Because the beaver isn't just an animal; it's an ecosystem!

The Martinez Beavers

Category: City Reports


Greenburn lake is in the Gulf Islands off the west coast of British Columbia. It’s actually located in that little missing chip in the utmost left hand corner of Washington State. It’s not all that far from Port Moody as the beaver swims, so I’m hoping many heroes help them with this particular problem.

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Aerial view of Greenburn Lake, South Pender Island, with North Pender Island and Vancouver Island in the background, South Pender Island

Gulf Islanders outraged over plan to euthanize beavers

A death sentence has been passed on the beavers living in a small lake in the Gulf Islands, but concerned citizens are hoping they can force a last minute pardon. The rodents have been busy building dams in South Pender Island’s Greenburn Lake. 

Parks Canada, which administers the area as part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, says the beavers’ work is threatening an earthen dam. Officials say they’ve exhausted all other options and have no choice but to humanely trap and euthanize the animals. But local residents are planning a blockade in an attempt to get the execution called off.

“We’re actually horrified by the fact that they would dream of killing wild animals when their mandate is to protect the wilderness and wild animals,” Leslie McBain told CBC News.

“It is ironic that their symbol, the National Parks symbol, is a beaver.”

‘A very difficult decision’

Nathan Cardinal, acting superintendent for the park, said he’s sympathetic to concerns from the public. “Having to take these steps is a very difficult decision for the agency and everyone involved,” he said.”We respect the right for people to protest, for sure, and we acknowledge that many people on the island care about the beavers. For us, euthanizing a problem animal is always the last resort.”

Between one and eight beavers have made their homes in the lake and, as they construct their own dams, more and more water is building up behind the man-made dam, threatening its structural integrity. Cardinal said that if the beavers are allowed to continue living in the lake, the dam will fail, causing water to spill onto people’s properties and into their homes.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

“At Parks Canada, it’s our mandate to ensure ecological integrity, but we always have to ensure that public safety comes first,” he said. Parks officials have been looking at potential solutions for about a year.

They’ve tried installing something called a “beaver deceiver” — a rectangular fence protecting a culvert that allows water to flow through — but the rodents responded by building dams in new places, causing more backup.

In what pretend universe is a beaver deceiver rectangular? How on earth would that possibly work? So let me understand this right, because you failed to use a tool correctly the beavers must die?

Parks officials have also looked into relocating the animals. But Cardinal said beavers are both territorial and increasingly abundant across B.C., so staff couldn’t find a suitable new home.

Now that it’s November, Parks Canada feels compelled to act. “We need to address it now before we get into the very wet season of the winter,” Cardinal said.

But McBain has a hard time believing there are no other options and would like to see the community consulted about what happens to the beavers.

“Humans are impacting the environment, it’s not beavers that are impacting the environment. We destroyed their habitat first, now we’re just going to destroy them,” she said.

First of all, NICE work Leslie. You already have that reporter eating out of your hand because look at the tone of the article! I’d say if you bring some children dressed in beaver tails and show them a photo of the ACTUAL trapezoidal beaver deceived you’re home free. Or at least on broadcast news. Then 200 more people will care about this issue and THEN you’ll be home free.

I have no idea what kind of rectangular fence they used to protect the culvert, but it sound like the beavers scoffed at their feeble attempts and kept right on making a safe pond for their family. Those stubborn beavers, willfully insisting on protecting their children and eating ALL winter long.

I will try and track down Leslie and Nathan today, and talk to them  about real options.


 

On a related note, this was a nice discussion of urban wildlife recently on KQED. I’m sure it was just an oversight on Colleen’s part that she forgot to mention beavers.


Isn’t it amazing how one of the unexpected consequences of having really bad men (and Betsy DeVos) busily looting the country is that it can motivate really good men and women to run for office? I mean, people who have important jobs and are soberly committed to things that take a great deal of their time – people that you would never expect to take an interest in local or not-so local politics.

Say, senior researchers at NOAA Fisheries, for example.

Pollock dethrones longtime incumbent in parks board race

Having successfully ended a dynasty, unseating longtime incumbent Kirk Robinson and claiming the Commissioner Position 5 of the board for the Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park & Recreation District, Michael Pollock’s celebration was much less involved than his campaign.

“I just chatted with a few of the other elected officials, the ones that made it, and had a drink and went to bed,” Pollock said. “A raging party on Bainbridge is one that’s over by 9 o’clock.”

Pollock claimed victory with an immediate, commanding lead in the parks board race Tuesday. He received 54.9 percent of the vote, while Robinson locked up just 45 percent. Pollock had 2,733 votes to Robinson’s 2,243 in the last vote count.

