Archive for the ‘Beavers’ Category

Time Travel and Beavers

Posted by heidi08 On October - 20 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

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.


Carbon Dating Beavers in Northumberland

Posted by heidi08 On October - 19 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

There is a passage in  J.B. Mackinnon’s “The Once and Future World” that I often remember. It’s the part about 17th century conviction that no species could be made extinct by the work of man because the number of species on earth was the prerogative of God alone. He wouldn’t allow it to happen and he was in charge. The part that impressed me most was the speed at which public opinion seamlessly transitioned from “It could never happen that human harvesting of any God’s work could make it extinct” to the defensive self-justification of “We don’t think that species ever existed here anyway,”

I swear, that’s what he wrote, and I was stunned and read it over and over. Even now it pops into my mind when I think about Beavers in California or Panthers in Florida or Climate Change.  Even during the recent bruhaha in England you read comments blithely insisting that beaver weren’t native and didn’t belong in the River Otter anyway.

Well the good guys just got some ammunition.

Northumberland beaver discovery sheds light on the missing link in river management


Beavers were living on the Tyne catchment 400 years later than had been previously believed, a new discovery has revealed.

A piece of birch wood which had been gnawed by a beaver was found sticking out of the eroding bankside of the Scaup burn at Kielder Forest in Northumberland.

Now the wood has been radiocarbon dated, showing that it was chewed in the 14th Century.

Experts say this is conclusive evidence of the presence of beavers in the upper Tyne catchment in the 14th Century and is the most recent radiocarbon date for the animals in Britain.

The previous most recent radiocarbon fix for beavers was on bones at Glastonbury, which dated from between 800AD and 1000.

I had to look at a map to remind myself that Northumberland is way at the tippy-tippy top of England, almost in Scotland. Which means this is good news for everyone in the United Kingdom from our friends in Cornwall to our friends on the river Tay. I love that this chew was found on a scouting trip and whisked away for carbon testing.

(And lets be completely honest here, I like to imagine that the idea of carbon testing this wood had something to do with the carbon testing Chuck James presented on at the State of the Beaver Conference in Oregon, and that we published two years ago.)

He believes it adds support to calls for beavers, which create wetland habitats for other wildlife, to be reintroduced in the future.

“They are eco-engineers, who would add interest to our wildlife and could be an economic benefit in terms of tourism,” says Angus.

 The later presence of beavers in Northumberland supports the idea of reintroduction, he believes.

“It would benefit the environment and help in issues like flood protection. Beavers are the missing link in river management.

Well said sir! I’m going to guess that Mr. Kielder is a friend of our friend Paul Ramsey the beaver believer whose clever wife was the keynote speaker at the State of the Beaver Conference – or at least that if they aren’t friends already, they will be soon.

Beavers change things. It’s what they do.

Beaver Restoration means River Restoration

Posted by heidi08 On October - 17 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

West Coast Beaver evangelism coming to a state near you soon. Don’t miss the chance to hear about beaver restoration from the heavy weights whose research made this all sound possible. Hey, if you’re in California why not make a  Beaver vacation out of it? Stop in Weed for their full blast of wisdom then toodle up the coast for the 4th annual State of the Beaver Conference the following week! There could be an entire fortnight of beavers!

restore3Five interactive workshops focused on the use of beaver in aquatic restoration will be offered from January through April, 2015. Workshops are intended for land owners/managers, and restoration funders, reviewers, and practitioners who are actively involved in aquatic ecosystem restoration. There will be an opportunity to sign up as a peer reviewer of the draft Beaver Restoration Guidelines at each of the workshops, or request to be a reviewer by e-mailing

Locations and Dates:

• Everett, Washington, January 14th

• Portland, Oregon, January 21st and 22nd

• Weed, California, February 12th

• Juneau, Alaska, April 14th


Michael M. Pollock, Ph.D., Ecosystems Analyst, NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Chris Jordan, Ph.D., Mathematical Ecologist, NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Janine Castro, Ph.D., Geomorphologist, US Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries

Gregory Lewallen, Research Assistant, Portland State University

Mary Ann Schmidt, Director, Environmental Professional Program, Portland State University


Go here to register or here to download the flier and share with your friends.


