Archive for the ‘Beavers’ Category

Hebrew Beavers

Posted by heidi08 On September - 30 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

This is a fun way of examining the complexity of a beaver accomplishments offered by a monthly newsletter calling itself “the mostly widely circulated sephardic paper in the world.” I guess it is even more convincing testament to the creator if you think about all the wildlife that depends on the beaver creations.


If holding back people is difficult, how much more so would that apply to
surging water?

Everyone has heard of, or seen, dams. Dams allow water to be stored in reservoirs, controlling the water supply throughout the year. Water from a reservoir can be used to drive turbines, which provide electricity. But how do you set about building a dam? Keep in mind, dams have to withstand more pressure and weight than any other
man-made structure. The massive Hoover Damon the Colorado River is a colossal 577 feet high, and holds back 38 billion tons of water!  There is no doubt about it. You have to be clever to dam a river…


Sorry, there’s been an interruption!
I have a small creature here (two-and-a-half
feet long, a foot high and about 50 pounds) who seems a little agitated. He’s been damming rivers since he was created, and he doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about! Speak up, Mr. Beaver!

Listen carefully and you will hear – Crash! The cool stillness of the forest is suddenly shattered by the sound of a young tree falling to the ground. A small,brown, furry creature scurries through the undergrowth and slips into the nearby river for safety. It waits there until it is sure that no enemies have been attracted by the noise, then returns to the tree. Its strong front teeth set to work gnawing through the branches, stripping the trunk bare. The North American beaver then grasps the trunk in its powerful jaws, and drags it into the water. The creature tugs and pushes the trunk into position, amongst the mound of branches, twigs, mud, and boulders, which makes up its dam.

Pause for a moment, and consider the remarkable little animal that has built this amazing structure. His back feet are webbed like a duck’s, his forefeet are strong, and his little hands are agile, like a monkey’s. He also has a broad,scaly, multi-purpose tail. It’s used as a rudder when swimming, a prop when standing or sitting, and a transmitter of news always. When a beaver scents danger, he spanks the water with his tail. On quiet days, the ringing noise can be heard a quarter of amile away, causing every beaver within earshot to disappear. If you surprise a beaver on land, he will not fight back. Instead, he will run for his pond, dive like an expert and swim like a champion. He possesses the ability to close his nose and his earswhile doing so, as transparent coverings slide down over each eye so that he can see underwater. Mr. Beaver relaxes his muscles, and drops the rate of his heartbeat by half, allowing him to remain underwater for 15 minutes. Each of these features is noteworthy, for, without them the beaver could not survive.

The article goes on with an inventory of the beavers assets. Surprisingly, there is almost nothing incorrect except for the notion that he builds a dam because of the coming winter, which obviously doesn’t apply to all the beavers in unsnowy areas. Like Martinez. Still, this is a pretty good list of why beavers are specially adapted to their environment, even if it’s lacking the PART TWO of all the special things beavers DO for the environment!

The fact that beavers are sociable, peaceful, industrious, and faithful is admirable. The fact that they are fully equipped to chop down trees, build solid dams, and intricate homes without the assistance of a single machine is an inspiration. No amount of wishful thinking will enable you to grow a security tail, webbed feet, transparent eyelids, or self-replenishing teeth – but Mr. Beaver, dam builder extraordinaire can thank the Creator, Who designed and formed him with such wisdom.

Well, I appreciate your description of the Hebrew beavers,  but I’m pretty sure beavers are pagan tree-worshipers. I could be wrong. I admire your attention to detail in this column, and always am happy to encounter an accurate writer when it comes to beavers! So congratulations are in order.

Dear Mr. Fellman

Posted by heidi08 On September - 25 - 2016Comments Off on Dear Mr. Fellman

I’m trying something different today. Rather than post my review of this misguided article in my usual quippy way, I’m going to address the author directly, like an old friend sharing a beer. I’ve written him through his blog already so I’m sure he’ll check to see mine when he opens his mail. Here’s the article that got my attention:

The potato rake and the battle with the beavers

  • OK last weekend I was spending way too much time at the millpond dam near my house. I was down there carrying a potato rake, a pitchfork, various shovels, and a collection of hearty oaths.

    I was frequently covered with mud, and I was always covered with sweat. I was, as I explained in an earlier edition of the Journal, doing battle with beavers, or, to use a somewhat earthier catch-phrase gleaned from a character that represented the Ipana toothpaste franchise in the 1950s, Bucky ”bleepin’” or “F-ing” Beaver. “You’re going to lose,” I was told cheerily when I revealed the fight I had undertaken against this apparently implacable foe.

