Archive for the ‘Beavers’ Category

Defending your Beavers

Posted by heidi08 On October - 23 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

 Beaver habitat topic of concern

Now after yesterday’s horrors, any sane person reading this headline from The Cabinet in Milford, New Hampshire, would obviously suspect that the concerns were mosquitoes, flooding or giardiasis. But any sane person would be WRONG because this is actually the exceedingly rare and absolutely best kind of concern.

MILFORD – Residents were back before selectmen last week to complain about the breaching of a beaver dam at Heron Pond. It was the second time since the Department of Public Works breached the dam in August that residents, lead by local environmental activist Suzanne Fournier, went to a selectmen’s meeting.

Fournier said removing part of the dam, which was done by hand, resulted in mud flats and harmed many kinds of wildlife.

 Ahh Suzanne! We read about her  almost exactly a month ago – the last time they did this. Apparently they haven’t learned much although Suzanne has been doing her homework. The good news is that this time school is back in session and she brought friends.

Several other residents went to the microphone at the Oct. 13 Board of Selectmen’s meeting to say they were unhappy with the dam breaching, including Suzanne Schedin, a teacher at Heron Pond School, who said the town should reconsider the decisions made 14 years ago when the 270-acre Brox property was purchased to see if development is a good idea.

 Chairman Gary Daniels conceded that town officials should have involved the Conservation Commission in its decision about dam breaching, and Audrey Frazier, commission chairwoman asked the board if they could be informed the next time work is done to the pond.

 Have you noticed how development is always lurking in the wings? The article describes how the selectman responded with the usual weaseling, saying the pond had just been altered, not drained and they shouldn’t worry so much and “Work together for the town.” Grr.  But if I were one of these very select group of men I would pay attention to the fact the Blue Heron School is an elementary and if they’re not very, very careful they will wind up at the next meeting with a room full of these: (The original weasel deflectors).


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(That reminds me, I have to send an email to some teachers.)

In the mean time, if you haven’t seen the scathing editorial from the Contra Costa times about one of our own ‘select men’ you really should read it. And I know this website isn’t supposed to be political but the endorsed candidate Mark Thompson is a friend of our beavers and came to the recent Beaver Safari. Incumbent Lara Delaney who is also endorsed, faught for a chance to be on the beaver sub-committee. And Gay Gerlack who is running for mayor spoke up for the beavers at the original meeting in November 2007.


I came across this video the other day and thought you might find interesting too. It’s a fairly concise description of the fur trade – well, one PART of the fur trade. Calling HBC the fur trade is like calling Shell the oil industry. Remember that there were many other companies all doing the same thing at once.

It’s amazing any survived at all. Lets not think any more about ‘Made Beavers”. Let’s think about “beavers that have got it made”.




Wonderments of the East Bay Celebrating 80 years of EBRP

 The East Bay Regional Parks abound in wonderments: animals, plants, sounds, geological formations, histories, and languages that stimulate our curiosity and expand our capacity for awe. In exquisite, lyrical essays, Sylvia Linsteadt and Malcolm Margolin—with help from their friends—revel in these wonderments.

Our complimentary copy arrived yesterday with 4 pages of the Martinez Beaver story. They declined to use Cheryl’s excellent photos (or my accurate writing, ahem) but gave a gallant tale of civic response and public interest. The story  puts Martinez in a community-building light and says we had people from all over coming just to see our beavers. I remain fairly picky about the details. (If you’ll remember the original chapter had said Martinez brought in a “Team of engineers” to fix the flooding problem and I was terrified everyone would think it was expensively hard work  saving beavers.) I managed to get that wording fixed, but sadly the chapter still said mom had three babies and we discovered the first ever tulle perch in Alhambra Creek, which makes me mortified that my name was dropped in the passage without a corresponding footnote saying, “Heidi never said this and didn’t write it.”

A reasonable woman would be content that it makes it clear that the beavers had a positive effect on our creek and grateful that they sent me a copy. I strive to be such a woman. I’m not worried about the idea of giving EBRP credit for our beavers, (since they’re on city land), because I crisply remember a lively conversation I had with park wizard Hulet Hornbeck before he died, where he told me that they had been working for 50 years to clean up the Marina so that the arrival of the beavers would even be possible. And since he was wise enough to see the beaver family as a compliment,  I heartily believed him.

It’s a very nice looking book and a trove of local treasures. I know you want to pick up your own copy  here, or wait for the silent auction!


Now you’ve done your history homework you deserve a treat. R.E. from Napa sent this yesterday and it’s very lovely. I won’t even bother telling you to enjoy it, because I know you will.

lorna and curtAnd finally a HUGE thanks to our friends at Safari West. My niece just got married in the Redwoods and since my wedding present to her had been an overnight stay at our favorite wilderness adventure in the wine country, they made sure she and her new hubby had an awesome time. The highlight came  last night when Kimberly Robertson met the couple after their tour and dinner to take them for a tower feeding that left my well-spoken niece speechless.  Thanks so much Safari West for making so many people so happy, and don’t forget to remember them if you’re looking for the PERFECT special day for someone in your family!


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 - 2014Comments Off

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 - 2014Comments Off

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 - 2014Comments Off

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?