The position on the five-member board carries a six-year term.

 

Bainbridge is an island just outside seattle where Michael Pollock has lived for years. The park system controls some 1600 acres of parkland and 32 miles of trails. It is a lovely place to live, facing the usual pressures of urbanization and conservation you might expect of an island that’s commutable to Seattle by ferry. And I’m guessing it is going to be a very, very nice place to be a salmon or beaver in the very near future.

Pollock — a former member of the Bainbridge Island City Council, but a new face in the arena of parks — easily outpaced Robinson in the race, who has held the job since 2003.

“Definitely, change is in the air,” Pollock said, referencing both his own victory and the several other newcomers voted in during Tuesday’s election.”Island voters, Pollock said, seemed to have “caught a little bit of the national mood.”

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Congratulations, Michael on your big win! You are positioned to do great things for Bainbridge and I’m sure folks know it. I just have to ask, did you actually make yard signs that said “vote Pollock” and distribute them to neighbors? If so, can I please have one? It’s hard to imagine you on election night, watching the votes pour in and taking that official winning phone call.

(I, myself never ran for office, but I learned from my time on the John Muir board that there is a lot of  governance that involves patiently listening to ridiculous things, holding your temper, mechanically seconding motions and trying to stay awake without slipping into a meditative coma.) You are obviously much more  skilled than I, and have dealt with doubters, academic and government blowhards and naysayers all your life. I know for certain that you are more than up to the task!

Big decisions need you, and we are thrilled at your success!


This has been a busy month. I knew another pin was going to drop, but Ohio? Who would have guessed?

John Switzer: Beaver moon highlights species’ revival in Ohio

CaptureThis month’s moon is called the beaver moon, and it was full Saturday.

It is called the beaver moon because now is when beaver dens are snug and stocked with food in preparation for the winter. All fall, beavers have been cutting branches and taking them to their dens so that they can dine on the bark and wood. Sounds like a tasty winter meal.

There’s another reason the November moon is called the beaver moon. Hal Borland wrote in the book “Twelve Moons of the Year” that by November the beaver’s pelts are in prime condition. Back during this nation’s settlement, beaver hats were all the rage here and in Europe, and pelts were considered the same as currency. Their pelts were so desired that by the 1830s, beavers had been extirpated from Ohio, said Jim McCormac, a wildlife biologist.

But beavers are again relevant because they have returned to all 88 Ohio counties, entering the state from the north and east, McCormac said. McCormac said Ohio is home to an estimated 30,000 beavers. He also said that if beavers live in your area, its biodiversity and natural heath are profiting “big-time.”

Many plants and animals benefit from beaver dams and the ponds they create. He gave the example of the beautiful wood duck, whose population is increasing partly because of beaver dams.

“There are no better ecological engineers,” McCormac said of beavers.

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But having beavers in the area is not without its negative consequences. When they dam up creeks and streams, they sometime cause the flooding of farmland and other places that humans rely on.

I’ll give you an example. Early last spring I went out to Glacier Ridge Metro Park near Dublin and the park’s wetlands and a few of the nearby bike trails and hiking paths were covered by water. Beavers had dammed up the small stream that flows through the area and, by the end of the winter, caused a small flood.

But all was not lost. The Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks placed pipes through the dam so the water level could be easily lowered mechanically. “That allows us to drop the water down and not interfere with the beavers’ activities,” said Peg Hanley, spokeswoman for the parks system.

WOW! Jim McCormac is a wildlife biologist who knows his beavers! My goodness that’s exciting to read from the state. You can tell the columnist, John Switzer of the Columbus Dispatch, is not exactly sold on the flat tailed animals yet – but this article is a formidable start. I’m terribly pleased!

I was so impressed that I had to go searching for Jim McCormac and found his nature blog, Ohio birds and Capturebiodiversity. It is a wonderful collection of photographs and information. Jim is photographer and a self-described naturalist. The website has been around since 2007!

“I am a lifelong Ohioan who has made a study of natural history since the age of eight or so – longer than I can remember! A fascination with birds has grown into an amazement with all of nature, and an insatiable curiosity to learn more. One of my major ambitions is to get more people interested in nature. The more of us who care, the more likely that our natural world will survive.”

Obviously his site has enough respect and readers to get attention, and his opinions about beavers are making a difference. Thanks Jim! You are welcome any year at our beaver festival!


Yesterday was a strangely successful day that turned out well for beavers. After writing about the Mystic lake madness I wrote the acting director of the Custer Gallatan Forest Service and some city folks protesting the decision to sit on this problem for three months and then expose the beavers to slow death. I was written back fairly promptly by that acting director saying the army corps of engineers had told them there was a risk of a 500-year flood event for the town below if the dam washed out. He assured me they knew about flow devices and would talk about this for the future, but had to do this now. The beavers would be trapped, not left to starve, which was something.

