Archive for the ‘Beavers’ Category

Spoiled for Beaver Choice

Posted by heidi08 On March - 23 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

Some days there is so little beaver news that I am left sorting through my ragged thoughts and trying to find something new to say about them. This week has been a beaver explosion, so I can barely keep up. First there is the smart new beaver page out offered by Esther Lev of the Wetlands Conservancy and some graduate students who accepted the beaver challenge. You will have fun browsing the projects. Use the link to visit the site which connects to each project. I’ll let them describe the ‘zine’ themselves.

During the 2017 Winter Term, eight graduate students from the Master of Urban and Regional Planning, Master of Fine Arts, and Master of Environmental Science and Management programs at Portland State University engaged in a study of beavers in the Pacific Northwest.  The question was whether better understanding the beaver could help us understand more about the culture, identity, and character of the Pacific Northwest, particularly for those of us engaged in planning and other activities with and for communities in the region.

The project had two components.  First, each student identified a topic associated with beavers, and developed a research paper that explored that topic.  All of those papers are posted here for your use and enjoyment.  During the term we read Frances Backhouse’s Once they were Hats, her very informative and engaging book about beavers in North America.  Thanks to Esther Lev, Wetlands Conservancy Executive Director, and Sara Vickerman Gage, we were able to spend a morning discussing the book with Frances Backhouse.  We gratefully acknowledge the importance of both Frances’ work and her presence in the class with us.  If you are interested in and/or care about beavers, do read her book!

Second, each student used their paper as the point of departure for creating pages for a class “zine” about beavers.  A zine is a short, self-published, and mostly hand-crafted magazine.  Usually combining words and images, the zine form attempts to both transmit information to and engage the imagination of the reader.  Preliminary research in Portland revealed hardly any zines about or featuring beavers.  We aimed to fill that void, at least in part.

3 screenTWC is who had me talk in Portland last year and is responsible for the art show “Beaver Tales” that is in its second venue. They are doing beaver-work wonders. I am thrilled that they’re on the scene and that all these students will remember beavers in their masters training.

A second exciting development came from our beaver friends in the Czech University of Life Sciences. They recently completed the English translation of their ‘living with beavers’ guidebook. There is a lot of great info on management and history, so I would take some good time to browse. There’s a great discussion of tree protection and flow devices, as well as some pretty creative solutions for preventing bank burrows. Enjoy!


We have met the enemy – and he is Alabama

Posted by heidi08 On March - 20 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

I needed to do this for several hours before I even tried to write this story. I’m leaving the graphic just in case you need a reminder of how to stop that panic rising too. Get your bag handy. Because this is a doozy.

Birmingham golf course beaver kill a dystopian Caddyshack

The Great Beaver Slaughter of 2017 at Birmingham’s historic Roebuck Golf Course began one January morning. It didn’t stop until 17 beavers were dead.

Did the beavers have to go?

Yes, according to prominent biologists. Were the beavers political casualties? Maybe so, and in more ways than one, based on the statements made by the president of the Birmingham City Council.

According to golf course employees, the prolific and resourceful beavers were rounded up in January with “pitchforks” and “by government employees.” The largest of all, weighing in at 38 pounds, was frozen by one of the maintenance staffers for future consumption. This all happened after Birmingham City Council President Johnathan Austin visited the course, and produced a Facebook Live video demanding coverage by television news stations, and implicating negligence by, well, somebody.pitchfork

“This is real news,” Austin said during his video. “This is coming to you live from Rogusta, where something needs to be done about this. This is beautiful city property. We are trying to preserve the property that we have, take care of the property we already have.”

Austin plays regularly at Roebuck Golf Course, along with many other prominent members of the Birmingham business, political and legal communities. (In full disclosure, if I had a home course, it would be Roebuck.)

17 beavers killed with a pitchfork in the dead of winter by some happy maintenance worker. How’s that bag coming along? Triggered by a petulant city council complaint on facebook that the water was ruining his golf game. Breathe. Now brace yourself. Because the reason cited for this madness was the fate of one very special fish.

