Archive for the ‘Beavers’ Category

Magical beaver day

Posted by heidi08 On February - 26 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

Yesterday we had arranged a meeting between two Watershed Stewards Program Americorp interns and the city engineer of Martinez to talk about planting willow in the beaver habitat. It all became possible after my presentation at the San Francisco water board in December. Rebecca and Corie took Amtrak out from Oakland and we gave them a tour of the planting areas and beaver dam before taking them to the meeting. On the way we came across the most darling little beaver chews from our 2014 kit that we presented as souvenirs (along with hats, which were much appreciated, as you can see).

Desktop3Then we sat down to what we expected to be a challenging meeting. Historically it has not been simple to negotiate with the city to put trees in the beaver habitat. (Take from that what you will-it’s almost like they don’t want the beavers to stay!) But we were hopeful that having some professionals in uniform might make it easier. We talked a little about the areas we wanted to plant, and then discussed the ideas I had encountered regarding fascines at the beaver conference, which prompted our interns to talk about their recent projects at Baxter and Strawberry Creek where they had used fascines of both willow and dogwood.

We talked about timing and their experience, and then the city engineer said he would handle things with the council and with Fish and Game and we could get the project moving within two weeks.(!) They would do the planting and get the willow cuttings, and encourage some colleagues to help out on the day. We promised to reward everyone with hats if they did!  And then the meeting was over. Approximately 15 glorious minutes after it started.

No, really.

Jon and I were in varied states of amazement. To say that was not the reception we’d been expecting is a significant understatement. But I swear it really happened. And we are on board to get willow in the ground before the middle of March. Riley will help arrange for them to harvest it from wildcat canyon in Berkeley, and they will make the fascines and plant them. (Just pray that it rains SOMETIME along the way.) And thank you to Riley for sending these hardworking city-soothers our way. This video will teach you about what facines are, and this one could show you the magical way they work in less than 3 weeks! Our fascines will be buried in the unrocky bank.

Still don’t believe it? The day needs more incredulity, so I’m going to show you the very best beaver news out of Canada that was ever filmed. I can’t find a date on this story, and can’t embed it so you will need to perform the onerous labor of clicking on it and watching an ad, but trust me, even if you never trusted me before and never will again,  it’s worth it.

CaptureStarving beavers kept alive by couple after dam destroyed

Don’t you LOVE these people? Someone give them a bag of sweet potatoes right away!

Fnally I got a delightful email from Rusty in Napa yesterday because the beaver pond in Tulocay creek was visited by a whopping 5 pairs of hooded mergansers that evening. He was surprised how people shy they were in such an urban setting. But very kindly shared these photos. The beautiful one is the boy, and the rusty hairdo is the female. Enjoy.

HM napa

Hooded Merganser at Tulocay Creek – Rusty Cohn

hmpairs Napa

Hooded Merganser pairs – Rusty Cohn


They’re ba-a-ack!

Posted by heidi08 On February - 22 - 2015Comments Off

DIMG_0074id you know you can drive north in California for a very long time and end up in Oregon? It’s amazing! You just get on 5 and keep heading towards this – You can’t miss it!

And then when you get there you find lots of people gathered and talking about beavers! -  how good they are for fish and water and creeks. I can’t tell you how affirming that feels. There are people doing the work you always dreamed about and people doing things you never even imagined.  And THEY find YOU inspirational!

I even learned a new beaver word, which sadly doesn’t happen that often any more.

Fascine: Fascines, bundles of live but dormant willow shoots, are planted in the streambank in early spring. Layers of fascines are installed up the bank, each layer covered with soil.

It all works out because it turns out willow are GREAT for streams (stop erosion and incision), willows are GREAT for beavers (because they eat them!) and beavers are GREAT for Willow because they prune, coppice and make more water area! How serendipitous is that? Sometimes the earth really seems engineered. (Which Cleo had lots to say about, and pointed us to a book I missed that we must read soon: Red Earth White Lies). He also had very insightful things to say about the fur trade being an extension of Manifest Destiny: everything is for US and we10954476_788524011226195_3155471126400984391_n can use it UP. Really smart thinking.  And his smart editor/author mom happened to be in the audience and had some very interesting things to say after my talk that I’ll share later. There was great inspiration from Dr. Lixing-Sun enjoying a moment here with popular presenters Brock Dolman and Kate Lundquist of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center.

I spoke midway into the second day and was very enthusiastically received. Jon popped in to hear the talk and said it was the best ever. One fan from Oregon was so inspired she talked about wanting to organize a bus trip to the festival! The audio and video worked without a hitch which was a relief because I had a dream the night before that the file was mysteriously deleted. (!) People oohed and ahhed at all the usual things, but were especially excited by the Napa photos (thanks Rusty!) and our findings on the depredation permits! (Thanks Robin!)

