Archive for the ‘Creative Solutions’ Category

Beaver Fan Club still has Openings

Posted by heidi08 On January - 19 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

beaver strategy meetingOoh how nice to see the upcoming beaver conference get some positive press! I hope that gets many more curious people in the door.

Seven Feathers to host conference on beaver restoration

CANYONVILLE — Oregon’s official state animal, the beaver, plays an important role in the state’s wetland ecosystems. Those advocating for the beaver plan to convene next month for a series of presentations focusing on beaver ecology as a crucial part of threatened species recovery.

The fifth State of the Beaver Conference, slated for Feb. 22-24 at the Seven Feathers Convention Center in Canyonville, is meant “to provide an international venue for academia, agency and stakeholders together to disseminate information pertinent to beaver ecology,” according to Leonard Houston, conference coordinator and co-chair of the Beaver Advocacy Committee (BAC) of the South Umpqua Rural Community Partnership.

We chose the theme of ‘agents of regeneration’ largely to highlight the role that beavers play both in natural regeneration, which is ecological succession, and designed regeneration, which is restoration ecology,” Houston said.


Sherri Tippie and Me

The nicest part about this conference, and there are  many, is that the famous names you have been reading about for years here or elsewhere are walking or sitting right next to you. Or coming up to say ‘hi’ and ask

about your presentation. The truth is that it is both a blessing and unfortunate that the science of beaver ecology isn’t yet so advanced that names like Woodruff,  Obrien or Pollock can send


Mike Callahan and Me

their undergrads to do the presenting for them and report back if they find anything interesting. As renowned as they are, they have to do their reporting in person and are eager to share ideas and learn from each other. They’re even happy to hear what you have to say.

small suzanne

Suzanne Fouty and Me

Admittedly,they are probably even happier if you invite them out for a beer to say it. (And happier still if you offer to pay for it. Government salaries being what they are.)

santa barbara dinner

Michael Pollock, Mary Obrien, Sherri Guzzi, Mike Callahan and Me!

The point is, I think this is a golden moment in time where beaver science hasn’t become dominated and controlled by lofty minds and  big research institutions. You can contribute, you can interact.  They need you! But already the world is starting to shift. More and more folk are interested in taking charge of the beaver meme, and it won’t be easy and collegial forever.

Beavers are getting so famous, you better come this year. Just to be on the safe side.


Posted by heidi08 On January - 1 - 2017Comments Off on Marin-topia?

I don’t dust off the Star Wars regalia for just any good beaver article. It’s reserved for very special ‘it’s-about-fricking-time’ occasions. But oh-boy  this is one of them. Let’s all assume it’s the best possible omen for 2017 and set our phasers to ‘savor’. The author is Gerald Meral, who was the top water advisor for the governor of California until he retired at the end of 2013. Which means he knows everyone and everyone knows him. He’s currently working with the Natural Heritage Institute. I’m just printing the entire article because you need to read it all. Trust me.

Time to bring beavers back to Marin

Here’s a pop quiz about beavers. Which Northern California counties don’t have any beavers? Answer: San Francisco (no surprise), Santa Cruz and Marin. Every other Northern California county has a thriving beaver population.

Beavers are a cornerstone environmental species. These hardworking aquatic engineers build dams in streams, and those dams perform environmental miracles. By storing water they recharge groundwater, preparing the region for droughts. The ponds are vital rearing habitat for coho salmon, steelhead and other fish species. The adult fish easily pass over the beaver dams on their way upstream from the ocean. Beaver ponds promote the growth of riparian (streamside) vegetation, creating habitat for native birds and other wildlife.

Beavers were present in Marin County prior to European arrival, but were wiped out by hunters and trappers. In the 1940s the California Department of Fish and Game (now the Department of Fish and Wildlife) relocated some beavers to Glenbrook Creek on the Point Reyes Peninsula in a progressive attempt at ecosystem restoration, but the transplant did not take.

Beavers can cause problems. Their dams can flood infrastructure like roads. They can also build dams at inappropriate places along creeks, blocking important water diversions. And of course they cut down small trees along the streams, sometimes to the dismay of nearby property owners.

But there are many modern techniques available to manage beaver populations.

Using recordings of the sound of running water, beavers can be induced to build their dams where they will do no harm, and create beneficial habitat. Careful placement of structures in streams can guide beavers to build where it will do the most good.

As the beavers multiply and colonize new areas, they can be carefully managed. If they get into stream segments where they might cause problems, they can be trapped and relocated.

