Archive for the ‘Beavers’ Category

Beaver War Room

Posted by heidi08 On April - 23 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

Yesterday was supposed to be a languid Wednesday where I sat around and practiced my talk for SARSAS on Monday. Instead my little desk exploded into beaver central around 1 when someone who had been referred by Brock Dolman wrote me from Winters that they were trying to save a rare piebald beaver that was living in a section of creek going to be destroyed in the name of progress.

I assume you are like me and had never really heard the word “piebald” before, so you might need a short refresher course.  The Dictionary definition is “Spotted or patched, especially in black and Piebaldwhite.” A pinto horse is piebald. Rarely a hunter will get lucky enough to shoot a piebald deer. And very very rarely we have stories of piebald beaver.

Remember that before the fur trade we used to have all colorations of beaver. Blonde beaver. Redhead beaver. And Piebald beaver. After the population was nearly destroyed that variation vanished. Well almost vanished. Because apparently there is at least one colored beaver left in California.

CaptureAnd, there’s something else you shouldn’t wait to see, if you can see it at all. I’m outing a secret, and am gambling on the goodwill of humanity against stupidity (a big gamble, I know): There’s an extremely rare piebald beaver that frequents this area. Local nature photographer and wildlife expert, Alejandro Garcia, camped out for hours just to get a photo of it, which I’ve seen, and it’s pretty darn amazing. It’s a regular brown beaver in all ways, with a thick white stripe in its midsection like an ice cream sandwich.

 Alejandro told me there are only a handful of piebald beaver in existence. I googled it, and aside from some horrific trapping sites based in Arkansas, the only information I could find was from a book written in 1876 by John J. Bowman, entitled, “The Emigrant and Sportsman in Canada — Some Experiences of an Old Country Setter.” Bowman merely says, in a story about his experiences with wild beaver, “I saw one piebald beaver; his back was black, his sides white, and belly reddish.”

 That’s it. The sum total of all the information about piebald beavers, almost as rare as a dodo, and, by a miracle of nature, there’s one living in a little pocket of natural habitat along Putah Creek in Winters. What a great mascot this animal could be for our little creekside town. But no. We’re glibly forcing it to “move on.” If you want to get a glimpse of it before it’s gone, don’t wait. The bulldozers are coming.

An ice cream sandwich beaver! How could I not come to full attention! I conferred with the author, contacted some professors at UC Davis to see if we could get some interest,  swapped emails with Beth to see if there was anything that National Wildlife Federation could do, called Sarah Koenisberg to see if she might want to film it for her upcoming documentary, and talked with the director I knew at Fish and Game. He pointed me to his counterpart in Winters who, like everyone I talked to, was very interested but wasn’t sure that a beaver could be protected just for its coloration. I reminded him that it was kit season and that there was a good chance that at least one of the kits would have some coloration too. (OMG) And he was more interested.

Now here’s where the story gets very very fascinating.

In our amiable chat he reminded me that beaver were depredation-able and nuisance permits could be issued for their death. I said I understood that very well, and that in fact there were  no limits on how many beaver could be written into the permit for depredation. He said, that’s not true. And with no hesitation at all I said come on! I just reviewed all the permits in California for the last two years an there were 51 unlimited permits issued!

‘And he agreed that used to be true but two months ago there had been a meeting and they were told not to issue unlimited permits — then he stopped talking abruptly surprised  — maybe that was because of you!

I have zero idea whether it was because of me, but I do know that a third of the permits we reviewed were written for ‘unlimited’ numbers of beavers, and now according to him, none will be. NONE.

I was so focused on finding a way to save that piebald beaver it really didn’t sink in until later. No unlimited permits! I wish I’d asked about that meeting where they were told not to do it. Was it regional? Or with a higher up? Was it time limited? Was there any push back about it?

Of course there were more people to call about piebald beaver, so I had to stop feeling surprised and just feel like I might be able to help. Then there were several forwards about the Fargo beavers and the war room had to redirect. It’s always good to know your work matters. I did what I could for Piebald beaver. And maybe some one will share a photo soon.

Now it’s off to Fargo!

