Archive for the ‘City Reports’ Category

Martinez Beavers go to Pacifica

Posted by heidi08 On May - 18 - 2015Comments Off

June 6th is my final beaver talk for a while and will be at the San Pedro Valley Park visitor’s center in Pacifica, ending one of the busiest 6 months of beaver-speaking I’ve known. It started with the SF waterboard in Oakland, then the State of the Beaver in Oregon, then the salmonid federation in Santa Rosa, then Trout Unlimited in Coloma, then SARSAS in Auburn and Safari West in Santa Rosa. Now there’s just one left and then I can focus on the festival.

San Pedro Valley SPV is a county park in the peninsula hills described as A vast area embracing the middle and south forks of San Pedro Creek, which are Steelhead spawning grounds, this park is nestled amongst the Santa Cruz Mountain range and the foothills of Pacifica. “ They also happen to be interested in having beaver, and originally contacted me thinking relocation might be an option. I explained that the only way to get beaver in California right now is to let them come to you and they invited me to come talk about benefits and solutions. They did an awfully nice blurb on their newsletter. I especially like “repatriated”.nice bioThey might not have all that long to wait. We have a beaver sighting 5 miles east at the water treatment facility, and a beaver killed on the highway 5 miles south. Since several forks of the San Pedro Creek flow through the park, the odds are good beavers will find their way eventually. underwater adaptions Since it’s a new crowd I thought I’d work on some new graphics, which is always fun.  This should remind me not to leave anything out when I discuss their physical adaptions! And this could be a good prompt for discussing beaver chewing of trees and why not to panic.

chewedBut the last was the most fun to do.  And really will be the most powerful. Because, in the end, it isn’t science that saves beavers. Even though it should. People don’t change their minds because of data.  We all learned first hand in Martinez, it’s not brains that convince. It’s hearts.

kits get a lift

Free, furry nitrate-removal kits.

Posted by heidi08 On May - 15 - 2015Comments Off

Wetlands continue to reduce nitrates

Wetlands created 20 years ago between tile-drained agricultural fields and the Embarras River were recently revisited for a new two-year University of Illinois research project. Results show an overall 62 percent nitrate removal rate and little emission of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas.

Slowing down the rate of flow of the water by intercepting it in the wetland is what helps to remove the nitrate,” says Mark David, a University of Illinois biogeochemist in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. “The vegetation that grows in the wetland doesn’t make much of a difference because the grasses don’t take up much nitrogen. It’s just about slowing the water down and allowing the microbes in the sediment to eliminate the nitrate. It goes back into the air as harmless nitrogen gas.”

I’m so glad Illinois is looking into this. We really need to understand the ways to fix our streams. The EPA says that nitrates are leftovers from all the fertilizers and rodenticides farmers use. And that if the get into wells or groundwater they can cause illness in children or cancer at higher levels.

Exposure to nitrates and nitrites at levels above health-based risk values has adverse health effects on infants and children. The health effect of most concern to the U.S. EPA for children is the “blue baby syndrome” (methemoglobinemia) seen most often in infants exposed to nitrate from drinking water used to make formula.

Exposure to higher levels of nitrates or nitrites has been associated with increased incidence of cancer in adults, and possible increased in cidence of brain tumors, leukemia, and nasopharyngeal (nose and throat)  

As a rule Americans are against turning our babies blue or giving ourselves cancer. So we really, really want to get rid of nitrates when we can. And it turns out that just slowing down the water by making wetlands is a better way to do that than just about anything else. Even better than plants. Even better than building expensive bioreactors.

“Farmers generally prefer to install bioreactors because they don’t take up much space,” Gentry says. “A wetland requires about 3 to 4 percent of the drainage area. So, for a 100-acre field, you’d need about 4 acres in wetland. Although bioreactors don’t use much land, they also don’t slow the water enough during high flows. Research on their performance is still underway. Because water tends to be in the wetlands for a much longer time period, they are more effective.”

Wow, wetlands work harder for longer and they are supremely effective at getting rid of nitrates. We really need them! The article doesn’t mention it but they also have all these added benefits as a buffer zone for huge storms, and a stopping place for migratory birds, or habitat for wildlife. We should be working hard to protect them since they do this important work. Maybe giving a tax credit to farmers  that allow them?

The article also doesn’t mention a certain rodent that actually makes and maintains these valuable wetlands for free. Its name escapes me now. What was it called again?