But the highlight for me was getting to meet Dr. Suzanne Fouty who greeted me excitedly and wanted to come for dinner on Friday. We offered her the spare room, and wined and dined her long into the night talking about her work, her plans for the future, and how she got involved with beavers. We shared favorite moments from the conference, gossiped about beaver drama  and even  argued over using live animals or pelts in children’s education. (Imagine! Arguing with Suzanne Fouty over wolf pelts!) I learned a lot, and had so much fun I woke up at dawn to see her off on her 9 hour drive back north. It turns out she’s going to be working with Brock and Kate this summer so we might finally get her to the beaver festival after all!

suzane at confsuzanne comes to visit

heidi and suzanne hang out

It was a busy and dazzling three days. Exciting for me because there was a changed tone evident in which it was clear that more and more attendees weren’t just interested in beavers as a means to an end, but protective of the animals themselves.  For the first time ever I had several speakers say that the BEST kind of beaver relocation was letting them relocate themselves and not killing them when they did! There was more heated discussion of trapping than ever before, and a frank address of what  trappers take from the public when they’re allowed to trap on public lands.

Jon was a noble soldier driving the whole way and getting me there on time. We were even able to relax a little in the February sun after it was over. A perfect ending to an awesome conference. You should really plan to attend in 2017.


Napa Beavers forget they are nocturnal for a while

Posted by Rusty Cohn On February - 21 - 20151 COMMENT

Being new to watching Beavers Robin, Hank and I had no clue that we were being treated to special viewing opportunities during daylight hours, and to top it off two kits were born.


Beavers diets vary as the seasons change but cattail roots seem to be popular


Beaver eating Duck Weed which is high in protein. More than soybeans.

Parent and kit eating branches

Beaver eating branch a little too casually.

The main dam Feb 10th after the 2nd big storm


The main dam Feb 17th (with Reed’s Help?)


Napa Beaver pond gets noticed

Posted by Rusty Cohn On February - 20 - 2015Comments Off

After the Napa Valley Register story the Beaver pond began to have more visitors. From a county supervisor to grandparents bringing their grand kids to see the dam, lodge, and hopefully the beavers.


Speaking of grand kids I took this photo May 20th of a beaver but had no idea that it was something special.

beaver swimming cropped

The first couple of months after finding the Beaver pond were a very special time. The weather was good, the Beavers were very active, I met new Beaver friends Robin and Hank. Robin was responsible for getting the information on Beaver depredation permits in California and helping to sort out the data so it could be analyzed and Hank is a local Wildlife photographer. For some reason the usually nocturnal Beavers came out an hour or so before sunset during that time and made viewing quite easy.IMG_0558

A typical trip to the pond would have the three of us waiting near the lodge to wait for the Beavers to swim upstream. While waiting for the evenings Beaver action we began to notice some of the other wildlife.

Native Western Pond Turtle IMG_0129

Black Crowned Night Heron black crowned night heron eating

Green Heron                             IMG_1075

Great Heron                              IMG_1118


Mink                                           IMG_1324_1_1





Napa Beavers get better known

Posted by Rusty Cohn On February - 19 - 2015Comments Off

After discovering the Beaver  dam, lodge and their pond and then the excitement of seeing a beaver for the first time I began to worry about the future of this Beaver oasis. While I was exploring the Beaver pond along it’s approximately 1/2 mile length along Tulocay creek I noticed dump trucks dropping off dirt at the vacant lot next to the Beaver pond. Checking around I found there is a 4 story 90 unit hotel being developed on the vacant lot, and became concerned that it would harm them.


After making contact with Worth a Dam Heidi suggested publicity is one of the keys to protecting beavers. I contacted the local papers in mid May 2014 and quickly a reporter decided to do a story about the Napa Beaver Dam one mile from downtown. Me with my vast less than 7 days of experience (I saw my first Beaver on May 11th) was to meet the reporter at the Beaver Dam. Somewhat in a panic  I called a few local County Employees on very short notice and was lucky enough to have Shaune Horn who is a Watershed and Flood Control Resource Specialist with the Napa County Flood Control & Water Conservation District agree to meet Howard Yune from The Napa Valley Register and me  on less than a day’s notice on May 15th. Heidi also agreed to talk to Howard about Beavers via phone, and fortunately Shaune had some experience with Napa County Beavers over the past few years and is concerned about Beaver welfare along with wildlife in general.