‘Is this the only way?’: Fargo Parks beaver cull draws criticism

Megan Bartholomay, an opponent of the Fargo Park Board’s decision to cull the beaver population to prevent damage to trees, stands near the Red River in Fargo. David Samson / The Forum

 FARGO—A growing chorus of animal rights supporters wants the Fargo Park Board to reconsider its plan to trap and kill beavers in city parks along the Red River.

 One of the leading voices is Megan Bartholomay, a 38-year-old Fargo resident who believes the board’s plan is barbaric.

 ”We’re a civilized community living in 2015,” she said. “Is this the only way? What else have we tried?”

One supporter of Megan tracked down Carol Evans from the PBS documentary (it’s always easier to find the emails of government employee!) and she forwarded it to me to see if I could help. I gave lots of thoughts and resources and am eager to see what happens in Fargo. It’s not an impossible battle because there is already lots of beaver intelligence in the state. Just look at this comment I highlighted in 2012 in Fargo from Game and Fish!

“Probably the most economical way of dealing with beaver is wrapping the trees, probably a couple three feet up as high as a beaver can stand off the ground, with chicken wire or some kind of wire mesh to keep the beavers in, they’ll leave it alone.” says Doug Leier with North Dakota Game and Fish.

Go team Fargo! It’s up to you now.

Thickly Settled

Posted by heidi08 On April - 21 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

P-22 threaten martinez beavers

This famous mountain lion who made a show Saturday of nibbling the Martinez beavers, has gone on to even greater things. Now he is in the New Yorker with Michelle Nijhuis new article on the stranded big cats of LA. Someone else we know is in the article too.

CaptureThis particular mountain lion is no stranger to Angelenos. Three years ago, in early 2012, he left his home in the Santa Monica Mountains, crossed two eight-lane freeways, and, after travelling at least twenty miles, dead-ended in Griffith Park, a former ostrich farm that is now one of the country’s largest municipal green spaces. Biologists tranquilized the lion and fitted him with a radio collar; he became popularly known by his tag number, P-22.

The most promising location for the first mountain-lion crossing in the Los Angeles Basin would span ten busy lanes of traffic, and it is by no means guaranteed to deliver the genetic variation that the lions need. Yet the project has momentum. Beth Pratt, an energetic campaigner for the National Wildlife Federation, has won support from congressional representatives and local governments for a crossing in the Santa Monicas, and earlier this year the California State Coastal Conservancy awarded a million-dollar grant to the department of transportation for the design and permitting of the crossing, with the goal of beginning construction by 2018.

Beth has been a tireless voice for wildlife crossings for big cats in particular. She will be making her way to Martinez this summer for our own beaver festival. I’m thrilled this story made the New Yorker but it has prompted me to reconsider for myself how many articles about beaver have made the magazine in the last 25 years. Hmm, let me count.

Oh, that’s right. NONE.  (Except cartoons. Beavers are funny.)

No single mention of beaver benefits or struggles in the New Yorker Magazine about salmon or water or even Scotland. Not even when the famous Jose was discovered in the Bronx river. Nothing since a 1991 article on Hope Buyukmihci and the formation of Beaver Defenders.  I realize of course, mountain lions are sleek, sexy and powerful. But the beaver is the state animal of New York fer cryingoutloud. Let’s get interested in them!

ecosystem working for youThe New Yorker is so far behind the times about beavers that they don’t even realize this cartoon isn’t comic at all. It’s just boring old prosaic truth. Like a telephone book. Beavers make the ecosystem work for them. And us.


Oh and the big beaver news of the day is that a beaver is being blamed for taking out power to thousands in Maine. I got ten alerts for it this morning, and now it’s made the Discovery News.

Beaver Knocks Down Tree, Thousands Lose Power


A beaver in Maine’s northern Aroostook County was doing what beavers do on Monday night — and chewed down a tree to help build its dam.