I think it started with a ‘B’?

Mudding the dam Cheryl Reynolds

Mudding the dam Cheryl Reynolds

Thanks to BK for sending this my way.

Beavers don’t have Lodge Owners Associations

Posted by heidi08 On May - 14 - 2015Comments Off

Family of beavers face eviction from their adopted pond in Ada subdivision

ADA TOWNSHIP, MI – A family of beavers that has moved into a pond at the Ada Moorings subdivision may soon be evicted, despite the impassioned protests of neighbors who live in the surrounding houses.

The beavers have endeared themselves to nature-minded residents after building a lodge in one of the ponds dug to collect rain water in subdivision, located near the south banks of the Grand River east of Ada.

“The Beavers Have Returned!” cried a neighborhood newsletter that celebrated the return of the furry beasts to their historic habitat.

That’s not how the beavers are being welcomed by the board of the Ada Moorings Condominium Association, which governs the ponds and grounds for 151 homes in the site condominium development.

 The busy beavers’ efforts to block an outflow drain on the pond have upset neighbors, who worry the dam will cause water levels to rise in the connected ponds and create flooding in the neighborhood.

 Chris Beckering, the association’s president, said the neighbors have had to remove the dams almost daily to assure the flow of water through the ponds to the Grand River.

 ”As an association, we are concerned about damage to our infrastructure and potentially, our homes,” Beckering said.

Visible beavers! Supportive residents! And a negative administrative response! Could there be a better combination for a beaver drama in Michigan? Maybe Martinez can help – we’ve certainly been there, eight years ago when our beavers were busily stirring up terror in a town afraid of flooding. Neighbor pitted against neighbor in the single biggest event ever to happen to Martinez. This is right out of our playbook. Just look at this deeply threatening nonresponse from Mr. Bickering;

On Tuesday, May 12, the condominium association’s board reiterated its decision to contact the state’s Department of Natural Resources about the best way to remove the beavers, their homes and their infrastructure, Beckering said.

 ”They have put us in touch with a trapper,” said Beckering, who declined to speculate on how a trapper might resolve the problem.

 ”It’s not our place to tell them,” Beckering said.

That’s right. We just contact them, retain them and pay for them. We can’t be responsible for what they decide to do. Just like people aren’t responsible when they hire a hit man. Oh wait, that’s right, courts tend to think they are.

Well I tracked down everyone I could find and sent off the information and resources about what we did in Martinez. I even sent this Michigan radio program on beavers from a few years back just in case they could listen better to one of their own. If you never heard it I think you might enjoy it.

hileplay_audioOh and it’s getting to be summer and time for more beaver horror stories, how many new outlets do you think this will be on by tomorrow? It includes a grisly photo of the dead beaver, which you will have to go look at yourself.

Woman is savaged by an angry beaver: Neighbour stabs animal to death after seeing it tearing at his friend’s leg in Russia

 A woman in Russia who had her leg ripped open by an angry beaver was saved after a neighbour came running over and stabbed it in the head.

 But she felt a terrible pain in her leg and looked down to see a large animal had bitten into her calf. Miss Eliseeva said: ‘I was in complete shock and had no idea what it was at first.

‘I thought it might have been a dog that had jumped on me. It was quite dark but it seemed to be standing on its tail as it was so tall.

‘Then it he got on all fours and charged at me again. Its teeth were in my leg and it was furiously shaking its head from side to side.

‘I was screaming like a maniac and this man suddenly appeared out of nowhere and attacked the beaver.’

The woman’s rescuer, local man Hleb Yefremov, 54, said: ‘I heard the girl scream and saw this giant hairy beast attacking her.

‘I didn’t stop to think what it was, I just pulled out my knife and plunged it into the creature’s back. It was only later I realised it was a beaver and not a dog.’

I know there are rabid beavers in the world, and that beaver teeth are sharp. But why are these ‘unprovoked’ attacks always in kit season? Doesn’t that make it seem like there might be some perceived provocation on the part of the beaver?

Forbidden Data: Wyoming just criminalized citizen science.

“The new law makes it a crime to gather data about the condition of the environment across most of the state if you plan to share that data with the state or federal government. The reason? The state wants to conceal the fact that many of its streams are contaminated by E. coli bacteria”

Justin Pidot for Slate

Everyone interested in water should be interested in this news from  the cowboy state, where the governor signed SF0015 into law making it illegal for any citizen to collect data on open lands or water anywhere in the state without express permission from the polluting landowner to do so.