Bad News, Good News, Beaver News

Posted by heidi08 On October - 16 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

Cochrane’s beaver management has its challenges

The Town of Cochrane is asking Cochranites who peruse the pathways to be mindful of signage indicating beaver management (trapping) in areas throughout the Ranche Site and Glenbow this fall season.

See? I told you the phrase “beaver management” is a euphemism for murder. Like “Ethnic Cleansing”,  “the Jewish Problem”, or “Manifest Destiny.”

According to Gerry Murphy, parks manager for the town, when town staff observes beaver damming occurring, they reach out to town-contracted Eagle Creek Wildlife Control; the town has managed beavers within the town for many years.

 Eagle Creek sends out licensed trappers to identify areas to set live and lethal traps and the town assists with signage.

“When the beavers are trapped, they come out and remove them,” said Murphy, adding that people should avoid going near the traps and keep dogs leashed in areas where signage indicates beaver trapping is ongoing.

Ron Hanson started Eagle Creek some 20 years ago, followed by 30 years of service as a Fish and Wildlife officer.

He is no stranger to beavers, also known as ‘the largest North American rodent’, and the extensive damage they can cause — including damming culverts, softening road beds and railroad tracks and removing trees.

Hanson said his trappers set both live and lethal traps but that beavers are managed through euthanization — which he said is the most humane form of management.

“From a moral standpoint, moving (relocating) beavers at this time of the year is just not an option,” he said, explaining that the beaver population is at an all-time high.

If there’s one thing I value, it’s the moral teachings of a trapper and ex-game warden.

Never mind that Cochrane is about three hours away from Dr. Glynnis Hood who is the premiere beaver researcher  in the entire world. Never mind that her students are doing beaver management in Alberta and you could be next if you weren’t so beaver-dam stubborn. Never mind that if you kept these beavers in your creeks using mitigation you’d never have to hire Ron again to solve this problem, because they’d be using their own territorial behaviors to keep others away. And you’d have more fish and wildlife (oh, and water) in your town.

Honestly, sometimes all I can think of is Gollum, writhing with pain at the elven ropes crying “It hurts us! [the beaver stupidity], it hurts us,’ hissed Gollum. `It freezes, it bites!”

“In my opinion, the town parks department has done a spectacular job of beaver management in the Town of Cochrane over the past 20 or more years,” said Guy Woods, director of Bow Valley Habitat Development.

 Hanson said they use the beaver carcasses to supply bear bait for local Fish and Wildlife officers.

facepalmThen there’s this today from Belllefontaine, Ohio. You just know this ended well.


Bellefontaine Police Officer Glenn Newland uses a snare to trap a beaver this morning in the parking lot of Fontaine Plaza shopping center, as Logan County Dog Warden Benji Avila waits with a trap and Police Sgt. Allen Shields holds another snare. The beaver had taken up residence around the shopping carts outside the Big Lots store,1760 S. Main St. The officers believed the beaver may have come from a pond behind the nearby Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse where they intended to set the animal free. (EXAMINER PHOTO | REUBEN MEES)


The saving grace good news is that I got a surprise present from Fur-bearer Defenders Radio yesterday I just had to share. It’s part of the most recent episode with very famous psychologist and eminently published author Marc Berkoff (who writes about animal feelings and feelings for animals in Psychology Today among other places). The interview starts by proclaiming the successful launch of their podcast. The very cool part is that I had sent Dr. Berkoff my own modest interview a while back and he had politely responded that he was interested in listening but never had time to do it. (Poor Heidi. Not even a beaver bridesmaid!) I knew it would be relevant but even I can’t chase a man more thank twice, so I had given up making my debut as a beaver-saving psychologist.

But now Fur-bearer Defenders is doing it for me right in Marc’s episode!

three second1

You know you want to click on this…

Oh and he’s donating a copy of his new book “Rewilding our Hearts” for the silent auction.

Wolves, Elk, Beavers, oh my!