Farmers sometimes are concerned about beavers impacting streams on their farms. Fortunately in Marin County, beaver dams are likely to improve local surface and groundwater supplies on our relatively small streams, improving water supply for agriculture. Beavers are not an endangered species, so their introduction will not add any new regulations, often a concern for farmers.

So why haven’t beavers been re-introduced to Marin County by now? State Sen. Peter Behr was rebuffed by the Department of Fish and Game in the 1970s when he sought to bring back beavers.

At that time, the department was mainly concerned about problems beavers might cause landowners. Today, the department recognizes the many benefits beavers bring, but still fears criticism and possible liability if they move beavers.

The answer is to allow the Marin County Board of Supervisors to have the authority to relocate beavers to our county. Landowners in the relocation area would be carefully consulted, and a plan of relocation and management would have to be adopted. The goal should be to benefit coho salmon and steelhead, species which are greatly threatened in our county.

Reintroduction would be coordinated with the Resource Conservation District, Marin Municipal Water District and other interested agencies and nonprofits. Legislation to allow Marin County the right to bring back the beavers should be introduced and passed as quickly as possible. The beavers want to come home to Marin.

Jerry Meral of Inverness is the director of the California Water Program for the Natural Heritage Institute.

Whoohooohoo! If there is EVER going to be legislation that allows beaver reintroduction it’s going to be from Marin. They have enough lawyers and enough land and enough money: they will get this done, mark my words. Jerry got his info about beaver population from Eli Asarian’s beaver map, which isn’t exactly time sensitive – but it’s a good general indication. Here is our county map of places that didn’t need depredation permits last year, which I think is a better clue about where beavers aren’t right now.


I really appreciate his look at history for this article. I didn’t know about Peter Behr and will find more. I’m not wild about his saying that beavers can be controlled by the sound of running water and when I mentioned this he explained it was from Jari’s documentary (Michel LeClair).  In general we find better success with flow devices and beaver dam analogs  (BDAs) because beavers like to build where it’s easy. But we’re pretty happy with this article. It’s an awesome way to start the year.

Speaking of awesome ways to start the year, a dozen beaver champions are coming tonight to welcome 2017 with four courses of homemade ravioli’s and beaver shortbread cookies. Everything is ready but the boiling water. We’ll make sure to toast Marin especially. Happy New Year!15826529_10208483818679264_2995351526848242752_n


Santa comes early for beavers

Posted by heidi08 On December - 21 - 2016Comments Off on Santa comes early for beavers

Around this time of the Holidays everything starts to seem like “too much”. There are too many presents to wrap or cookies to frost or ravioli’s to make and there is barely enough time to squeeze them all in. Add to this that there is now a SURFEIT of beaver news to share. But I take my job seriously so I’m going to start with this, even though I’m saving the selfishly best for last.

How’s this for a headline? You gotta love Scotland.

Tree felling by beavers may save millions in flood repairs

CONSERVATION experts predict the controversial felling of trees by beavers will help save millions of pounds spent on flood damage and defences after the animals were spotted for the first time on National Trust for Scotland property.

The creatures are often blamed for causing flooding on farmland by building dams. But conservationists said their habit of gnawing down trees also encouraged multiple new younger stems to grow, which could help to prevent flooding by reducing erosion.

The nation’s largest conservation charity believes the beavers will play a key role in cutting its multi-million pound bill due to floods as they continue to spread across the country following the Government’s decision last month to grant them protected status as a returned native species.

That’s right, the country’s largest charity is excited that beavers are cutting down its trees because the coppicing will help prevent erosion.  (And no, I didn’t just make this up in a basement with my beaver fantasy 500.) Follow the link and see for yourself. It’s for real. Never mind that in our silly country the Nature Conservancy is paying to kill beavers to save trees because they’re stupid. Imagine if our largest conservancy was excited about beavers!


Speaking of EXCITED (yes, I know I’m shouting), I heard from photographer Suzi Eszterhas that juniorher beaver photo shoot is officially approved and can be shared by us. The Ranger Rick article will come out in the fall and in the meantime she generously arranged for allowing me to use her amazing photos in presentations and the website. There are 274 and at the moment I’m just like a happily confused child sitting in the middle of the candy store wondering which to enjoy first, but I thought I’d share a few beavers-adapt-to-flow-devicesbeauties today.

Seeing these images is of course, bittersweet because it was that year that our kits died and our beaver family disbanded. There were no answers and few comforts. But every time you start to feel misty-eyed, I promise you will be cheered by the crazy curved tails of the Nfamilyapa beaver kits. So you have to keep looking.