“Resource data” means data relating to land or land use, including but not limited to data regarding agriculture, minerals, geology, history, cultural artifacts, archeology, air, water, soil, conservation, habitat, vegetation or animal species.

Got that? So no Friends of Alhambra Creek water quality or student soil samples will be allowed unless the landowner specifically says so, which I’m sure if there was anything wrong they’d be happy to do right? Because people love to have it pointed out to them when their oil well is seeping or quarry chemicals are leaking.

Here’s a very good summary of the law and it’s specifics.

One area that has been an issue for concern all over the state is E Coli in streams, generally caused by cattle spending too much time where they shouldn’t be. This cheerful bacteria, as you know, can cause illness or even death. The WWP (Western Watersheds Project) has been spending a lot of time on this issue and Ranchers are particularly eager for them to stop it. Now they can finally make sure that anyone looking for unpleasant things will stay out, or even if the sneaky do-gooders manage to find something, it can never be used in court.


No resource data collected in violation of this section is admissible in evidence in any civil, criminal or administrative proceeding.


Resource data collected in violation of this section in the possession of any governmental entity as shall be expunged by the entity from all files and data bases, and it shall not be considered in determining any agency action.

I cannot possibly imagine what greater protection they could be giving to  the polluters than this. It is officially illegal to look for wrong-doing or report it, but even if you do, the facts you find will never be admissible or used in any way expect for  your own prosecution.

You’ve heard of protections for whistle-blowers? Apparently not in Wyoming.



What do other people do on the weekend?

Posted by heidi08 On May - 11 - 2015Comments Off

How was your Mother’s day? Thanks Rusty for the nice recap of your year of beaver watching in Napa. Beavers: Wetlands & Wildlife aptly posted this on their Facebook page and I feel it’s something we should all see.  If you’ve ever had your mother hold your chin while scrubbing something off your face that shouldn’t be there, you know EXACTLY how this feels.

Saturday night at Safari West saw a bouncing  crowd gathered for the beaver talk, many families with young children including a few of the attentive serious kind, and a few of the boisterous crying kind. It pretty different than the last few talks I gave and I did my best to adapt. We had dinner in the lodge with Marie Martinez (in charge of carnivores) and Danny Cusimano director of education and research. He  was a paleontologist finishing his thesis and talked about their work (currently doing a study on hand-rearing vs parental rearing) and looking at population successes. He also seemed very interested in hearing about our work and the primary challenges facing beaver in urban settings.  A few others dashed in and out during our dinner, updating them both or asking questions. It was definitely a dynamic place to be.

After dinner we came back to our luxurious tent, sat on the beautiful deck and drank a glass of wine while the light dimmed and the animal sounds took over. All night we heard the whooping lemurs, grunting flamingos and lowing whatevers in the distance.  It was wonderfully cold at night in those beautiful hills, and the beds were unbelievably comfortable and warm. We both slept like children.

Collages1In addition to the excellent overnight and jeep tour Safari West generously made a donation to Worth A Dam and presented a certificate for our silent auction.  I made sure to bring a list of wildlife friends I thought would be great speakers for the future and we swapped stories and ideas for how to engage people about nature.

Then it was home to meet Greg Kerekes for an interview. He was hired by the Guadalupe RCD to produce five videos on urban wildlife. The first was on Grey Foxes which you can see here.

The next is supposed to be on beavers. I expected a ten minute interview but ogreg's wifeur conversation lasted nearly two hours. He hadn’t really known the Martinez story before and he found it very interesting. His wife had an injury that meant she couldn’t climb the stairs so she was waiting in the car outside the whole time! ( You might remember her as the dancing beaver from our festival two year’s ago.)

Greg said he was surprised that I never seemed to say “um” or seemed at a loss for word like the others he interviewed. (Ha – plenty of practice!) We talked about beaver challenges, beaver benefits, beaver nativity, beaver depredation and the history of Worth A Dam. They were excellent questions  and he was a  great listener but I was exhausted by the end. Not sure how much of our conversation will find it’s way into his short film, but he said he was interested in doing a bigger project too and it would help down the road.

Fortunately for me (and the people I work with in my day job!) I’m off today, so I can rest and enjoy NOT talking about beavers. Then I can start focusing on the festival. (Eek!) The application that Lory was kind enough to fill out (all 19 pages of it) goes to the city just as soon as I can get the event insurance taken care of.