 It didn’t end well for the furry animals, but they died, say scientists, to preserve another, more favored animal, the endangered and federally protected fish known as the watercress darter.

Now wait a minute. If you’ve been reading this website since the dawn of time you’ll remember that the rare watercress darter was the subject of one of the LARGEST fish and wildlife fines in history after some city officials ripped out a beaver dam. Say, where was that anyway?

Oh RIGHT Birmingham.


Almost a decade ago, a supervisor for Birmingham Park and Recreation ordered the destruction of the beaver pond and the man-made levee it rested upon because two tennis courts were being flooded. The backhoe removed the dam and levee, and the sudden loss in habit drained the pond and killed about 12,000 of the watercress darter.

Combined, the U.S. Department of Interior and the Alabama Department of Conservation sued the city for $4 million, and federal officials called the backhoe incident one of the largest fish kills in the history of the Endangered Species Act. The city settled most of the fines out of court after cooperating with U.S. Fish & Wildlife to preserve the habitat, but litigation associated with that lawsuit remains. Part of the deal affected the golf course and, by and by, multiple generations of unlucky beavers.

In other words, the backhoe savagery changed everything.

In the past 10 years, the maintenance crew at “Rogusta” hasn’t been allowed to step within 25 feet of the stream that runs through the course. Mowing, trimming, cutting and any other funny business that might somehow affect the fish hasn’t been allowed. Maintenance staffers aren’t even allowed to clean trash out of the water, so they claim. An old shopping cart was lodged in the creek bed next to the No. 8 green for years. Thousands of plastic bottles litter the water.

Keep breathing. So a eager beaver-destroyer brought the mother-of-all fines from Fish and Wildlife and they spent nearly a decade defending themselves in court. The negotiated settlement was “We promise to do nice things and we’ll never, ever, Ever go in that creek again. Scouts honor.” I remember being SO INSPIRED by this case. I quoted it so many times to remind cities how expensive it could be to remove beavers. I thought it meant that a certain part of our thinking had turned a corner. But I was wrong.

Just imagine how fond the good ole boys in Alabama were of the federal government telling them what to do on their own golf course in the middle of town.

Golfers don’t like looking at all the trash, but the single-minded beavers of “Rogusta” were made of tougher stuff. When trees started growing back along the banks of the golf course, the beavers did what beavers do: they moved in and claimed the territory as their own.

“The golfers are all upset because they won’t cut the vegetation within so many feet of the creek, and they’re always hitting their balls into the vegetation out there,” said Howell, the biologist and a former Samford professor. “Well, I look at it as just another hazard.”

But it’s more than that. Over the past few years, the beavers have transformed a portion of the golf course into wetlands. Until recently, the beaver annex was mostly in an out-of-bounds area, but the beavers weren’t satisfied with merely punishing the hard slices of hack golfers.

Here’s what Fish and Wildlife says about the area on their website

“Our ultimate goal at Roebuck Springs is to restore and protect the habitat of the watercress darter. That’s always been the plan,” said Cynthia K. Dohner, Southeast Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We want to do what’s best for the fish, and our work is far from over.”

But beavers got in the way of golfers and the fact that they had caused the feds to pay attention in the first place meant that everyone hated them even more than they usually hate them in Alabama, which is a lot. Breathe some more.

See, in a perfect world — or just a world without streets, and neighborhoods, and tennis courts, and a golf course built around and through a large spring system — Birmingham beavers create the habitat that allows the watercress darter to flourish.

But there is no such thing as a perfect world for urban beavers, especially when multiple government agencies get involved, not to mention politicians who love to play good, cheap golf.

Turns out, too many beavers are apparently a bad thing for the watercress darter inside the fragile ecosystem of Roebuck Golf Course.

