizard Hulet Hornbeck before he died, where he told me that they had been working for 50 years to clean up the Marina so that the arrival of the beavers would even be possible. And since he was wise enough to see the beaver family as a compliment,  I heartily believed him.

It’s a very nice looking book and a trove of local treasures. I know you want to pick up your own copy  here, or wait for the silent auction!


Now you’ve done your history homework you deserve a treat. R.E. from Napa sent this yesterday and it’s very lovely. I won’t even bother telling you to enjoy it, because I know you will.

lorna and curtAnd finally a HUGE thanks to our friends at Safari West. My niece just got married in the Redwoods and since my wedding present to her had been an overnight stay at our favorite wilderness adventure in the wine country, they made sure she and her new hubby had an awesome time. The highlight came  last night when Kimberly Robertson met the couple after their tour and dinner to take them for a tower feeding that left my well-spoken niece speechless.  Thanks so much Safari West for making so many people so happy, and don’t forget to remember them if you’re looking for the PERFECT special day for someone in your family!


Time Travel and Beavers

Posted by heidi08 On October - 20 - 2014Comments Off

Believe it or not, this program aired this very Saturday on the Children’s BBC program “Wild”. It was obviously filmed before DEFRA had made up its mind to ruin everything so there is no mention of beavers being illegally released or carrying parasites. It’s just an irresistible story of beaver adventure. I’m guessing someone at the BBC got a memo Monday morning and scrubbed it because if you search for the program online you get this.

CaptureFortunately for us, stalwart beaver protector Peter Smith had already uploaded it to Youtube and we get to watch it first hand. I think I have a crush on host Naomi Wilkinson, because her enthusiasm for beavers is entirely infectious. Meanwhile pay attention to the language. This is alarmingly accurate for beaver-TV! If I were you I’d watch it today because tomorrow British government television might  come lumbering along and swallow the youtube version next.

Wasn’t that amazing? The other amazing thing that came across my desk this weekend (besides a memory card problem, did you know your computer can actually send telegraphic messages and beep to tell you why it broken? Me neither!) was the Moorhen Marsh Study done in 1998 on the beavers at Mt. View Sanitation. For years we’ve been running into the odd person at displays who has mentioned that they were on the volunteer beaver study group between the Lindsay Museum and Mt. View Sanitation. I was fascinated by this and stunned that no information or observations about this study existed or ever found its way to our beaver sub-committee. That is until Kelly Davidson was cleaning out her desk and sent us this.

CaptureThere’s a description of their methods and the some 15 volunteers who participated, as well as an excellent species list of 26  in all. It doesn’t say much that is startling about beavers and sadly there are no photos attached, but it did have a description of the behaviors they observed, all but one of which we see in Alhambra Creek. See if you can spot they outlier?

Beavers were observed swimming, chewing, diving, eating reeds, laying on their backs to eat, carrying stick or weeds in their mouth, patrolling or circling the ponds, shaking their heads, wiggling their ears, rubbing their faces with their paws and splashing.

Those beavers built a full lodge in the marsh and two kits were observed at the site. What I love best is thinking that one of those kits was probably one of our original parents. Bear with me here, but those beavers didn’t live in the bank and none of our 22 beavers have ever built a lodge but our original mom. In fact she built two in the span of three years and no one has done it since she died. This would make her 12 when she died, which is a nice life span for a wild beaver. So I’m going to assume it was mom that grew up in Moorhen Marsh. I’m reading this report as if I were looking at her baby pictures, which is a lot of fun. I will upload it to the website or you can read it here yourself.