New festival

You’re not listening….

Posted by heidi08 On May - 9 - 2015Comments Off

I’m off tonight to give my third beaver talk in six weeks, which is a little more than I bargained for when I accepted this remarkable gig. Besides preparing and adapting there’s been other beaver demands. Requests for interviews, help getting the word out, connecting professionals who should know each other but don’t, and generally pushing beaver chess pieces around the board. Just last week I talked to a producer from Oregon Public Radio about an Urban beaver project they’re working on, and introduced a woman from the laplands (who was the first to document beaver sign in her country) to the researcher from Norway who’s studying this.

It’s been a journey.

Which might explain why I’m feeling a little beaver-fatigued at the moment. And thinking about all the time I spend talking to people who don’t listen anyway. I never really noticed it so obviously before. But there are people (ahem, men) who have an idea of what they know is true, and even when I tell them with video and research the opposite they STILL think it’s true. It’s stunning that you can say something very clearly and a second later someone can ask whether the opposite is the case.

Just look at this comment from the man who hosted me at the salmon talk at SARSAS two weeks ago. At the time he asked about dams blocking passage, and I and others explained why this was not an issue. In fact there was a very knowledgeable chorus from fish biologists on the topic all saying the same thing. I sent him the great article from Oregon yesterday, and HERE was his comment.

James Haufler says:

Please let me know how many salmon are able to get up over, around or through the beaver dam when they come upstream to spawn later this year.

Argh. I was just there! Talking about this very thing. Why did I spend four weeks preparing and get up at 6 and drive to Auburn so you could have the opportunity to NOT listen to me? Couldn’t I have just stayed in bed if we all wanted for that to happen? Unpreturbed by the question, the author gave a really beautiful answer in response.

Bonnie Henderson says:

Thompson Creek has long had the largest run of spawning salmon among all of the Neawanna Creek tributaries and has also had beaver dams as a part of its ecology. The dams make ponds that create wonderful calm-water nursery grounds for baby salmon to grow in, and by the time the rains come and the spawners return, the water overtops the dam readily and fish can jump it and find little overflow channels around it. So I think that 100% of the Thompson Creek spawners get past the beaver dams to spawn. And this year, most of the dams are on the off-channel wetland areas so are not in the path of spawners at all. (Answered by Katie Voelke)

So do you think James will ask this question again in five minutes? Or do you think having a fish expert packs more power than a beaver expert and he’s finally seen the light? And I don’t want to pick on James. It happens ALL the time. People’s minds are made up before you talk to them. And Damascus moments happen less often than you might think.

It’s not just about fish issues. People have ideas about population expansion, tree felling, and flooding that are impervious to what you might say to the contrary. If I say “We’ve had 20 kits born in Alhambra Creek over the years and our current population is 3″. It is not at all uncommon for a listener to nod and then say “so you have too many beavers now, right?”

Sometimes you can get them to stop talking about their very firm opinions just long enough to listen to your presentation, but sometimes you can’t. And they mumble to a friend through the whole thing. And then when you’re done they raise their hand in what appears to be a question, but is really just an opportunity to disagree with you in a public way, parasitically exploiting the attention of the group you assembled.

(Do I sound bitter?)

I have one more talk after tonight but that’s not until June and should be a good crowd. The Friends of San Pedro Visitor’s Center in Pacifica who specifically want beavers in their park as soon as possible. And tonight I will get to sit in the tent and listen to animals calling at Safari West, so that’s easy enough. But it’s surprising how long it takes to change minds though. Even with good video and pithy facts and 8 years more experience behind you.

To be honest, that was my strongest feeling when I was on the beaver subcommittee. Just disbelief that it took so LONG. That even if I said the right thing, in the right way, to the right people, over and over. They still didn’t change their minds. Did my city eventually change its mind about beavers? I don’t think they did. I think that changed their minds about  how easy it would be to keep saying “no” to the voters.  And the flow device seemed to work, and has seemed to work for seven years. But I don’t think really anyone’s mind was changed. I’m not sure if they moved to a new city they would ever consider this again, or if new beavers moved into another creek they would show anything resembling a learning curve.

This work is a marathon, not a sprint. Brock Evans famous quote is

Endless Pressure, Endlessly Applied

Not “adequate pressure applied for a little while.”