    The folks gathered around the table at a monthly meeting of an environmental group I work with nodded their heads in agreement at this grim assessment. “Beavers always win… especially when all you have is a potato fork.” If I would put aside my liberal queasiness against the equally liberal use of nuclear weaponry, I might, was the consensus, have a fighting chance, but without the highest of high-powered arsenals, well, “You’ve read Don Quixote, right?”

    Ahh Bruce. You need better environmental friends! Come sit at our table. Yes, the beavers are determined not to freeze solid during the coming winter months, and they’d like to be able to reach all that food they’re busy storing so they don’t starve either. They’re quirky that way. But if you want that dam lower we can tell you how to keep it there successfully. And it won’t involve TNT or clam rakes.

    I couldn’t see any windmills on the horizon, and, in fact, I couldn’t see any beavers. That my foe was invisible was hardly surprising: Castor canadensis is, at the very least, crepuscular—active, that is, beginning at dusk—and the beavers I was confronting appeared to be downright nocturnal. I’ve found no signs of a permanent lodge. I can’t spot any suggestions of gnawed-down trees and shrubs. Ghost critters or not, they’ve certainly made their presence unmistakable.

    In front of the dam is a wall of mud, perhaps six inches high and foot wide. It’s reinforced with sticks and branches, many of which have been stripped of their nutritious bark—a beaver buffet item—and all of them showing signs of gnaw marks. Occasionally, I’ve found a beaver footprint, and if this wasn’t proof-positive of my invisible foe’s identity, consider the following.

    Crepuscular? Have you checked the nutrition label on a willow leaf lately? Do you really think a 60 lb beaver is going to consume all the calories he needs by eating leaves an hour a day? And find time leftover to raise a family and make the repairs you’re complaining about? Beavers are NOCTURNAL. And the biologist who made up the other thing also believed no one could see him if he closed his eyes.

    Indeed, it was the demise of the stream, a favorite hangout, which girded my loins for the fight. This nameless body of water has long been the home and, I suspect, nursery for a group of uncommon dragonflies known as Dragonhunters, large, fierce, and beautiful insects whose primary prey is fellow odonates, and I’d be hanged if I was going to let this creek be engineered out of existence. Now, when it comes to beavers, engineering is just what they do.

    Nature’s master craftsmen have been creating, maintaining, and, when they consider it appropriate, recreating wetlands to meet their needs since the glaciers receded more than ten thousand years ago. It’s simply their nature to do this, and when they returned to our area, after being trapped to the point of local extinction, in the 1970s, we were to learn that, even when we humans might suggest, “Bucky, this area is fine as is and doesn’t require any improvement,” there’s no arguing with beavers.

     But, I thought, perhaps my persistence might convince them to go elsewhere to practice their unnecessary dam trade. After all, there’s already a perfectly functional dam in place. The pond it created and maintains doesn’t require any additional help. So I do my daily work to bring back the water flow over the dam, and make the stream safe for its resident flora, from Bur Marigolds and Cardinal Flowers to liverworts and mosses, and resident fauna, which includes otters, minks, Great Blue Herons, crayfish, Powdered Dancer damselflies, Stinkpot turtles, Brook Trout, waterthrush warblers, or any of the myriad other animals I’ve spotted here since I took this area under my observational wing in 1984.

    Okay. This endears you to me, Bruce. You’re a stream keeper. You’re motivated by stewardship and want to prevent the stream from changes that will result in less biodiversity of the species you love to photograph. Me too!


    Dragonflies mating: Bruce Fellman

    (You take amazing photos by the way, you really should visit the beaver pond some evening before the month ends and try your hand at beaver photos. Poke around this website for a while and you’ll see the builders aren’t as impossible to see as you think.)

    mirror mirror

    Martinez Yearling Grooming: Cheryl Reynolds

    Hey guess who can help you take care of that creek you love? I’ll give you a hint. It has fur and a flat tail. Those deep pools have more to do with the brook trout and the turtles than you imagine. And those creek plants you love so much – guess who’s raising the water table so that their roots have something to drink? Beavers are the original creek stewards. Why not learn to work with them instead of against them?

    And every night, for the past few weeks, the Castorean Conservation Corps has returned with mud, sticks, and impressive skills to undo my efforts.