“The beaver is not good for the darter because, No. 1, the darter lives in the bottom of the stream in and amongst the heavy-growing aquatic mosses and the watercress and the eelgrass,” Howell said. “When beavers get in an area, they rip up all the vegetation off the bottom where the darters are living.”

You thought life served you a raw deal? Think again. The beavers out at Roebuck got it the worst. Consider this life calculus: The beavers naturally create the environment for the watercress darter to live, and then get blamed for also destroying that environment, at which point the beavers have to die so the watercress darter can live.

“I guess the beavers caught the short end of the sticks, so to speak,” Howell said. “It’s the beavers that have broken the law, and not man.”

So did the city council want them dead? Did Fish and Wildlife? Did maintenance?

Who killed the beavers?

U.S. Fish & Wildlife says it didn’t do the deed, but the service has trained the city in proper beaver removal. The key: Take out the beavers without taking out the fish. Why that involved pitchforks remains unclear. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife’s lead recovery biologist for the watercress darter said he has never heard of pitchforks being used to “lethally trap” beavers. A representative for Birmingham Park and Recreation initially said his department didn’t know anything about the beaver kill, and since then hasn’t returned follow-up calls requesting more information.

Together, it seems, the biologists, golfers and politicians outflanked the beavers. But only for a short while. Five days after the beaver kill, the water level at “Rogusta” flooded once again. There is no longer standing water on the No. 8 fairway, but it remains unplayable.

“For all the news stations that want to report fake news, this is real news coming to you live right out here at the park, Rogusta,” Austin said. “We’ve got endangered species that we’re trying to save and protect.”

And not to mention golf handicaps.

I wrote the reporter who replied that NOTHING happens in town to this creek now  without Fish and Wildlife permission, so someone there knows what transpired even if they didn’t do it themselves. I’m pretty sure that we can get our clue from the city council man who said “For all the news stations that want to report fake news, this is real”.  Does that remind you of anyone in particular? Someone  who loves to golf who doesn’t want federal agencies interfering with profit? Whose supporters happened to win an election in January just around the time those beavers were hacked to death with a pitchfork?

But what about the endangered water cress darters?  Remind me how Mr. Trump feels about the endangered species act, anyway. This was reported back in January, right around the time the city council member decided to kill 2 birds 17 beavers with one stone pitchfork.



The winner and still champion…

Posted by heidi08 On March - 17 - 2017Comments Off on The winner and still champion…

Congratulations to our friends in Devon who welcomed the wayward beavers with aplomb. Their dynamic advocacy has kept the discussion of beaver benefits front and center long enough that they won this year’s Countryfile award!

Wild beavers in Devon win national BBC Countryfile Magazine award

Devon’s wild beavers have won a top national BBC Countryfile Magazine award.

Readers selected the Devon Wildlife Trust led River Otter Beaver Trial based in East Devon, along with the Scottish Beaver Trial, as their ‘Wildlife Success Story of the Year’ for 2017. The public poll attracted 56,000 votes across 12 award categories.

The Devon beavers are the first wild population of the animals to exist in England for 400 years. Devon Wildlife Trust leads the trial in partnership with Clinton Devon Estates, University of Exeter and the Derek Gow Partnership.

Mark Elliott, who manages the beaver trial at DWT, said: ‘We’re delighted to have won this prestigious award. The fact that thousands of members of the public have taken the time to vote for beavers in Devon and in Scotland shows the wide support these charismatic creatures enjoy.’

Derek Gow, Devon-based mammal expert and project partner, said: ‘I’m over the moon the Devon Beaver Trial has been given this recognition. I’ve worked with this magnificent species for 22 years. It’s just brilliant that BBC Countryfile Magazine has recognised the importance of beavers in the presentation of this award.’

It’s thought around 20 beavers now live on the River Otter, which winds its way through 20 miles of East Devon countryside.