Chery and Lory are tabling at the Wildbirds Event today in Pleasant Hill, and we are off to Santa Rosa for the big night. I feel like seeing something wonderful and I’m happy to share.  So here’s a rescue video from Wild Heart Ranch in Oklahoma. The doting voice you here is that of Annette King Tucker who is the heart and soul of the operation. I especially love what the kit does around 38 seconds. Ahh!

Safari overnight 179

Heidi Perryman & Marie Martinez (Carnivores Dept at Safari West)

backyard beaver safari

Beavers swim up stream to S.A.R.S.A.S.

Posted by heidi08 On April - 28 - 2015Comments Off

SARSASThere are days in the Beaver-Biz when you get the feeling that something is really happening, and that you yourself are part of the momentum. You can almost hear those creeky rusted wheels start to shift and turn, you aren’t sure at first whether you believe it. You draw a breath to watch what happens next and then comes that wonderful moment when you just sit back and watch it all unfold.

That’s how yesterday’s Placer meeting was. We started out the day by driving to Auburn at 6:30 to avoid Sacramento traffic. We were a little panicked to find the destructive lane closures and partitions on 80 which I later described as a cement tomb with speeding. There were accidents and stopped cars on the way but we eventually made it to our destination. (And lived to have it explained to us that this was just the second year of a multi-year project. Lucky them!)

SARSAS BtalkThe presentation was going to be at the central location for county offices in Placer called “the domes” for obvious reasons. (I have heard that there are tribes who believe a house should have no corners because evil spirits lurk in them. Geodomes have multiple corners so maybe that’s why they kill so many beavers in Placer. Ahem.)

 They was a big square conference room and equipment all set up with a county technical consultant to get everything plugged in. And then the room started filling up. Afterwards folks said it was the best attendance they ever had. I was especially happy to notice county employees coming in at the end, in addition to all the fish and beaver supporters.

The prescient soul who had actually invited me over a year ago was actually on vacation with his family in Europe and couldn’t be there. His fellow leaders did a great job of orienting the presentation and getting me settled.  On the way in I met Sherry and her neighbor who had driven down from Tahoe, Janet who is local and always takes the train down to help at the festival, and Jeanette who did such dynamic working helping with programs last year. Hats with tails(I actually heard her laugh out loud when I showed the photo of her and her niece, coincidentally during my talk.)

I had restructured things to make my talk more “fishy” so started out with the salmon info and the clip about bridge creek and beaver assisted salmon recovery. Then got into our story. My talk ran a full hour and there were attentive faces throughout. And laughter in the right places, I was happy to note.

highlighted permitsI was especially aware of where I was sitting when I got to the part about the depredation permits. I said “Our statistician noted that one county issued seven times more permits than anywhere else in the state. And that, as it happens, was this one.” I was so happy to see the horrified faces, I can’t tell you. Even more so when I pointed out that according to CA law you need to report the numbers of beaver you trap, but not the number of beavers you depredate.

Afterwards there were questions and appreciations, and some talk about beaver dams and salmon passage or adequate gravel for spawning. I was thrilled to learn that there were attendees in the room who had actually heard Pollock’s talk in Weed and knew all about channelization and salmon enrichment. On particularly knowledgeable young man introduced himself  as Damion Ciotti from the Habitat Restoration Division of US Fish and Wildlife Service. We connected several years ago and he was very interested in our work in Martinez.  I made sure he left with a copy of Mike Callahan’s DVD. You can’t imagine how helpful his comments were in soothing the beaver-disbelievers in the room. I couldn’t have orchestrated it better than to let fish savvy folk do the defending for me!

Afterwards folks chatted about their own beaver encounters and promised to come to the festival. Jeannette said she saw a beaver at Lake Natomas in Folsom from her kayak and felt honored. Janet presented a cluster of little beaver items she had picked up on her journeys, saying they could be gifts  or I might pass them into the auction! And Sherry said she had agreed to give a talk at the educational portion of Taylor Creek where they did the flow devices installations.

Then Jon and I made our way back to the flat lands of Martinez, chatting happily about the day and its possible consequences. We were both exhausted, but in a good, accomplished way, and happy with our results. One of the final questions came from one of the group leaders, who wondered, now that the problems were averted and the city wasn’t afraid anymore, have our city leaders embraced the beavers? Do they support their presence now?

Which made me chuckle, and I answered carefully that they did eventually give up trying to kill them, which, if you think about it, is a kind of support.