    Yes beavers fix repairs they believe are necessary for their family to survive the upcoming winter. Go Figure. Hey you’re good with tools and own a pair of waders. Why not buy Mike’s DVD and learn to install a flow device that will keep the dam at the height you can stand and still protects the beavers? It will save your creek and your sanity. Unwilling to spend a dime on these dam rodents? How about a free book that will teach you to do this as well? Or hey, if you don’t like being in the water, why not hire Mike Callahan or Skip Lisle to do it for you? They’re a phone call and a couple states away. We brought Skip out 3000 miles to solve our problem a decade ago. You’re getting off cheap.

    flexible-leveler-diagramNow, I’ll let you go. I’m glad we’ve had this little chat. I know you have a lot of reading to do. Start by watching our story to learn how the flow device controlled our dam height for ten years and how the beavers transformed our creek. Then go down some evening and actually watch the family you’re fighting with. There are a million fascinating columns in your future if you learn to appreciate the effect beavers have on wildlife and watersheds. Don’t believe me? Check out the writing of Vermont’s Patti Smith for the Battleboro Reformer, or Connecticut’s Ben Goldfarb for the High Country News.

    Beavers are natural environmentalists. You guys should be best friends. Really.

    State of the beaver







    Beavers Beavers Beavers. We have beavers!

    Posted by heidi08 On September - 23 - 2016Comments Off on Beavers Beavers Beavers. We have beavers!

    Hurray! Jon saw both beavers last night! And when they came together they touched noses. I can’t help thinking that they’ve been out of sight for two weeks because Mom’s holed up in a den raising newborns. Dad is supposed to sleep somewhere else at first. So it makes sense they’d ‘greet’ after a night apart. We’re celebrating by marching down to Ward street this morning. But here are some treats until we get back.

    Beating the beaver at its own busy nature

    And now for the long awaited presentation by Art Wolinsky of New Hampshire:

    If you don’t have time to watch it now, I’ll just share my favorite part: the special birthday bonus from 3124 miles away.

    Beavers chewing and swimming but nothing light enough to film. Yesterday morning I was certain that we had no beavers at all. And now I’m thinking we have a new generation. Remember that this mom and dad don’t have any yearlings to help keep an eye on the youngsters, and that could explain why they went to bed early before the little on(s) toddled out of the crib. Here’s a look at the pictures in my head, courtesy of my FB buddy Sylvie ‘Biber’ Meller. These photos show the motherhood of a beaver in Scotland called Mrs. Bob. Sylvie she wrote this about her willingness to be filmed breast feeding her kits:

    It’s all about Mrs Bob. She is the most relaxed beaver ever! When i first saw her over 2 years ago she was living at the same spot (disappeared for almost a year after they were caught,tested and released before she came back again). It’s this little beach she loves on the other side of the river and she goes there for grooming herself , brings her food there and now has the kits there too 🙂 They live underneath an old tree, guess the root system has been washed out and thats what they made their home. So maybe its not big enough for her inside there? Or maybe she is a bit of a show off – had it a couple of times when i was waiting quietly to see her for hours and then some noisy people stop over and she comes out to sit down hahaha. Her partner behaves more like a “normal” beaver, only seen him on the beach a handful of times and he is usually off when he senses that people are around. Some weeks ago she came up on the footpath side to grab some willow twigs and i was only 1 1/2 m away – she was fully aware i was sitting there! And my partner had her sitting next to him (that was 2 years ago) and grooming herself – he could feel her fur onto his arms! 😮 The tests showed that she is one of 3 kits born to the original couple, but if you’d tell me she was raised by humans i would believe you!

    Round one goes to the beaver!

    Posted by heidi08 On September - 22 - 2016Comments Off on Round one goes to the beaver!

    Just when you thought it was safe to go for a swim. Oh no! Another beaver attack! Poor man got stitches and all he did to provoke the ruthless toothed marauder was punch it in the head!

    Beaver Wins This Round: Bites Man’s Hand After Taking Punch in Fairfax County, Say Police

    FAIRFAX COUNTY, VA — A beaver bit a man on the hand Sunday night after the man punched the animal near a pond in the Falls Church area of Fairfax County, according to Fairfax County Police.

    The man says the incident began when the beaver came out of the water, bit his shoe and wouldn’t let go. The incident took place just before 7:30 p.m. Sunday near Montauk Court and New Providence Drive (see map below). The man, 52, reported to police that he was at the water’s edge when the beaver came out of the water and bit his shoe.

    In an attempt to get the beaver to release his bite, the man punched the beaver in the head several times and then fell backward, police said. The beaver’s bite did not break the skin, but the man sustained a cut to the hand, according to police.

    Not the brand new Ferragamos! No wonder he punched the rodent several times. Apparently the beaver never broke the skin but his attacker did. Good Lord.