Posted by heidi08 On October - 15 - 20142 COMMENTS

1459346_10153585381300301_647114974_n I recently asked beaver-friend Bruce Thompson of Wyoming if I could share his thoughts on trophic cascades. He graciously agreed so you’d understand the concept better. The awesome graphics are from Earth Justice and perfect for the occasion. Enjoy!

While the term “trophic cascade” is new, the ecological concept is not. It is a process set in motion by the addition or removal of a top predator, which triggers reciprocal changes in the relative populations of predators and prey throughout a food chain. This “cascade” often results in impressive changes in ecosystem structure and nutrient cycling. As a simple example, an increase (or decrease) in carnivores causes a decrease (or increase) in herbivores (their prey) and an increase (or decrease) in plants (the “prey” of herbivores).

 One case study from eastern US is how 19th century removal of wolves has been associated with an increase in white-tailed deer and a decline in plants eaten by the deer. Encyclopedia Britannica: “American zoologist Robert Paine coined the term trophic cascade in 1980 to describe reciprocal changes in food webs caused by experimental manipulations of top predators. In the 1980s others used the term to describe changes in aquatic ecosystems arising from factors such as sudden increases in predatory fish populations from stocking or dramatic declines in predatory fishes caused by overfishing.”

So, the phenomena is neither new nor in question, but as with anything as complex as an ecosystem (and involving human opinion) the precise mechanisms and predictable outcomes are.

To me, and most ecologists, it’s absurd to think that the removal of the wolf from so complex a system as Yellowstone (in the 1930′s, I believe) — or its reintroduction after more than a half-century’s absence — would not reverberate through the trophic system. Consider similar results from the removal of YOU from your household ecosystem. ; – )


Anyway, in its simplest use, the word “trophic” referees to anything having to do with eating. In ecology, the “trophic level” of an organism is the position it occupies in a food chain. So, “trophic cascade” refers to a sort of “domino effect” or cascading response within a system, triggered by a change in one or more of the major players within a food chain of that system.

 Impacts associated with the trophic cascade in Yellowstone include:

  1.  Scavengers like ravens, bald eagles, and grizzly bears, are benefitting from the carcasses left by wolf kills;
  2.  Impacts from elk browsing on willow throughout the park has changed measurably since wolf introduction;
  3.   In northern YNP, the number of a half-dozen songbird species that use willow for shelter and nesting was found to be greater in areas of willow recovery as opposed to those where willows remained suppressed, such as from ungulate browsing;

  Bison numbers in the northern range have increased in proportion to the decline of elk numbers;1453297_10153585381190301_1394755555_n

  1. The number of beaver colonies in the park has increased from one in 1996 to twelve in 2009. This is largely attributed to increased willow availability, which the beavers there are largely dependent upon for food and dam building.
  2. The work of beavers, acknowledged as a keystone species by most scientists, in turn reverberates through the system by positive changes in the water table, flood control, small mammal populations, nesting waterfowl, fish nesting habitat, soil development, etc, etc.

People — especially the media — will argue about the specifics of all this till the cows come home, but there is no question in my mind that multilevel shifts in food sources, food availability and use, and dependent wildlife populations have all shifted in innumerable ways since wolf introduction, and that the wolves are directly or indirectly responsible for most if not all of those changes.1459937_10153585381200301_402184108_n

That’s my story, short version.


Thanks for the great explanation Bruce! It all makes so much sense. But if you ask me the wolves are stealing wayyyyy too much credit. I mean all they do is make way for the real heroes. Right?

The Trail from Utah to Martinez

Posted by heidi08 On October - 13 - 2014Comments Off

Hot of the presses I just got word from Mary Obrien that the BRAT (Beaver Restoration Assessment Tool) has just been completed for the entire state of Utah. The complete report and maps are here and I will put a permanent link on the margin alongside the last amazing thing Utah did for beavers, (and the one before that). Here’s a little excerpt  from the executive summary.

