Archive for the ‘Beavers’ Category

Not Enough: The AE Report

Posted by heidi08 On September - 30 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

Did you ever have an arch enemy? I mean someone who thwarts your every move, foils your every plan, and seems to lurk just over your shoulder where you can never, never see them? AE’s are respected and listened to by all the wrong people and whatever work you do to dismiss what they say it’s too late because they’ve already gone on to speak to the next group that you’re going to have to try and re-educate.

The Martinez Beavers have had lots of enemies, city council, public works, hired environmental consulting firms, a few reporters, handsomely paid attorneys and various property owners. But we only ever had one AE. And if you don’t know who that was by now I’m not doing my job.  Here she is talking at the April 2008 council meeting. And here I am over her shoulder looking inceredulous. I believe among her many erroneous points were;

  1. that our beavers were leaving (or had already left),
  2.  that every flow device she had ever seen installed had failed,
  3. and that trees can be protected with blackberry bushes because beaver never eat them as they dislike the thorns.

Originally Mary Tappel offered her services when our city was responding to beaver problems and she was supposed to present formally to the beaver subcommittee. We all got copies of her resume in preparation. But I happened by chance to recognize her name from an article about the Elk Grove beaver fiasco in the Sacramento Bee, which my folks used to get delivered to their home in the foothills. I remember being jarred by her comment in the article at the time that the beavers had to be killed because being sterilized was stressful. I thought, ‘isn’t being killed stressful?’ Then heard later  that she was coming to Martinez to offer l her skills.

At the time she told the reporter for the Gazette that beavers “breed for 50 years”. I remember because when I read the article I wrote him and asked whether it was a typo. The editor said ‘no’ and called her to check that he got the quote correctly. And just like that my AE announced that she would  not present to the subcommittee, because we were too inflamed and hostile, and she would just meet behind the scenes with city staff.

This meant that she could whisper her poisons unchallenged into their willing ears. Telling staff once that the father beaver should be killed so that the mother would have to mate with her sons when they grew up and slow population growth in that way. No. really.

God only knows what else she said.

The mayor liked her council so much that he invited her secretly to the April 2008 meeting where the subcommittee  results were going to be presented. I remember how surprised we were to see her in the hallway outside. To this day I wonder what funds changed hands to get her there. That same night I had suddenly found out I was going to be the one to present our results. No warning, just like that go ahead and talk to 200 people. And then Mary would go after me and dispute everything I said.

It turned out to be okay though, because she was not very convincing with her waving cardboard sign. My luck. And she went away and we got what we wanted, so that seemed like a victory.

Imagine how excited I was when Jack Sanchez of S.A.R.S.A.S heard my talk in Santa Barbra and invited me to come follow her presentation on beavers in Auburn. The shoe was finally on the other foot! I was so happy. I pulled together the latest fish data and they said the talk was the best attended and the best delivered they ever had. I was on cloud 9 when it was over. Especially because of the intelligent comments of one listener from FWS who knew everything about the fish issue and could soothe anxieties at the end of the talk. Here’s what I wrote at the time:

One particularly knowledgeable young man introduced himself as Damion Ciotti from the Habitat Restoration Division of US Fish and Wildlife Service. We connected several years ago and he was very interested in our work in Martinez. I made sure he left with a copy of Mike Callahan’s DVD. You can’t imagine how helpful his comments were in soothing the beaver-disbelievers in the room. I couldn’t have orchestrated it better than to let fish savvy folk do the defending for me!

So I was stunned to hear a few months ago that my AE was invited BACK to S.A.R.S.A.S. to speak on beavers this September. Again? I got word yesterday from Damion that he attended her talk and was dismayed to hear her describe beaver as responsible for “Ecosystem Collapse“. He tried to ask pointed questions but realized she didn’t have any sources for her info but anecdote. She apparently said that there was no region in California where beaver should ever be introduced.

Ecosystem Collapse. If you google the phrase with the word beavers you get zero hits. Only articles about them being a keystone species. I guess the research world doesn’t think like Mary Tappel.

Damion said she introduced herself as working for the state, and he was worried about the influence she might have with policy. She is still staff on the regional waterboards, which is a division of the CAEPA. (Bravely protecting the environment from beavers, apparently). She is still marching around calling herself a beaver expert, and even boasts of her work with Martinez on her resume.