What a fantastic award for our hard-working friends in the UK. They struggled to keep the animals out of harms way when the Anglers convinced the government that they had diseases and would ruin fishing. They worked to keep the issue in the public eye WITHOUT exposing the beavers to unwanted looky-loo traffic. They inspired an excellent Countryfile episode and they WON against all the eagles and bees and badgers and hedgehogs on the program. We are SO proud of you and grateful for your support of beavers.

Rumors indicate that the Anglers are still complaining that the award didn’t go to a fish.

Meanwhile in Sacramento they are doing something that is very unusual to the levy-threateners they usually trap. And yes, it’s named ‘Justin’ because why be original when you can be exactly like everyone else?

‘Justin Beaver’ Visits Sacramento County Animal Care

SACRAMENTO COUNTY — Sacramento County Animal Care had a special guest Wednesday — his name is “Justin Beaver.”

The animal shelter doesn’t normally take in beavers, but this was an exception. The little guy was found at an apartment complex Wednesday with multiple lacerations and punctures that were thought to be from a coyote or a large dog.

“Justin Beaver” was also missing a front foot from an old injury. Those at the shelter said he didn’t seem to be bothered by it.

The shelter’s medical team got to work cleaning and repairing the new wounds. They even gave him a hair cut before sending him to the Wild Life Care Association for recuperation.

Well, good luck to you Justin. Even though you have a silly name you may well be the luckiest beaver in Sacramento so that should count for something. You can see my favorite part of this article in bold. This beaver has already been trapped once and is doing fine. So I feel he’s got a good chance of making it!



Freshwater Heroes in Danger

Posted by heidi08 On March - 16 - 2017Comments Off on Freshwater Heroes in Danger

There has been more interest lately in the health of freshwater mammals, and more support for the belief that their decline signals doom for ours. That seems about right to me. And I can think of ONE freshwater mammal in particular that should be carefully protected.beaver phys

Large freshwater species among those most threatened with extinction on the planet

Freshwater megafauna such as river dolphins, crocodilians and sturgeons play vital roles in their respective ecosystems. In a recent scientific publication, researchers of the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) in Berlin have teamed up with international colleagues to illustrate the factors that currently threaten these large vertebrates. The authors also call for a more comprehensive assessment on these large freshwater animals and for a more targeted conservation plan. Also, a wider range of freshwater species and freshwater ecosystems suffering from biodiversity decrease have the potential to benefit from such megafauna-based actions. Many large aquatic vertebrates, referred to as freshwater megafauna, cover long distances between their breeding and feeding grounds. To ensure their safe passage, they are dependent on free-flowing waters.

The mode of life of the Eurasian beaver and the North American beaver, for example, induces them to shape entire river courses, affecting not only biochemical and hydrological processes, but also in-stream and riparian assemblages; in the Everglades, the American alligator creates and maintains small ponds, providing habitats for a large number of plants and smaller animals. “The importance of freshwater megafauna for biodiversity and humans cannot be overstated,” stressed Fengzhi He together with colleagues from IUCN, the University of Tübingen and Queen Mary University of London, Fengzhi He describes in this publication which factors pose threats to freshwater megafauna. Besides the obstruction and fragmentation of water bodies following dam construction, these factors include overexploitation, environmental pollution, habitat destruction, species invasion and the changes According to the authors, megafauna species are highly susceptible to external factors owing to their long lifespan, large body size, late maturity and low fecundity.

Despite the fact that many megafauna are under great threat, they have been largely neglected in previous research and conservation actions. Fengzhi He and his co-authors call for research focusing on the distribution patterns, life history and population dynamics of megafauna. Freshwaters are among the most endangered ecosystems on the planet, where biodiversity is declining faster than in marine and terrestrial realms. For this reason, it is all the more important to develop sustainable nature conservation strategies forfreshwater ecosystems and their megafauna.

We here at beaver central think Dr. He is absolutely right about this. Our freshwater heroes don’t get enough research. No one knew why our kits died in 2015 and no one knows anything about the population size in general. People like to study smaller species that fit conveniently in tanks in the laboratory. But science has largely forgotten the importance of field research, and how much can be learned just by observing the animals in person.