This report presents the development and application of the Beaver Restoration Assessment Tool (BRAT), a decision support and planning tool for beaver management, to analyze all perennial rivers and streams in Utah. The backbone to BRAT is a capacity model developed to assess the upper limits of riverscapes to support beaver dam – building activities. Both existing and historic capacity were estimated with readily available spatial datasets to evaluate five key lines of evidence: 1) a  perennial water source, 2) availability of dam building materials, 3) ability to build a dam at baseflow, 4) likelihood of dams to withstand a typical flood , and 5) likelihood that stream gradient would limit or completely eliminate dam building by beaver. Fuzzy inference systems were used to combine these lines of evidence while accounting for uncertainty.

CaptureWith this announcement came a note from Mary that two stalwart Utah beaver champions are coming out to San Rafael for the annual Bioneers conference this month. They are going to a soils workshop and would like to meet Worth A Dam and the beavers if at all possible. For the past 5 years they’ve been hard at work letting beavers turn the tiny incised trickle on their land into this beauty. Their beavers have survived  the last 5 years on mostly cattails because there are no trees to speak of!




P1090548And speaking of beavers eating cattails, here’s a video Rusty sent this morning of  a Napa beaver doing just that. The green water is pond weed/algae and don’t worry, I just read this morning that  cattails are VERY nutritious.

Why I’m Officially mad at Yakima…

Posted by heidi08 On October - 10 - 2014Comments Off

 A young beaver explores an old beaver lodge near Ellensburg, Washington, US. Its family was moved as part of a program to trap nuisance beavers and relocate them to the headwaters of the Yakima River where biologists hope their dams will help restore water systems used by salmon and people.


Apparently someone was so busy getting credit for saving beavers that no one bothered to get the WHOLE FAMILY. I know it’s hard knowing how many there are and not all beavers cooperate by climbing in the metal suitcases. But I assume that watching helps you get an idea of how many to catch. We certainly know how many beavers there are in Martinez, This youngster was left behind by mistake after the Rapture took away his family. No one came back for him and only the AP photographer cared enough to take the photo.Which was published on “This week in Wildlife in the Guardian“.

It’s Island of the Blue Dolphins for beavers. Do you think that will be in the Washington Post? I guess we should look on the bright side. When that yearling gets over the shock of abandonment he’ll probably start doing beaver things and then the property owner will kill him like he originally wanted to do. So he won’t be lonely any more at least.


We need cheering up after that story. Here’s a fun headline from Canada picked up by the CBC. I’m glad the councillor is against beaver trapping. But my favorite part is the photo. Because thinking of a beaver swimming on its back makes me giggle.

Screen shot 2014-10-10 at 8.05.49 AM


Projet [sic] Montreal borough councillor Sterling Downey says he recently learnt the city of Verdun reintroduced trapping to kill or relocate beavers on Nuns’ Island.

He says it’s cruel and is calling on his borough to stop its contract with trappers.

He says a more ethical method needs to be used.

In past reports, Verdun officials  said they were using trapping because beavers were destroying trees at an alarming rate and giving some residents headaches.

But some residents have also complained about them, particularly in 2008 after a dog was killed when it got stuck in a trap.

The SPCA says it wasn’t consulted before the trapping was introduced and has now offered Verdun officials other options, such as services from Fur Bearer Defenders, a non-profit with expertise in the subject.

It says trapping also has serious impacts on our ecosystem and it hopes Verdun will reconsider.

Verdun is just outside of Montreal in Canada and clearly our friends at Fur-bearer Defenders have made inroads there. I’m just going to sit and imagine coucillors opposed to trapping because its bad for the environment. And I think you should too.

I’ve been on vacation this week in Mendocino and the coastal lovely fogginess finally comes to an end today. So I spent yesterday making the annual movie of this year’s kit. Jon will never be able to listen to this song again, but I think you should enjoy! Do you realize this is the 20th kit we’ve had born in Martinez since we decided not to kill them?

And finally a big thank you to our musician friend GS from San Francisco who celebrated his mother’s well-lived life by making a generous donation to Worth A Dam with his inheritance. Thanks so much! And we’ll make sure we use it in the service of beavers!