    Animal cruelty aside, there appears to be a 600 mile stretch of rabies-exposed beavers in the East, strabiesretching from North Carolina to Maryland. Here’s a partial list of the attacks I reported last year that were determined to be rabies. Of course its hard to tease out whether the cause because they all happen in the summer when A) folks are swimming and B) beavers are protecting young. They can only test the brains of dead beavers for rabies, but its safe to say that at least SOME of these are rabid because you never read about a beaver attack in the midwest or California for instance.

    Be careful out there.



    Best Birthday Present Ever.

    Posted by heidi08 On September - 20 - 2016Comments Off on Best Birthday Present Ever.

    Yesterday we drove into the high sierras looking for fall color. Instead of finding color we found BEAVERS! I’m posting photos today because they’re beautiful and it’s my birthday. This is lush, gently inclined meadow, and its covered in willow in the Hope Valley. I can’t imagine a better place to be a beaver – and these guys have been busy.  We counted 6 dams. I’m sure there are a dozen.


    The longest dam spanned nearly 75 feet and was three feet high. But I’m partial to the curvey one myself.

    It’s all very fitting, not only because it’s my birthday but also because our favorite habitat 15 miles up at the Hung-a-lei-ti tribe was abandoned or destroyed in the past years.

    In addition to willow there are lilies and berries for hungry beavers to eat. We didn’t find the lodge yet, but as the winter is creeping in soon, there must be a good stash  in the deepest pool near by.

    fullsizerenderThis was such fun habitat, we would stop to look at what seemed like a dam down stream and notice there was one upstream as well! I found this one. Now here is a bonus picture of my nearly favorite kind of tree, the giant ancient Sierra Juniper, because you know why:


    Nine Years and counting

    Posted by heidi08 On September - 19 - 2016Comments Off on Nine Years and counting

    Hey guess what! No beaver news this morning so I thought I’d remind us how long ago the Martinez beavers were in danger. I made this video November 3, 2007. It still makes me smile.

    book-cover-jpg-citizen-scientistTune in at 10 to hear Mary Ellen Hannibel on Michael Krasney’s forum talk about her new book on citizen science. She asked me once about including the beaver pledge of allegiance in it, but I never heard more about it. I think we should all give the show a call to ask about the Martinez beavers!

    A grand night for beavers

    Posted by heidi08 On September - 17 - 20162 COMMENTS

    img_1489Last night was pretty wonderful. We got to the theater just as a giant beaver was parking there that we recognized. So of course I felt right at home. The theater was dark and richly restored and dripped with stories. Steve Dunsky met us and brought us in while he was settinglit up. I met the audio visual team and figured out where I’d be speaking. There was a bar up front where we were invited to set up a display and we brought skulls and a chew for demonstration,

    Mimg_1528ean while others were arriving, donning a beaver costume, and amusing the guests. A slide show ran showing Rust Cohn of Napa’s awesome photos. Bob Rust rode his beaver- bike around the theater to attract interest. Folks were kind of mesmerized – as you can imagine they would be seeing this:

    Then folks started showing up, first our own Cheryl Reynolds and then Rusty himself! Then lots of folks I didn’t know, couples and families with children. At 7 the event began with a question and answer session about the Forest Service who was hosting the event. And at 7:30 the delightful women’s organic chorus stepped on stage to entertain us with uniquely written beaver songs. You know I invited them immediately to sing at the next festival and they were interested and gave me this to share.

    Then it was Heidi time and the video I had finished with Ian Timothy’s help looked LOVELY on the big screen. I only had 12 minutes but I was a fairly gripping with those minutes. The audience oohed and laughed in all the right places and people afterwards said very nice things about it being an amazing presentation. Even Jon, who has heard me speak more times than I can count, said it was ‘flawless, funny and engaging’.

    Then we heard about beavers in California from Kate Lundquist who is now the head of the Water Institute at the OAEC, And then we got to watch Jari’s awesome film on that big screen and the audience took their love affair with beavers to the next level. It was powerful. People really seemed to get the importance of the animal. Afterwards folks hung around to ask questions and express their appreciation and our own Cheryl even used a micto say where beavers were in Vallejo!

    It was nearly midnight by the time we were home and sipping wine on the back deck buzzing with cheerful enthusiasm about the event. Honestly there are many things in life I can’t do, and I’m sure readers of this website know most of them. But cheerfully promoting urban beavers with just the right visuals  and timing to a large mixed crowd eager to learn – apparently  that ain’t one of them.