Most of the photos are of our Martinez beavers, including some wonderful images of our human children helping out, some are Napa images or rehab in Washington and Lindsay Museum (not ours).  It is enormously special to have this record and I am so grateful for her remarkable work. If you want to browse the entire collection you can check out her website here.

There’s never enough time, I know.topandbottometeeth-copy-copy


Beaver Developments

Posted by heidi08 On December - 20 - 2016Comments Off on Beaver Developments

MIT continues to make great strides on beaver-inspired wetsuits.

Leave It to Beaver: Why a furry wetsuit could keep you warmer and drier.

Beavers and sea otters lack the thick layer of blubber that insulates walruses and whales. And yet these small, semiaquatic mammals can keep warm and even dry while diving, by trapping warm pockets of air in dense layers of fur.

Inspired by these fuzzy swimmers, MIT engineers have now fabricated fur-like, rubbery pelts and used them to identify a mechanism by which air is trapped between individual hairs when the pelts are plunged into liquid.

The researchers are particularly interested in improving wetsuits for surfing, “where the athlete moves frequently between air and water environments,” says Anette (Peko) Hosoi, a professor of mechanical engineering and associate head of the department at MIT.

Biologists had observed that beavers and other semiaquatic mammals trap, or “entrain,” air in their fur. But, as graduate student Alice Nasto notes, “there was no thorough, mechanical understanding of that process. That’s where we come in.”

The team laid out a plan: fabricate fur-like surfaces of various dimensions, plunge the surfaces into liquid at varying speeds, and use video imaging to measure the air trapped in the fur during each dive.

“We have now quantified the design space and can say, ‘If you have this kind of hair density and length and are diving at these speeds, these designs

will trap air, and these will not,’” Hosoi says.

Ah science! Working so hard to do what nature does without thinking. Not much new in this news, I admit, but I like the graphic. Given the temperature outside yesterday I can understand the need for really efficient entrainment.

I found out this weekend that Lorne Fitch from Cows and Fish is accepting our offer of a transportation scholarship and coming to the State of the beaver conference in February! Whoo hoo! The line up looks really grand with folks from Whales, Scotland AND Germany flying out to present their beaver work, as well as American experts like Suzanne Fouty, Mike Callahan, Damion Ciotti and um, me. I also found out that stalwart beaver champions Sharon and Owen Brown of Beavers: Wetlands and Wildlife will be presenting there. Which is wonderful because I always get a little tired of hearing about ‘beavers as a means to an end’ by Friday! The video below is theirs and narrated by Sharon. You should really think about being there. We’re renting a house so we’d invite you for dinner and everything.

I’m not sure what to think about the Whit Gibbons learning curve. He wrote back that he’d look at the website and I sent him all sorts of educational links. His column is obviously syndicated and has appeared in a few other papers. But today’s appearance bears this headline:

Beavers Make Great Neighbors

Same exact column, but this one is printed in New York.  Authors don’t usually pick the headline. So who knows what the explanation is?

Forget the Lion in Winter – What about the Beaver?

Posted by heidi08 On December - 16 - 2016Comments Off on Forget the Lion in Winter – What about the Beaver?

It rained and rained
For forty daysies daysies
It rained and rained
For forty daysies daysies
Nearly drove those animals crazy crazies
Children of the Lord

The hard rain yesterday reminded me of all those worried days we would go down with umbrellas to check on the beavers and their dams. It reminded me of when the filter cage washed away and when their lodge was flattened. It worried our Napa friends too, and they did an admirable job checking on the beavers they know and care about. Here are Robin’s pictures from the Pearl Street Dam:

pearl-street-comparisonAnd here are Rusty’s photos from the Tulocay pond. The big beautiful lodge was nearly covered and the anxious yearlings took sheltered together on the roof, like Katrina victims.


Juvenile beavers hunker on flooded lodge – Rusty Cohn

It’s so human to me to think of your home as safety even when it stops acting safe. I remember seeing the little beaver  footprints the morning after our second lodge washed out when our kits tried to come home and said “Where is home?”

As much as we worry about our beavers in these flooding conditions, I shudder to think what its like in the snow, where getting flooded out could mean freezing to death. Come to think of it, I guess if its freezing they just get massive snow, and if its flooding its not freezing. So stop worrying Heidi. Beavers have done this a long time. they know the drill.

It’s nice to read articles like this about their snowy habitats though.