 The problem is the tree happened to fall on a power transmission line and soon nearly 3,000 residents 

“(The downed tree) is in a very remote, wooded area which has been challenging to reach, but workers will remain working to restore power by mid-morning,” Bob Potts, spokesperson for Emera, told the Bangor Daily Ne

No word yet on how, if they were able to get someone on site to identify the beaver-chewed culprit that caused the outage, they couldn’t get a crew there as well. Or how they know for certain it wasn’t the wind taking out a tree they should have trimmed years ago. But oh well. It’s a good beaver-blame anyway. In fact, this finger is pointed with such dexterity that the power company is even getting a news cycle boost out of it. Nicely done boys and girls.

I was a little confused about this though:

As often-cited W.T. Cox wrote in a 1940 article in American Forest, “Beavers do not belong in thickly-settled communities, since their flooding operations may become troublesome

Would you call Martinez “thickly settled”?

Beavers head for Belly of the Beast

Posted by heidi08 On April - 20 - 2015Comments Off

CaptureNo rest for the beaver-y. Now I have 6 whole days to get ready for my upcoming talk at SARSAS  next monday. SARSAS stands for Save Auburn Ravine for Salmon and Steelhead. I met the founder/director Jack Sanchez at the Salmonid restoration conference in Santa Barbara last year, and he asked me to be part of the dynamic and packed  list of speakers they host. (In fact he mentioned that they already had a beaver expert but she wasn’t very positive about them, and I knew at ONCE who he meant.

highlighted permitsJack accompanied me to the meeting we had with CDFW last November after a review of depredation permits showed Placer issued 9 times more permits than anywhere else in the state. I am thrilled to be marching boldly into enemy lines to deliver the beaver gospel. We might even have a few friendly faces at the meeting as Sherry, Ted, and Janet aren’t far away.

 This is from the Placer County E-Newsletter:

April SARSAS Meeting

I’ll relax when we get the TIME CORRECTED. (Sheesh!) And if it’s not corrected I’ll just stay there and give the talk again to anyone who shows up! In the meantime I am busily working on graphics for the talk. I especially like this one. Don’t you? The background is the beloved drawing of a series of dams in a gorge from Morgan’s book. Overlaid with swirling column of fish.

salmondsNice video from Rusty this morning of beavers eating their spring diet. Enjoy!

John Muir Birthday Earth Day in the sunshine!

Posted by heidi08 On April - 19 - 2015Comments Off

Yesterday was a bright sunny blur of Earth Day fun. Rusty from Napa started out by coming to our house bothat 8 am to help unload the car, and we were settled in our comfy spot hardby nine. Our first totem makers were an entire family that each made a figure for one totem they were going to give to Grandma later. The day just got more inspiring from there, as kids chose a favorite animal or design to embellish highly personal totems. Throughout the day and everywhere in the park they were visible. And one creative soul even taped the tube upright on her hat!

One of the best things about a project like this was the look of deep concentration visible on the children’s faces as they worked on their vision. They seemed to shut out all the disruptions and just work on their ideas. No computer screens or watching their neighbor. Just deeply meditative art. The biggest obstacle was always time, as parents wanted them to hurry up and finish. But you can see their concentration was unhurried, and deeply powerful. As always Chery’s lovely photos treat those moments with the deep respect they deserve. See for yourself.

workingtotemstotemartist 1

There were lots of appreciative comments about winning the beaver battle, questions about the current family and sympathetic voices about wildlife in general. I even found a few good ears to listen to our tree drama, including our newest city council member who was very alarmed. (I figure if the city didn’t want me to talk about this with 2000 people they wouldn’t have done it right before Earth day, am I wrong?)Beth Pratt-Bergstom of the National Wildlife Federation was the keynote speaker and she and her husband stopped by to swap appreciations and friendly wildlife banter. She will be at the beaver festival this year and he will dress up in a Ranger Rick costume. We even discussed his alternating as a beaver! She had a life size cutout of the famous LA mountain lion P-22 and we couldn’t help but do this.

P-22 threaten martinez beaversMegan Isador of the River Otters dropped by soon after, getting ready for her award. She introduced me to a wonderful volunteer who had baked 600 cookies for their welcome back otter event. I told her to be very careful because there was a powerful magnet under the table and we just happened to have a beaver cookie cutter. Megan laughingly scolded me and  pulled her  away to safety!