Mary also dealt with beaver management questions and in foothill areas such as Granite Bay, Loomis, & Roseville; and towards the Bay/Delta area in  Martinez, and to the south in Elk Grove, all in creeks and small retention basins. Mary’s involvement in foothill areas and smaller streams has always included salmonid passage concerns.

What a coincidence. With the exception of Martinez those cities are the very ones that issued the most depredation permits. Isn’t that just an amazing coincidence?


Which is not to say she hasn’t learned anything over the years. She used to preach devotedly that beavers ruined salmon passage, and now she says the salmon make their way around dams. Which is something. But I realize, sadly and with no small amount of panic, it’s not enough. I haven’t done enough. People want to hear what she says because they want to get rid of things that are inconvenient. She has a resonant message to deliver. And they want to hear what I say less because co-existence seems like it means work. Screw the salmon. Or the frogs. Just let me do what I want to do, sound environmental and give me cover. So I can get away with it.

I haven’t done enough. And even though, if you google her name, the warnings of this website are nearly the only thing that come up, even though I was able to follow her talk on her home turf in the very county where they kill the most beavers in the entire state, and even though I talked BWW into taking her off their resource list for beaver experts in CA: It’s not enough. I’m not doing enough.

My arch enemy continues to influence the American River area and all its surrounds. She has a powerful platform and a respected government job to grant her credibility. And I haven’t beaten her.


Columnists behaving badly…

Posted by heidi08 On September - 27 - 2015Comments Off on Columnists behaving badly…

Looks like someone else felt a little snarky when they watched “Beavers Behaving Badly.” I think this column complains about all the wrong things, but its a fun read. Thank you to Bruce Thompson for sending it my way.
Natural World – Beavers Behaving Badly: a sad way to treat a noble species.

Beavers are interesting creatures. Their instinctive urge to build dams has shaped America, and the lush habitats their waterways create makes them an essential part of the country’s ecology. It is hard, however, to take beavers seriously. They’re condemned by their unfortunate Bash Street teeth and junk in the trunk waddle to be the comedy figures of the animal kingdom. I’m sorry to tell you, beavers, but all that ‘keystone species’ shit you’ve been doing – it’s all for nothing. No one can respect an animal that looks like a child’s pyjama case.

 There’s no dark side to a beaver. No air of mystery. Beavers will forever possess a gravitational pull for those who believe their name alone contains a wealth of comic potential. This is a sad, sad thing for the noble beaver, but do they really deserve the indignity of being narrated by Rob Brydon doing his best uncle-at-a-wedding routine? The secret beaver-cam is capturing a family of snuggling beavers as we’re told that the animals mate in the winter. “Lets face it,” says Rob with a silent chuckle, “locked in by the ice for months on end, there’s not much else to do!” I’m all for the dumbing down of television, but has it really come to this? This brave nest of beavers is trying to breed in the face of debilitating conditions, and all they get is Bryn from Gavin & Stacey cracking one-for-the-dads jokes.

Now I agree about the  narration of this film being irritatingly perky, but who does not take beavers seriously? Either people are seriously upset about them, like the anglers in your country, or seriously excited about them, like the wildlife trust folk in Devon, but they all seem to take them seriously.

I like the line about the pajama case, though. (Even though you spelled it wrong.)

The captive is driven out of town while his beaver life partner grieves. Come spring, her bloated body will rise to the top of the thawed ditch and no one will lay flowers on her beaver grave. Did she regret it, in those final hours, choosing freedom over love? This question is never answered, as laughing boy is uncharacteristically quiet for this bit. Instead, it’s back to the hidden camera in a beaver lodge, where some fwuffy beaver kits are having a nice sleep. Honestly, it’s simply untenable, I refuse to be patro … but, awww, look at their funny faces!

Gotcha! AHA! Baby beavers are not just puppy cute, they are inescapably adorable aren’t they. Told you. Now they’ve got your attention.

Now that one’s having a little scratch! Yes NW:BBB, you’re right, it is just like me in the morning. Maybe this condescending fuzz isn’t so bad after all. I know I should beaver-y ashamed, but I can’t help myself.

Yep, anyone who starts watching beavers will probably keep watching them a little longer. They’re compelling that way.

Consider yourself warned.

Beaver services in three states

Posted by heidi08 On September - 26 - 2015Comments Off on Beaver services in three states

Again today there is lots of beaver news. I’ll walk you through it and save the most fun for last. First this from Vermont – where they know a thing  or two about living with beavers.


BENSON — Armed with flexible piping, a cage made of metalfencing, two cinder blocks and a few tools, a group of students scrambled through the woods Thursday morning.