Snow was falling, snow on snow, as the song goes, and another four inches fell on the thick snow blankets already on the ground. Splendid! We strapped on our snowshoes and took off. No adventures in the high country, but the Dredge Lakes area offered plenty to see.

There was still a little open water in some of the ponds and channels, despite several days of freezing and single-digit temperatures. So it was Watch Your Step, if we crossed the dicey spots.

Then down the lake beach to the lake’s outlet, still breaking our own trail, with a couple of short side excursions to check some beaver lodges. Ice continued to clump up on the ‘shoes, making hard work. Along the river, there are a couple of spots where it is best to duck up into the woods for a little way, before dropping back down to the river edge. By now, this is getting old, all that clambering over and under the sagging branches. Then one more stretch of open beach and another alder crawl back up to the dike by Moose Lake. Now it’s a piece of cake, on well-packed trail back to the bridge, with just a few drooping branches to dodge.

The big beaver empoundment was marked by some critters that crossed the wide open space and others that had ventured out only to retreat quickly. In addition to the numerous hare and porcupine tracks, we found signs of many other critters too. A shrew had scuttled briefly out into the open and right back, ducking into a hole only a shrew could fit into. Nearby was a bigger hole with signs of traffic in and out; one clear footprint let us guess that an ermine used this place. A deer had wandered out of the woods onto the river beach, and a mink visited a pond. Squirrels hadn’t done much traveling on the ground, but here and there a vole had made a beautiful trackway in and out of cover. Ravens had landed and taken off, leaving marks of wingtips etched in the snow. Before the last snow, a coyote (or wolf perhaps) had crossed a pond; its tracks were now just dimples in the snow, but the pattern suggested a running carnivore. Lots of activity, and for most of this walk, few signs of humans.

Sunlight on the mountains, with wind-whipped snow streaming off the peaks. All the trees and shrubs and tussocks draped in many inches of gorgeous snow. Back home, the aching feet and weary muscles were resuscitated by cups of tea and a pile of cookies. Once again, we claim that this is one of the best backyards in the world!

If Mary’s name sounds familiar it should. She’s the ecology professor who authored the mendenhall glacier beaver book. She may be retired now but boy she sure gets around and sees what’s happening! I always thought of beavers in the bay area having an easy life, but maybe the flooding is a different set of problems. True, they don’t need to do a food cache which must be hard work, but they also don’t get three months down time in the lodge just chilling out and waiting for spring. I guess both locations have their benefits and drawbacks. Just like they do for people.

In Minnesota they were surprised to find a beaver-chewed power pole.They think he mistook it for a tree, while we are pretty certain he just needed to sharpen his teeth.

Confused beaver chews power pole instead of tree

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. – Maybe he needs glasses.

A beaver near Grand Rapids apparently needed to exercise his teeth recently, and instead of chewing on a tree, which is routine behavior for beavers, the semiaquatic rodent decided to get after a power pole near the shores of Boy Lake. 

Lake Country Power posted a picture of the chewy beaver’s handiwork on its Facebook page, which is drawing plenty of attention and laughs. As one person posted, “Worked for power company 39 years, never seen a beaver chew a pole.”

Pshaw, if you had read this website you would have seen it a month ago! It must be a winter thing, but it’s strange we’ve seen it twice this year and never before. Hmm.



Mysterious Beaver Ways of Yore

Posted by heidi08 On December - 11 - 2016Comments Off on Mysterious Beaver Ways of Yore

Our retired librarian friend from Georgia, Bob Kobres, is always finding us interesting tidbits. Whether it’s hot off the presses new beaver research in or some historical gem that the world has long overlooked.  This comes from a letter to the editor of Popular Science magazine in 1884. And it’s a whopper.

The author, one Samuel Aughey of Lincoln Nebraska, is responding to the May issue in which Dr. Stockwell wrote about Henry Morgan’s seminal book, “The beaver and his works“. He begins much in a familiar manner, saying it was a fun read but just because some researchers never saw something doesn’t mean it never occurs.

 Rickipedia used to quote, “Absence of Evidence, isn’t evidence of absence“.

And then goes on to tackle the thorny debate about whether beavers use their tails in construction. Dr. Stockwell apparently said “No way”, but Samuel had other ideas.