I don’t share his worry that beavers will be among the first to go. I think they proved their resilience on Mount St. Helen’s and at Chernobyl. Not to mention bouncing back after near extermination once. Beavers are very unusual freshwater fauna because they are NOT the top of the food chain and can travel long distances over land. I am sure they will outlive us.

Especially since we happen to be the greatest threat to their existence, and have been for 1000 years. They might actually be better off.

The Ides of the Martinez Beavers

Posted by heidi08 On March - 15 - 2017Comments Off on The Ides of the Martinez Beavers

Yesterday was a very odd 79 degrees in the Sierras in March. Daffodil hill was in full bloom, the mountains were heavy white with snow, and another 17 dead ponderosa pines still need to be taken down at my parents house in the foothills. Because California may have escaped this round of drought roulette, but there are still carcasses all around us and a grim horizon. Not to mention the land drop from the smashed aquifer that Bakersfield is never getting back. Well, enjoy the almond blossoms, and the daffodils while we can.

I came across this looking for footage of the big beaver meeting in 2007. I posted it last year but the video was taken down so rendered un-sharable. With a strike on my Youtube record already from the UK I was afraid to do it. I was delighted to see someone else had. This is cued up for Martinez, but you might want to watch the whole thing. It’s actually pretty good.

There isn’t a BEAVER shortage. Just a beaver DAM shortage.

Posted by heidi08 On March - 14 - 2017Comments Off on There isn’t a BEAVER shortage. Just a beaver DAM shortage.

Hey! I have an idea! Let’s see what happens when we try to do the work that beavers would do for free if we just stop killing them! Somebody give me a grant!

OSU-Cascades students, scientists make fake beaver dams

BEND, Ore. – By constructing and monitoring artificial beaver dams, scientists and undergraduate students at Oregon State University – Cascades are learning how the health of the surrounding habitat and water can be affected by genuine beaver dams.

CaptureMatt Orr, an assistant professor of biology and Ron Reuter, an associate professor of natural resources at OSU-Cascades are leading the study on the South Fork of the Crooked River in near Paulina, where a team of five undergraduate students installed analog dams and measured soil moisture, steam habitat and water quality.

To construct the dams, the team used small boulders, wood posts and branches from nearby willow and juniper trees, mimicking natural beaver dams. Their initial findings show how the dam of a beaver – the university’s mascot – can positively impact soil moisture and habitat for streamside plants up to 150 meters upstream.

Because beaver have been eliminated from many lands throughout the West, particularly lands that have been impacted by grazing and agriculture, the research team’s work intends to provide a low-cost, low-impact approach to restoring stream and streamside habitat.  By trapping sediment, beaver dam analogs also help to raise the streambed, which reconnects downcut streams to their former floodplains, increases “green space,” and reduces the destructive force of high flows.

This spring and summer, the research team will expand the monitoring to measure sediment, riparian plant health and fish passage. The project was funded by an OSU Grand Team Challenge Grant, the Bella Vista Foundation and private donors.

Good idea! Next let’s see if the students can reduce the fly population by making spider webs too! I mean if we’re taking over natural functions, why stop with the beaver? Since you aren’t teaching students to be ADVOCATES for the beavers to stop them from being trapped on farmland.  Maybe while you’re at it, lets see you can raise the bird population by making little nests so they have more time to spend on a second clutch every season?

Honestly. They obviously just fund any ol’ programs now.

Yesterday a reporter for the East Bay times came by to talk about a 10 year retrospective on the beavers. It was an odd interview I think maybe because he wasn’t feeling well, and it was early, and it was in my house. He had strange ideas about the beavers I thought, like saying they were “more popular now then when they had been saved in 2007”. I told him I thought their local profile 10 years ago had been HUGE before, and that’s why they were saved. In contrast people hardly think about them now, unless they’re on the news.