The group of nine from Stafford Technical Center’s Forestry, Natural Resources and Horticulture program were helping to build a beaver baffle at the Shaw Mountain Natural Area in Benson.

Accompanied by their instructors, employees of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department and the Nature Conservancy of Vermont, the group made the more than half-mile hike up the rocky wooded terrain carrying the necessary supplies for the “beaver baffle” they were going to install.
A beaver baffle is a structure that controls water in a beaver impoundment by lowering the water level by moving water out where it wouldn’t normally be flowing, said Rachel Bakerian, a state beaver specialist.

“We can maintain the water level and control it, but the beaver can still maintain their habitat,” said Kim Royar, wildlife biologist with the department.

Hurray for forestry students that know how to install a flow device! I’m not sure why it’s a baffle and not a pond leveler or castor master but FULL MARKS for effort boys and girls.


I was very happy to see folks doing the sensible thing and even MORE happy when I saw this:

COLUMN: Thanks to beaver dam, Crooked Pond in Boxford has more water

The water level on both sides of the dam was not what they expected. Due to the drought they had anticipated walking on the usually beaver flooded road to and from the base of Bald Hill on dry land. Another larger beaver dam across the east end of Crooked Pond where it drains to a tributary of Fish Brook has kept the water relatively high. Parts of the road flooded much of the year are even in this dry spell now still ankle deep.
The largely unseen but obviously active beavers are doing a great service for wildlife and plants throughout the state. It was that way four centuries ago before the English and French newcomers paid good wampum, iron knives and pots, and later beads to the Indians for beaver pelts. The beavers were soon gone.
This millennium thanks to protective, and we think enlightened laws, they are back in a big way. Next to humans beavers have been the most written about animals featured here in the Water Closet. The 17th century colonists sought out the low lands that beavers had inundated for ten thousand years. In them the soil was a meter or more thick of rich black muck. The English farmers dug drainage ditches and used the land mid to late summer. In the 20th century, without beavers or farmers, the areas become red maple swamps. The beavers now back have drowned the maples. The inundated areas called beaver meadows, with year round water and lots of light, are lush with life.

Keep in mind that this article is from Massachusetts, home of the many complainers about beavers. Our friends at Streamkeepers in Middletown have known the truth about beavers for years, and have been doing amazing work. Since I was raised Catholic I was not at all surprised to see this timely ending:

One-time chemist, now environmentalist Pope Francis, originator of the cyclical Laodato Si, would understand all this. We hope while here he visits wetlands to see what God’s creatures are doing, and that when he speaks to Congress he’ll cause blinders to be shed.

I can’t tell you how much I love the idea of the pope approving beavers. It makes me smile very much.


Okay, one last thing to smile about and its the finally PERFECT use for beaver traps. No, really.

Pot grow-op guarded by beaver traps found along Salmon River

The Chipman RCMP have taken down an outdoor marijuana grow operation in Chipman that was guarded with beaver traps.

The grow-op was found along the banks of the Salmon River in Gaspereau Forks.

hahaha…I could say lots of things, like how beaver traps are “painless” and “humane” and people shouldn’t worry. But the broken website is even MORE broken on my mac, so I’ll spare you any more formatting flaws.

Trial Run

Posted by heidi08 On September - 24 - 2015Comments Off on Trial Run

Trying to post with new iPad. I’m using dictation, let’s see if it works.d2de62a3afe8ab80152efcdbf634b424_original


Posted by heidi08 On September - 22 - 2015Comments Off on Papyrus

This weekend someone commented on our logo with the perfect sentence “Oh because beavers are the KEY to the creek, right?” And it got me remembering how it all came together.

Once upon a time, many years ago, Worth A Dam needed a logo. I fiddled with logo picsome primitive images and asked around the best I could and got the suggestion to look for a volunteer on Craig’s list. I was told to advertise for a “Free gig” and say what we needed.

The truly amazing thing is that I immediately received more than a dozen offers. I actually had to review applications for an unpaid job drawing a beaver logo. It was 2009 and the time the Martinez Beavers were bigger news than they are now. I reviewed cute graphics, manly graphics and gothum graphics. I got offers from the Southbay, the Northbay and San Francisco.

The woman that finally intrigued me was Kiriko Moth, a graphic artist in the city. She’s has gotten bigger and her website is amazing if you want to catch a peek. She had just finished some lovely illustrations for a book on bees that compelled me. We had a conversation about my ideas and she sketched a host of designs which I liked – including one with children’s faces. I wish I had the sample sheet she sent just to remember. But at the time I asked her to think about incorporating the key idea, and maybe a stream.