Okay, did you get that? Samuel is minding his own business when he suddenly sees a group of beavers work together to move a trunk – some pulling some pushing. Already I’m intrigued because we never really saw beavers working together on a single log.

failedSo there’s a little rut in the hill and the beavers can’t get the log over it, no matter how many times they try. Time for a new strategy.

captureOkay! Beavers in a huddle form two teams, the pull team and the push team! The pull team LAID THEIR TAILS OUT FLAT and the log was rolled onto them. Then they hauled that log forward hoisted, as it were, by their own petards.

releasedOompf! After that big log gets moved the pull team examines their tails to make sure they weren’t injured in the line of duty. Nope, all fine here.

samuelSamuel ends with “Just because they didn’t go to your fancy schools doesn’t mean what they saw didn’t really happen”. And by the way who is this wacky Samuel Aughey of the obvious “tinfoil hat” beaver brigade?

Samuel Aughey Jr. was a minister and naturalist/ geologist in Nebraska and Wyoming from 1864 until 1886. He graduated from Pennsylvania College (now Gettysburg College) in 1856 and then attended seminary there. Aughey came to Dakota City, Nebraska, in 1864 as a “home missionary” for the Lutheran Church. After resigning this position in 1867, he worked for the Dakota County government from 1866 until 1869 as superintendent of public instruction and county surveyor. He was named the first professor of natural science at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln in 1871.

Well okay, professor of natural science, superintendent of schools and county surveyor. But still we’re talking Nebraska and anyone that could read would be called a scholar there, right? Here’s a partial list of is publications:

captureWhich all goes to leave me scratching my head in wonderment. Surely when there were millions more beavers they might have worked together differently. But did they use their tails differently? Samuel thinks that some beavers have better ideas than others. Not just any beaver could do it. Go read the whole letter to the editor here and puzzle for yourself if it could possibly be true.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Hamlet, Act I: Scene 5

Breaking the ice with Beavers

Posted by heidi08 On December - 9 - 2016Comments Off on Breaking the ice with Beavers

Yesterday I asked how beavers break the ice – using their heads, backs or tails? I needn’t have wondered. When anyone has any question about beavers at all they only need to do one thing. Ask Bob Arnebeck because he’s  seen it before and has it on film. I love this video more than Christmas itself. Turn the sound UP so you can hear the ice cracking in the beginning.

Isn’t that wonderful? Not only does the beaver break the ice and gain exit, he uses all three methods in a row! Because, why limit yourself?

I had always thought about the importance of breaking OUT of the ice so you can forage for food when your cache gets low, but this video made me think of the other, more pressing concern. Sometimes in these temperatures the water is quick to refreeze. That means it can be a struggle for the beaver to get back IN! A beaver who’s frozen out has no warm lodge, no family members to cuddle with and can’t reach his food cache. There must be some beavers who can’t get back in and simply die of exposure or predation eventually.

Not this beaver. The video’s a little blurry but watch how he deals with that big sheet of ice that covers his exit hole.

If I haven’t told you often enough, I LOVE BEAVERS. They are SO COOL! Thank you Bob!


Another fine beaver report from Eastern Massachusetts – where we need beaver wisdom most! This from Langsford Pond in Glouster, lovingly recorded and described by Kim Smith on the award winning blog, Good Morning Glouster.


Beaver Pond, also known as Langsford Pond, is located on the outskirts of Cape Ann’s Dogtown. Exquisitely beautiful and peaceful, the pond is teeming with life, habitat largely created by the relatively new presence of the North American Beaver (Castor canadensis).

Beavers are ecosystem engineers and the ponds they create become wildlife magnets. Think about just this one example of the ecology of a beaver pond: woodpeckers make holes in the dead trees engineered by Beaver activity, Wood Ducks nest in the holes created by the woodpeckers, and raptors hunt the smaller birds.

More examples of how Beavers benefit other species of wildlife include favored nesting sites of both the Great Blue Herons and Osprey are the dead treetops of older trees in beaver swamps. Local species of turtles, the Snapping Turtle and the Eastern Painted Turtle, benefit from abundant vegetation created by beaver tree felling, which causes the forest to regenerate. Snapping and Eastern Painted Turtles prefer standing and slow moving water and hibernate under logs and lodges of Beavers. Painted Turtles also use floating logs to bask upon.

Langsford pond is all the way at the ocean end of the state – the side that isn’t usually too patient with beavers. The pond is near the Atlantic 150 miles from Skip Lisle or Mike Callahan and 300 miles from Beavers: Wetlands and Wildlife. Wherever she gleaned her beaver information it probably wasn’t from any  of them, but its refreshingly accurate nonetheless!

Thanks Kim, for a beautiful look at a baystate beaver pond!