I was grimly comforted by this news, and mollified that he wrote back at all which I did not expect. He also said that he was back at his regular job now in Vermont and another ranger was in charge – whom he cc’d on the message so we could be in touch. I still thought the beavers were done for, but I was glad that my letter had been responded to.

45 minutes later I received this:

Update on Mystic Lake project.  Engineers are currently working on a mitigation device to keep water to tolerable level after lowering and keeping the beavers in the system.  Long term solutions will be discussed at a later date.  Thanks.

Chad Benson
Deputy Forest                                                                                                                                                                                  Custer Gallatin National Forest

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There must have been a lot of other public outcry besides mine. Maybe we’ll  never know. I will say I am capable of writing a fairly decent letter, but am downright talented at finding the right email address to target even when folks work hard to hide it. Still, I can count on one hand the number of times something like this happens. Maybe it has something to do with Amy’s recent presentation on the topic and my reminding the ranger of her skills and the fact that she was trained by the man who solved our beaver problem a decade ago? Maybe someone chained themselves to a bulldozer or threatened to stop dating the mayor’s niece. Who knows how these things work?

I’m just happy it did!

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Dispersal: Elizabeth Saunders

To celebrate I started thinking about a festival design that would promote our new location and vaguely remembered a charming illustration by Elizabeth Saunders the artist who works with Cows and Fish. It was about beaver dispersal, but I thought it could easily be re-purposed to inspire Amelia on our brochure this year. Even as a starting place, I’m liking this a lot.

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Today is full of blessings in every way! Louise Ramsay posted this on FB a very nice beaver program from radio 4. There are some irritating parts but stay patient because it gets very good. I especially find it kind of wonderful to hear how happily the reporter describes their return. Enjoy!

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There’s a nice story this morning about watching beaver activity as we head towards winter from Marshall Helmberger of Minnesota.

The busy season

It’s the busy season at our neighborhood beaver pond, as the locals prepare for the impending season of scarcity. The signs of activity are everywhere, particularly along the pond’s edges, where the resident beavers have recently felled at least a couple dozen youngish aspen to put away for the winter.

It all seems pretty familiar. We fill our own wood sheds and stock the pantry and freezer with the season’s produce, and the beavers do pretty much the same. This time of year, the beavers are cutting aspen and willow and storing the branches and smaller trunks in a huge cache under the water, just outside one of their two lodges. These caches are readily visible this time of year— since some of the smaller limbs often stick out from the water— and are an easy way to tell if beavers are planning to spend the winter in any given lodge. Beaver lodges can last for decades and they can fall in and out of use over the years, so this time of year I always look for the telltale signs of a fully-stocked pantry to determine if a lodge is currently active.

Once the ice arrives on the beaver pond, which could happen this coming week given our recent cool down, the beavers will be locked in for the winter. They’ll live the next several months within their dark lodge, only occasionally venturing out of one of their underwater exits to grab a bite. While their pantry of sticks is their primary source of winter food, they also store large amounts of fat in their tails this time of year, which they will also rely on during the winter months. A beaver’s tail, in the fall, is usually substantially larger that it will be when the beavers emerge from their lodges next April or May.

Don’t you wonder what that’s like? Or which family member you like enough to be stuck in a closet with for three months out of the year? I’ve been fairly lucky in terms of opportunities to see beavers, but I will always regret not getting to see this. The tell tale food stash and the signs of beavers cracking through the ice to get whatever they can forage. I’m not entirely sure I believe the last sentence about their tails being smaller in May, but I bet our beaver size has a lot to do with not needing to live off reserves. Marshall does a nice job in this piece by capturing the urgency of late fall.

Speaking of beaver authors, I heard from author Ben Goldfarb that he just had a very enlightening chat with our city council man Mark Ross about the beaver story. He said it was helpful to get the city perspective on the story.  (I would just LOVE to be a fly on the wall for that conversation, wouldn’t you?) I bet there were lots of fears of flooding and very few honest concern about voters in his tale.

Meanwhile it you want to get the story from the other perspective, why not listen to the talk I did Tuesday from the convenience of your desktop. I really appreciate fur-bearer defenders for getting this online and sending me the link! This will give the whole story plus some never before disclosed secrets from behind the scenes. (You can thank them for doing tall his by dropping 5$ in their donation jar.) I just realized that the anniversary of that big November meeting is a week after halloween! Perfect timing to hear it all again or for the first time. I think my voices sounds lower, what do you think?