The totem project was a great success and at least 100 children managed to craft their own tribal vision of wildlife. Each one came out perfectly, as you can see here:

owlbeaver  nativeeaglry eagle   regard

We sold many wildlife scarves and offered beaver solutions to folks as far away as Lincoln, but my very favorite part of the day was when John Muir stopped by at the end to chat about beavers and Enos Mills.  I managed to bring up our tree story and he told me that for years upon years he has visited classrooms at Earth Day and planted giant sequoias with children. In nearly every instance those trees had been pulled up by administers shortly thereafter who had redwood-phobia. Only one such tree had survived but was still standing after 40 years!

I guess if it even happens to John Muir too, we shouldn’t feel so bad.


Good ol’ Cindy Loo Hoo

Posted by heidi08 On April - 18 - 2015Comments Off

Drop some pocket money in their jar so they know for sure that saving beavers matter. I did and got a nice letter last night asking for more tools to educate the public about their value. I know money is tight and it’s earth day, but fergawdsake those kits are dam cute and two years is a long time. Tell them you you want to support the beavers!

Big Bend Wildlife Sanctuary  (scroll down for donations)

Yesterday in Martinez was a rollercoaster starting when Jon went down to the creek an saw that ALL OUR PLANTED STAKES WERE PULLED OUT an neatly piled. The cages gone!

11:30 am

IMG_0243Those stakes had been pounded hard into the soil so I knew this wasn’t the work of the beavers or the homeless. I called Tim Tucker, the city council, and notified the Americorp Interns so they could call Tim too. Then I called channel 7 news and said that the stakes they had filmed us planting on March 28th had all been pulled out.

Shortly there after I got a slightly more trusted member of public works who said he had been worried about the stakes being too close to the water, called some guys and pulled them ALL UP. But he’d been talking to Tim and ‘don’t worry THEY just put them ALL BACK”. Including the cages and the rods to keep them secure. And he loved the beavers! And told public works in Benicia about Skips’ flow device!

3:30 pm


They and their cages were all returned. Some  planted upside down, barely in the soil, and not watered. Meanwhile Tim called the interns and calmed them down with similar language. Although at no time did anyone explain why, if some of the stakes were too near the water, they took ALL OF THEM.

I realized after that we had all been effectively Cindy Loo-hooed. Something obviously triggered their removal (I have my theory) and after their removal someone realized ripping them out was a mistake (Or channel 7 inquired), and the Grinches came and patted our heads and told us all to go back to sleep.  I felt the same internal pressure not to seem to rudely incredulous when I knew I was being lied to as I did every moment of my time on the beaver subcommittee. In a way it’s comforting to recognize that the city has not changed an ounce in 8 years. Everyone always thinks I’m exaggerating.

To be fair: They didn’t remove ALL the stakes.
Only the ones in danger of living.

Saving grace of a thuggy day. Riley of the SF waterboard called on her way out of town and said that she was committed to this project, would put pressure on the city and we’d get MORE interns and ANOTHER PLANTING in the fall!

So there Grinches! Now come to Earth Day! The earth and spirit of John Muir need us!

Earthday 2015


“More Killy – Less Frilly!”

Posted by heidi08 On April - 15 - 2015Comments Off

It wasn’t an accident that the poet said “April is the cruelest month”. Have you noticed how everyone and their cousin is deciding to trim their trees and hedges right during nesting season? It’s as if no one looks outside all the rest of the year but as soon as they want to barbecue they have to start killing some nature to make the yard nice. Apparently, it’s true for beavers too.

Beaver bounty considered for 2015-16 budget

 BOLIVIA — The Brunswick County Board of Commissioners has been asked to consider a beaver bounty for Brunswick County.

 Stephanie Lewis, director of operation services, proposed putting $10,000 into a pilot program to remove beavers and clear their dams that cause trouble throughout the county.

 Lewis added that while trappers would remove the beavers, the county is already removing the beaver dams except when explosives are required to clear them.

 Commissioner Frank Williams said he receives more calls about beavers than any other types of calls in his district.