After we talked for an hour the photographer arrived and wanted to film me saying the same things for another hour. Which was tiring but less odd, because she wasn’t feeling sick. But she told me to be ‘pithy’ once which alarmed me because I usually am already. I’m saying this because I hope I said the right things, in the right way, and we don’t get a ridiculous beaver article this weekend.

Anyway, happy ending alert, after it was all over I got an email from Sean Dexter of Condor Consulting on Green Street because he had snapped a photo with his phone that he thought I might like to see.

condor consulting

Beaver at Ward Street: Sean Dexter

He took this on Wednesday of last week, which means their was a sighting Sunday evening, Wednesday evening and Thursday morning. That’s enough days in my book to say that we should all be looking for them to show up again. We’re heading to the Sierras this afternoon for a few days but you can be bet will be there keeping watch the moment we get back!

The Sound and the Parry

Posted by heidi08 On March - 13 - 20172 COMMENTS

Parry Sound is in Ontario Canada directly north of New York. It is famous for having the deepest freshwater seaport in the world and various hockey achievements. This morning it has decided to offer a pleasingly accurate beaver article with some very nice photos. Enjoy!

The industrious beaver is not afraid of hard work during the winter

PARRY SOUND SIDEROADS AND SHORELINES — Winter is the time of year when many wild animals living in the Parry Sound area have adapted to escape and wait out the heavy snowfalls and dropping temperatures. Bears hibernate in cosy dens, squirrels have built nests and stashed food away, and frogs have dug into the lake bottoms and drastically reduced their temperature. But the industrious beaver continues to be quite active during winter until the lakes freeze over completely, and even then this animal can be seen busily repairing any damage to its lodge or dam.

Beavers are completely adapted to an aquatic existence and look quite awkward when slowly waddling on land where they are vulnerable to coyotes and other predators. Their front paws contain claws that can easily manipulate twigs to chew the inner bark of branches – their primary food source. In the Parry Sound area, their favourite wood is the aspen tree but they will also eat ferns, mosses, dandelions, dogwood, and aquatic plants, to name a few. 

The resulting dam sets in motion an entire alteration to the ecosystem. Hence, beavers are considered a “keystone species” (one that plays a unique and crucial role in the way an ecosystem functions. Without keystone species, the ecosystem would be dramatically different or cease to exist altogether). The building of dams modifies and creates a dramatic change to the surrounding environment. The backwater flooding from the dam floods the lowland near the creek; trees die creating an opening in the forest canopy; aquatic plants and shrubs soon develop, making a favourable habitat for waterfowl, herons, moose, amphibians, fish, insects, muskrats, otters and a score of bird species. Their activity purifies water and prevents large-scale flooding.

Over a period of time the food source runs out and the beavers move on; the dam breaks and eventually a meadow forms, creating habitat for an entirely new group of species. And thus, the vital chain of evolution around a beaver pond continues.

A few years ago, the television program The Nature of Things featured a show entitled “The Beaver Whisperer” outlining the efforts of a few Canadians who have studied and/or worked with beavers, giving an in-depth account of the beaver.  The Parry Sound area is home to many beavers and if you are lucky enough to see one around twilight, watch and observe the complex behaviour of this fascinating animal. 

Nice to read that Jari Osborne’s great documentary is still making an impact! (Although it was called the Beaver Whisperers as in more than ONE). And nice to see even a brief discussion of beaver benefits from that neck of the woods.  They need all the allies they can get. I’m going to assume, that even though they’re very clever, the beaver in that photo isn’t balancing a aspen log on its back. I’m pretty sure the log is just laying in exactly the right place on the ground behind him. Although that would be quite a feat if it were possible. Think about it, how would the beaver even get the log there in the first place?

I think it’s one of those photo placement victories, like someone photographed pushing the tower of pizzaa over, or a baby holding up the moon. But it had me confused for a while, I admit. Thanks for the mystery!