Howard on left and Shaune with cap on right

On May 18th the story was published in the local paper The Napa Valley Register and made the front page.


Introduction to one of the Napa Beaver believers

Posted by Rusty Cohn On February - 18 - 2015Comments Off

chewed treesHello. My name is Rusty Cohn and my first introduction to Beavers was May 9th 2014. I was out on my daily walk in Napa, Ca crossing a bridge when I saw fallen trees that had been chewed on.

I had never seen a Beaver but knew enough to know this must be the work of one. The spot is on a very busy 4 lane road one mile from downtown Napa and the traffic was busy that day so I didn’t try to investigate on the other side of the road.  I walk by this site almost daily, but the traffic is typically heavy so it took me a few days to cross over the highway and investigate on the upstream side of the bridge.



P1010856 I was excited to discover a beautiful Beaver dam. It is located between the parking lot of a major hotel and a vacant lot being prepared for another hotel of all places.







P1010864Walking upstream I discovered the Beavers had built their own hotel (lodge).






















On May 11th I saw my first Beaver and became fascinated. I wanted to learn more about Beavers so I searched the internet for information and hit the gold mine. No points for guessing who it was.






For a couple of months the Beavers seemed to come out well before night fall and I didn’t realize at the time how lucky this was for viewing. To be continued.

Not what you’d expect

Posted by heidi08 On February - 11 - 2015Comments Off


Early Dam in Alhambra Creek - Heidi Perryman

Early Dam in Alhambra Creek – Heidi Perryman

Beaver illegally trapped and killed near shopping center in Lancaster County

A beaver that repeatedly set up a dam on a pond near a Lancaster County shopping center has allegedly been illegally trapped and killed, according to news reports. The beaver used sticks to create a 25-foot dam on the waterway beside the Red Rose Commons shopping center in Manheim Township, according to LancasterOnline.

 It was first noticed in November by David Kilmer, executive director of the South Central Transit Authority. During a hard rain, the beaver dam caused some parking spaces to flood at the transit authority’s nearby headquarters on Erick Road.

Kilmer told LancasterOnline he dismantled the dam weekly, but was willing to co-exist with the wild beaver. The news organization reported he was “thrilled” with the presence of the beaver, which each time would have the dam rebuilt overnight.

Reconstruction seemed to end this week when evidence suggested someone likely trapped and killed the animal.

Okay, I know this looks like a bad story, but think about it. This is Pennsylvania and the director of transportation was happy to rip out the dam every day and unhappy that the beaver was killed. Have I been wrong about everything? First Ohio wants to coexist and now the transit authority in Lancaster Pennsylvania? Will Alabama be next? It was reported in the PAPER! People were upset by this! Hundreds of beavers are killed even in California without the smallest alarm or conversation.  Heck, even the permit to kill our beavers was originally issued without a blip on anyone’s radar.

Alcoa used to operate a plant in the area and still owns much of the wetlands there.  When the company determined the beaver dam was causing flooding at its pumping station, the company contracted with Lititz-based Critter Catcher Inc.

 The wildlife specialists were hired to humanely capture and release the beaver to best protect the animal and the property, a company spokeswoman said. But someone else apparently had another agenda and set up a Conibear trap – a body-gripping trap designed to kill animals quickly – on the ground next to the pond, according to LancasterOnline.

 Blood was also found next to the pond.  Though the trap is legal if it is used in water, it is illegal to use it on land.

Really? It’s okay to drown beavers but not to crush them on land? If it’s true it must be about protecting accidental pet injuries, because I can’t imagine it makes a difference to anyone where beavers are killed. But still, considering the state this story comes from it’s a sign of remarkable progress. Whenever beaver deaths are reported as shocking and unplanned it is progress. This story confronts without defending,  instead of wrapping up the incident with a rosy package and calling it ‘management’. In fact there isn’t even an attempt to exonerate the offending party or let them lie or try to explain that the beaver was harming property and needed to be removed to protect public interest. We didn’t even get that in Martinez, where the media was always giving the city council several paragraphs to explain the damage the beavers would do if left alone. This article is just stark reporting of the death. Which is pretty amazing.

Since I’ve been reporting on beavers I have learned something about their news cycle. There are a handful of compelling scientific stories about beaver benefits every year from across the world. There are even fewer valiant neighborhood watch stories that show how to live with them. There are plenty of stories about how great trappers are, and how much damage beaver cause, but there really are no frankly bad-ass stories that just describe what actually happens to them when we call the critter removal company. There just aren’t. Not in Pennsylvania. Not in Oregon. No where.

I am celebrating with something else shockingly bad-ass and unexpected. Let’s think of it as crushing myth, ignorance and expectation.