 “Where are we in the curve? Are we ahead? Are we caught up?” Commissioner Marty Cooke asked regarding how the county has handled problems with beavers.

 “Right now I’d say the beavers are winning.”

They’re definitely winning in the IQ contest, I’ll give them that. And why on earth would you call a town in Prince Edward Island “Bolivia”? It makes zero sense. Which, is perfect I guess. Because paying more money to get more of something that’s not working is pretty senseless.

To save trees, Park Board approves beaver cull

FARGO—Experts will begin trapping and killing beavers living along the Red River this fall or next spring, in an effort to spare trees from the animals’ teeth.

The Park Board on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve the cull, which will be handled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

 Beavers have been chewing into too many trees, causing financial damage and much consternation, park officials said.

“Ever since I’ve been here, we’ve known there’s been beaver damage to our trees,” Parks Director Dave Leker told the Park Board. “It’s just gradually, over the past five years, getting worse.”

 Roger Gress, executive director of the parks district, said thousands of dollars have been lost due to beavers chewing into the city’s trees.

 ”We’ve planted new trees,” Gress said, “and then they’re gone.”

 Expert trappers, led by the USDA’s John Paulson, will handle the cull, which will take place at Lemke and Trefoil parks, at a cost of about $1,000.

 Paulson’s team will start by analyzing and locating the beaver colonies before laying the traps.

Yes, first hire  the hitman and let him figure it out. Never mind about those crazy beaver-huggers saying you can wrap the trees or protect them with paint. They don’t know how much easier it is just to kill them. Bring in the traps!

Dead animals discovered at Charlotte neighborhood park

At least this park in Charlotte North Carolina has the good sense to be mortified by the site of these grisly deaths. Which is almost like being appalled that they happen at all.Something tells me they’ll be more discrete in the future.

King County crews work to clear beaver dam breach

And let’s end on a slightly more positive note because Washington is refreshingly good to beavers. If I were one of our flat-tailed friends I would swim north until I crossed the Columbia River and then start looking for a place to settle down.

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding

A little life with dried tubers.

T.S. Eliot The Wasteland

Remember to watch Episode 2 of animal homes tonight on Nature PBS for first ever seen footage inside beaver lodges!

Trout Unlimited welcomes Martinez Beavers.

Posted by heidi08 On April - 11 - 2015Comments Off

Choppa’s brief freedom might be coming to an end. But at least he’ll get outta that cage and in a real habitat it sounds like.

Chapa, the missing beaver, found in Arkansas River

Chapa, the missing beaver, has been found.

Now, caretaker Connie Storrie just has to figure out how to coax him back into captivity.

 Storrie, who has coordinated the search and rescue effort for Chapa since Tuesday, said the beaver was seen in the Arkansas River around 8:45 a.m. Friday. He broke out of his enclosure at the Kansas Wildlife Exhibit in Central Riverside Park sometime Tuesday morning.

She is not disclosing where Chapa was found because she is still trying to coax him out of the water – extra gawkers may spook him, she said.

 A photo that surfaced yesterday of a beaver near Marina Point Apartments, near 21st and Amidon, ended up being a different beaver. The tail on that beaver was too short and the fur too dark, Storrie said.

 How does Storrie know this is the genuine Chapa? She said she called his name while searching the river on Friday and the beaver started swimming toward her.

 As far as she can tell, Chapa is unharmed from his four days in the wild.

 “I haven’t seen him close enough out of the water, but he does look good in the water,” she said.

 Oh man, he was so close! But her concern is kind of endearing.

We’re trying to convince him that he wants to come home,” she said. “He’s still having fun, and he hasn’t run into any trouble yet.

 “If I knew that he would be OK and maybe find a lady friend that could show him the ropes, then that would be great, but I don’t know if that would happen.”

He most likely will not return to Central Riverside Park, she said. She said she has an area where she can keep a close eye on his re-assimilation into beaver life until he will one day be released.

 I was hoping he’d never be found, and it would turn into a kind of ‘spartacus moment’ for all the beavers in Kansas. I guess not.


Now we’re off to Coloma to talk about the relationship between beaver and trout. Wish beavers luck!TroutseekersTrout & Beaver