She came back with a stream dividing the beaver (in blue and reversed with the wide part at the top). I suggested we do uncolored and offered the idea of flipping it so it looks like you’re looking into the distance. Then we chose fonts to go around it. And Voila the logo was born. When mom died she was kind enough to notch the tail.

legacy_logo2lgOne thing she said as we were discussing fonts was to avoid papyrus. She said TOO many non profits used it already. I thought at the time that was an odd thing to say, because I happened to love papyrus. Maybe you do too. But now years later I have seen over and over that she was right. Here’s a little sample, but keep your eye out and you’ll find millions.

papyrusI have to ask myself what quality we all possess that draws us to this font? Even many of the logos that were professionally designed and avoided the danger of using the font actually chose fonts that look LIKE papyrus.

Apparently the advice NOT to use papyrus has to be sternly administered from lots of sources. It is all over google.

There’s a psychological paper there just waiting to be written.

A day in the life of a beaver advocate

Posted by heidi08 On September - 21 - 2015Comments Off on A day in the life of a beaver advocate

Yesterday in Sonoma was hot. hot. hot, with surprises of the nice variety. There were many many people who knew that beavers create habitat because they had watched the documentary, read a book or heard my talk at Santa Rosa Audubon or Kate’s talk at Pepperwood. And the booth right next door was the executive director of Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation who had formerly been the beaver management guy at Huntley Meadows in Virginia! He happened to know our friend Ann Cameron Siegal, who has been taking jaw-droppingly beautiful photos there of beaver life for years.

Crazy small world.

Beavers on ice 2 002I came home thinking about the idea of the beaver as an ecosystem engineer, and wondering whether our next activity at the festival could help children understand that concept.

An ecosystem engineer is an organism that modifies, creates or destroys habitat and directly or indirectly modulates the availability of resources to other species.

Wouldn’t this make a cool activity for kids to earn from the different booths if we can figure it out? You know like each car links together to make the train bracelet?


Two awesome beaver birthday cards came to me yesterday that I really need to share. Love the beaver strategy meeting especially.

beaver strategy meeting cutest

Ohhh and just in case you’re interested, here’s what I thought yesterday about turning 50.

Sonoma Bound

Posted by heidi08 On September - 20 - 2015Comments Off on Sonoma Bound

Yesterday we met with Suzi Eszterhas and 5 children that were beaver regulars and did a beaver art project in Susanna Street park for possible inclusion in the Ranger Rick story. The pictures will give you some idea of how cute it looked from the outside, but you’d actually need to be there to hear how delightful it was in person. These children had been to many, many festivals and literally knew everything there was to know about beavers.

Suzi projectOne child had brought her recent copy of Ranger Rick for Suzi to sign, since it was the issue with her incredible cheetah photos. Many of then named their beavers (B0, Violet and Jojo are some I remember.) And one girl fed hers acorns, fennel and a branch. The bags were very popular and Suzi especially liked the fork paws. If you want to make your own the patterns are here.

beaver army
There’s a nice article on Napatopia this morning. I especially like the way it talks to public officials who never mention flooding or money. Life is so different on the Napa side of the creek…

Napa waterways attracting wild critters

Since moving to Napa four years go, Rusty Cohn has gotten into the habit of taking a daily walk along Soscol Avenue. About two years ago, he noticed that a pond had been created in Tulucay Creek next to the Hawthorn Wyndham Suites hotel.Observing the area more closely, he was amazed to see what looked like a beaver dam.

There was a moment of disbelief. Beavers in residence along Napa’s Auto Row?

The Resource Conservation District estimates that there are 10 to 15 beaver dams and at least 100 individuals in Napa County waterways, including the new arrivals in downtown and along Soscol. Beaver dams create mini ecosystems, according to Knapczyk. They, in turn, draw other wildlife like fish, birds, and the popular river otters, although the otter population in Napa is very small.

See  those last three lines in bold text? Can you make the whole article like this next time? Go read the whole thing, and see how perilously little credit beavers get for this sudden biodiversity. We’ll work on it. In the meantime I wish we had many, many more articles pondering the benefits of wildlife in urban settings.

If you have thoughts or questions, you should come ask them yourself here. Because Martinez and Napa beavers will be shoulder to shoulder teaching how and why to coexist. See you there?